The Clean Meat industry is on the verge of commercialization as products are expected to hit the market in the coming few years. In fact, Just-company is promising to bring it’s products out already during 2018. While the Clean Meat companies are preparing their products internally, external companies in the supply chain are facing increased risk environment when operating in this new and special industry. What makes the situation very special is that we are talking about a completely new type of material that is not available today. Something very similar is happening in edible insects or IFF (Insects for Food and Feed) field where also new technology is producing a new type of raw material.
Supply chains can be visualized as a stream of supply where the goods are flowing down the river starting from the raw material producers to end product manufacturing and finally to end customers through wholesalers and supermarkets. When looking upstream towards Clean Meat producers a high level of supply risk can be identified. Supply risk, the risk that products are not been delivered, is higher than many other industries because of two reasons: Lack of horizontal integration and limited knowledge.
Lack of horizontal integration means that there is a very limited number of companies able to produce e.g. clean cow meat. There are numerous places to get slaughtered meat if your first option fails to deliver, but what will you do when your primary Clean Meat producer faces delivery issues? A serious production issue will leave downstream without promised products and no chance of buying replacing products as there simply isn’t anyone else to buy from. What makes the supply risk exposure even higher is the limited knowledge of the clean meat production the producer has. No one in the world has ever produced clean meat on an industrial scale. It is very likely that during the first years of industrial-scale production unexpected operational risks will occur that will lead to some level of delivery issues simply because of the lack of experience.
What is different between the IFF and Clean Meat industries is that unlike the IFF side, it seems that most of the Clean Meat companies are not only producing the raw material but also making the end product. In supply chain terms the level of vertical integration is different. This way the supply risk is carried internally and in case of production difficulties the consequences are seen first internally, not at the end product producers’ factory. The risk of failed deliveries to supermarkets still exists, but in this case, a supermarket could fill their shelves with something similar like clean pork. This is not ideal but acceptable. Instead, an end product producer cannot do the same and for this reason, unlike supermarkets or wholesalers, they cannot accept as high supply risks.
Another way to reduce the risk exposure in the supply chain together with shifting the degree of vertical integration is increased horizontal integration. Eventually, the supply will increase when competing companies appear, but the increase of horizontal integration can happen also internally within a company by dividing production capacity to multiple locations and production units. When the whole production capacity of a company is not relying on a limited number of machines and operators an occurrence of an operational risk (that are likely due to the limited knowledge) does not jeopardize to complete production capacity of the company.
The Clean Meat industry is still working on bringing the production cost down, but the IFF companies are already in the markets and facing the supply chain challenges today. There are no simple and easy answers, but when the time comes for wide market entry for the Clean Meat companies could look at the fellow alt-protein industries for key learnings.
To look deeper into the risk profile of emerging industries’ supply chain check out my thesis Supply Chain Risk Management in Entomology Farms. The thesis is available also in all major audiobook platforms like Audible. You may also see my presentation on the topic here.