Pleased to meat you – welcome to the butchers of the future.

Right now in a lab in Berkeley, California, something incredible is happening.

Bathed in a nutrient-rich solution, cultured cells are dividing and dividing again, slowly turning into fully-fledged meat, while the animal they were harvested from lives on hundreds of miles away, blissfully unaware. Berkeley is the home of Memphis Meats, the world’s first start-up to grow meat in a lab using tiny samples of animal muscle, fat, and connective tissues, and they’re poised to change how the world eats.

Since its launch in 2015, Memphis Meats has already cultured beef, poultry, and seafood products, and attracted massive investment from the likes of Bill Gates and Richard Branson. The billionaires are betting that, no matter how hard scientists try (at least for a fair while), plant-based replacements won’t be able to recreate the taste of meat without, well, meat. And maybe they’re right. After all, it’s notoriously difficult to do – but these days meat-replacement products are already getting pretty damn close.

Wander into any supermarket in the UK, US, Australia or New Zealand, and you’re likely to find a selection of meat alternatives that are nothing like veggie-burgers of old. Made with futuristic ingredients like “heme”, these plant-based products look, smell and taste almost just like the real thing. Considering the agricultural industry is the world’s second biggest polluter – and that a recent review by the UN projected a 76% increase in global meat consumption by mid-century – that’s a very, very good thing.

So whether it’s lab grown meat or plant-based alternatives, let’s take a look at some of the other companies racing to disrupt the global meat industry.

The Alternative Meat Co. 

As a sub-brand of Life Health Foods, an Aussie-based global business with operations in the UK, New Zealand and India, The Alternative Meat Co is Australia’s leading entrant to the meatless meat scene. At their headquarters in Berkeley Vale on the NSW Central Coast, The Alternative Meat Co is churning out amazingly realistic mince, sausages and burger patties, while their sister company, The Alternative Dairy Co, is pumping out delicious non-dairy products including three different types of cheese.

Made from soy, wheat and pea protein – along with various stocks and starches – The Alternative Meat Co’s products are so close to tasting like real meat you could easily trick most unsuspecting carnivores at your next BBQ. And maybe you should try, considering that, according to the Alternative Meat Co’s website, you can save 2,500 litres of water just by opting out of just one beef burger.

Impossible Foods.

Cooked up in 2011 by Stanford University biochemistry professor Patrick O. Brown, Impossible Foods is on a mission to “Save meat. And the earth”. Thanks to a partnership with Burger King, the company’s flagship product, the Impossible Burger, can be found all across the mainland United States, as well as in Alaska and Hawaii, with rumours it will soon be available in the UK.

In January this year, the company launched the Impossible Burger 2.0, that is “tastier, juicier and more nutritious”, and has 30% less sodium and 40% less saturated fat than the previous recipe, making it even healthier. Having raised over US$750 million and secured funding from celebrity investors like Jay-Z, Katy Perry, and Serena Williams, it seems that, for Impossible Burgers, nothing is impossible.

 Beyond Meat

Since going public in early May, Beyond Meat has performed beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, with their stock racing nearly 600% to a market cap above USD$10 billion. That makes Beyond Meat now worth more than eighty S&P 500 companies, including Macy’s and Xerox.

Also plant-based, Beyond Meat’s line-up includes faux-beef patties, faux-ground-beef, faux beef sausages and frozen faux-beef “crumbles” (AKA mince). Unlike the Impossible Burger and patties from The Alternative Meat Co., though, the Beyond Burger is free from soy – rather it’s made from pea, rice and mung bean proteins. In our opinion, that’s particularly promising, as it shows that, when it comes to meat-free meat, there’s many ways to skin a carrot.

Since it’s already available at Grill’d in Australia, we tried a Beyond Burger the other day and found it delicious, satisfying and convincing.

Finless Foods

Like Memphis Meats, Finless Foods is built around lab-grown meat, not a plant-based substitute. But, as the name suggests, Finless Foods is sole-ly (see what we did there?) focused on seafood – and, according to the company’s promotional material, is well on the way to scaling their tech to bring their products to market. With up to 90% of the world’s fisheries overexploited, we can’t wait to see what’s coming down the line.

