Plant-based meat has become synonymous with processed foods like burgers, sausages and nuggets, but up-and-coming cultivated meat startups are banking on premium products that justify the high cost of production.

Call it the Tesla strategy.

Cultivated salmon maker Wildtype has raised a $100 million Series B at a nearly $450 million valuation, according to a PitchBook estimate. L Catterton led the round alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, Bezos Expeditions, Temasek and others. The startup's salmon sushi has striations of flesh and fat that imitate the real thing, an effect accomplished with the use of protein "scaffolding" that helps to organize fish-derived cells as they grow.

In a similar vein, lab-grown meat maker Finless Foods is developing sushi-grade tuna and Vow is developing exotic "meat" derived from kangaroo and alpaca. Eat Just, which launched cultivated chicken nuggets at a restaurant in Singapore in 2020, is working on Wagyu-style beef under the Good Meat brand.

"Wildtype is establishing brand value and a high price point closer to production costs," said Alex Frederick, an analyst at PitchBook. "Also, infrastructure isn't there yet for mass production, so supplies will be constrained for the foreseeable future."

Related read: Lab-grown protein is cultivating investor interest  

Featured image courtesy of Wildtype

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