A London-based startup business aims to produce synthetic animal fats through a factory process to meet the growing demand for vegetarian and vegan foods.

The company, Hoxton Farms, says that current meat alternatives use plant oils as an animal fat replacement, but these make for an inferior end product as the vegetable oils lack flavour and restrict the versatility of the meat alternative. In addition, there are sustainability and ethical concerns over products such as coconut and palm oils.

“Traditional animal fat is the most important sensory ingredient in meat. Fat defines how meat looks, cooks, and tastes – and it does this in a way that cannot be replicated by plant oils currently used in meat alternatives,” states the company.

Hoxton Farms intends to grow a tiny sample of animal cells into a purified animal fat in “cultivators” – vessels similar to the fermenters used to brew beer. While it works in the laboratory, the process is expensive and difficult to scale up.

The company has now raised £2.7 million in seed investment led by Founders Fund, alongside Backed, Presight Capital, CPT Capital and Sustainable Food Ventures, to develop its production platform. It hopes to use proprietary computational models to reduce the start-up cost.

“Our approach delivers the missing ingredient necessary to make meat alternatives delicious, realistic and versatile – fat,” notes Dr Max Jamilly, co-founder of Hoxton Farms. “The technology we’re developing will allow us to customise fat for any application – and we’re making it healthier too. We believe the future of meat alternatives will be a blend of plant-based protein and cultivated fat.”

Eric Scott, principal at Founders Fund, adds: “The team’s ability to tailor the precise sensory and functional properties of fat allows them to produce exactly what their customers need – Hoxton Farms has the potential to change an industry.”