Finless Foods is starting with bluefin tuna, and plans to extend into prawns, squid, gummy shark – you name it – once they’ve mastered the technology. In a recent interview with The Fish Site, Finless Foods CEO Mike Selden explained that, for them, “It’s the same cost to make tilapia as it is to make bluefin tuna, so we might as well start at the top and go down from there.”

That’s an exciting thought – that in the not-so-distant future we could all be eating ethically-made, sustainable, delicious, high-quality meat that costs the same (or less) than traditional meat. And in the meantime, there’s plenty of meat-like plant-based goodness already available. Bon appétit!

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Life for rent: retailers helping to throw away the disposable economy

How often do you buy something knowing you’re only going to use it a handful of times?

Then every time you open the cupboard and see it sitting there gathering dust, and you’re reminded of the cash you splashed and the frustrating lack of utility. Thankfully, big retailers are now coming up with big ideas to help lay waste to wastefulness.

Spurred on by competition from online rental services (Rent the Runway, Armoire, Fernish and Joymode to name a few) some big retailers in categories that didn’t traditionally offer rentals are now starting to make the option available.

Of course, the concept of short-term rental isn’t new in some categories – think camping gear hire, ski hire and surfboard hire to name a few – but the expansion in these new categories (below) certainly seems to be.

Home Depot

Like Bunnings in Australia, Home Depot in the US has for years offered short-term rentals on large tools and vehicles. But they’re now offering customers the opportunity to lease small tools as well. Need to put a few flat-packs together? No problem. Hire a cordless drill and bring it back when you’re done. And why not pick up whatever else you need while you’re in store? Traditional equipment hire companies must be shaking in their Blundstones.

Urban Outfitters

Formal wear has always been hireable. But a pair of jeans, not so much – until companies like Armoire and Glam Corner came along. Now they’re here it looks like they’re here to stay, so Urban Outfitters is set to launch an online subscription service called Nuuly that allows for up to six items per month to be rented before swapping them out for new threads. That’s fast fashion – minus the guilt.

West Elm

In partnership with Rent the Runway, West Elm has announced it will soon offer customers the opportunity to lease home décor and soft furnishings. Think throws, pillowcases, bedside clocks…everything but the kitchen sink (almost).

It’s a subtle but important move for these three traditional retailers, and we’re sure there are others who won’t be far behind. For example, how long until you can hire a TV from Tesco? Probably not too long, we’d bet.

Do these examples point to a new trend set to continue in coming years as retailers fight for market share? We think so, and customers can only benefit from the extra options. With apologies to Ariana Grande: I see it. I like it. I want it. I rent it.

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Recycling in retail. Why things are looking up.

At such a crucial time in human history with regard to climate change, it’s refreshing and exciting to see so many big brands starting to make recycled and upcycled materials play an increasingly important role in their supply chain.

Over the last few years in particular, it seems like the trend has gained an enormous amount of momentum, with cosmetic companies, clothing labels and even car manufacturers all jumping on the eco-wagon. With this in mind, we thought we’d take a look at some of the standout initiatives from the big brands having a big impact.

Levis

In 2017, the world’s oldest jeans brand announced it would become the first in the fashion industry to make all of its products from 100 per cent recycled cotton by 2025. That’s pretty damn impressive, especially since the company claims it has already saved well over a billion litres of water through its Water<Less™ techniques since 2011. We hope other major fashion brands will soon cotton on, too.

Waitrose

As the saying goes, waste not want not. And Waitrose is seeing just how much customers will embrace that mantra with its Unpacked trial in its Botley Road store in Oxford. The trial will run for 11 weeks, and has seen 200 lines go plastic-free – everything from fruit and veg to wine, even dishwashing liquid. It’s beautifully presented, and there are several other eco-friendly initiatives like a station dedicated to recycling old batteries, water filters and plastic bags. There’s even an in-house chef who’ll chop your veggies any way you like!

Qantas 

While not technically a retailer, we were super impressed to hear of Qantas’ world-first ‘Zero Waste’ flight in May. As part of a company-wide pledge to cut 100 million single-use plastics by the end of 2020, and reduce waste by a whopping 75 per cent by the end of 2021, the Sydney to Adelaide flight apparently produced no landfill waste – although in the photo Qantas posted to their Facebook page recently, it looks like it did in fact produce a little bit. Either way it’s a big achievement, and we hope Qantas keeps it up.

Loop by TerraCycle

In a seriously ambitious move, New Jersey-based recycling company TerraCycle has launched its newest initiative dubbed Loop, with major brands like Nestle, Unilever, and Procter & Gamble already on board.

Although it’s only in its early-stages, if Loop is successful it will be a game-changer for packaging and recycling. The way Loop works is like this.

1. Customers purchase everyday consumables from well-known brands directly from Loop’s online store.

2. The items are delivered to the customer thanks to a partnership with UPS.

3. The customer uses the products, then pops the empty, multi-use packaging back in the large tote they originally came in.

Due to the program being in its infancy, the products are currently quite expensive. But the company hopes to quickly bring the pricing down to the same level customers would find in their local supermarket.

Oh, Canada – an honourable mention

Not a big brand but definitely a big idea, and one we felt was worth a shout-out. In case you missed it, East West Market, a family-run neighbourhood supermarket in Vancouver has devised a clever and creative way to reduce the amount of plastic bags their customers take home with them.

By emblazoning their plastic bags with embarrassing (and humorous) logos, customers are gently shamed for forgetting to bring their own reusable bags with them. Only problem is, the bags have gone super viral, with news outlets all across the world picking up the story, and people are apparently buying up the bags just to collect them. Proving that there’s no stopping a good idea, East West Market plans to continue with the funny business – except that the messaging are will be printed on canvas bags instead. Bravo.

Reduce, reuse, return?

When it comes to allowing customers to return their old products, it seems like most retailers only offer this option in-store (Levis, Lush, Nike), with a few exceptions (Apple being one, Loop being another). We’re not surprised, as it’s a clever way to get loyal customers back in-store to see all the latest and greatest offerings. However, as green initiatives continue to spread, we wonder if these brands will eventually have to allow for returns via mail. We hope so, as anything that makes recycling easier can only be a good thing.

To the big brands already making great strides in recycling, we say a sincere well done. We expect that product recycling is something that will soon become expected of brands by consumers, and any brand that can show they’re taking action to lower their environmental footprint is likely to be looked upon favourably by customers, employees and investors alike.

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Checking out 7-Eleven’s new checkout-free concept store. 

Just a fortnight ago, 7-Eleven launched its first “cashless and cardless” store in Australia. It’s the first store of its kind in the country, so we thought we better head down and take a look.

First and foremost, it was more than a touch tricky to find. When we did finally locate the store, hidden around a few corners and at the base of 7-Eleven’s new head office (we discovered), it was sparkling clean, well-lit and perfectly stocked.

Along with all the usual suspects at your typical 7-Eleven, there was a significant section dedicated to fresh food, a sign of the company’s steadily growing food offering.

Source: Twitter @7ElevenAus

In-store signage explained that the only way to make a purchase is through the 7-Eleven app, though this works a bit differently to Amazon Go in the US, where you just use your app to enter the store, then grab what you need and leave.

Rather, it works like Sainsbury’s SmartShop that our UK office wrote about last month.

With the dedicated 7-Eleven Mobile Checkout app, once you’ve registered and created a profile, you scan the barcode on the product with the in-built barcode and the purchase is automatically charged to your credit or debit card.

The tech behind the scenes must be pretty impressive, but with no one else in the store to line up behind at the non-existent checkout, we didn’t really feel like we were saving much time. However, once the app is all set up and ready to go on your phone, it’s easy to see how this could come in handy at peak times in busy stores.

We look forward to seeing how 7-Eleven’s new system rolls out across the 670+ stores around the country, and which retailer will be next to try their hand at going checkout-free.

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Sip, sip, hooray! Whippet’s gin bottle design scores golds at the SIP Awards in the US.

We’re delighted that our label design work for Nosferatu’s blood-orange gin (with extra bite!) has been recognised at this year’s SIP International Spirits Awards. 977 spirits and mixers were entered, covering everything from whisky to vodka to rum, so a double gold is double good!  
 
On top of this, our friends at Nosferatu also picked up gold for the deliciousness of their premium product. A great result all round!
 

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