The Winding Road from First Sale to Commercial Scale

February 15, 2024

The Winding Road from First Sale to Commercial Scale

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This post was updated on February 16, 2024.


At UPSIDE, our vision is clear: produce delicious meat that protects the planet, animals, and the freedom to enjoy the foods we love. We’ve come far and crossed many seemingly impossible hurdles, and it’s no secret there’s more work ahead as we focus on the next set of hurdles. 

The historic launch of our small-scale, whole-textured chicken product in July 2023 has not only inspired consumers but also established a benchmark for the potential and promise of our industry.

Our focus now is on scalability and commercialization. We’re rapidly learning and growing as we explore various paths on our journey and are adapting real time to changing conditions. Given the tremendous interest in our mission and our core belief that transformative progress only comes with active dialog, we’ve been sharing the ups and downs of our pioneering journey in this blog series. Since our last post in December, we wanted to share two new real-time updates that shed light on our next steps.

Taking a Different Path to Rubicon

After careful evaluation, we’ve decided to significantly expand operations at our existing EPIC (Engineering, Production, and Innovation Center) facility in California before continuing with the build-out of Rubicon (the name we had given to our greenfield facility in Glenview, Illinois). 

In the process of planning for Rubicon, we identified a more efficient and cost-effective way to achieve a similar capacity and timeline of the initial phase of Rubicon by significantly expanding our operations at EPIC. This approach will: 

  • Allow us to scale and commercialize our next generation platform and products, currently under regulatory review, while extending our runway and resources for the critical work ahead.
  • Enable us to leverage the team, learnings, and existing infrastructure at EPIC, which have been a tremendous asset for us since our opening in 2021. We have conducted dozens of runs at the 2000 liter scale, tech transferred multiple processes into the facility, and produced enough cells to make thousands of pounds of our next generation delicious cultivated meat in just the last few months! Having our first commercial production co-located with our existing team will allow us to scale, learn, and iterate more effectively.

With these successful 2,000 liter runs under our belt, we’re ready now to move to the next level of scale which will be possible with the EPIC expansion. Scaling up our operations beyond 2,000 liter scale was the impetus for the first phase of our original plans at Rubicon, as we have confidence in what we have already been able to achieve and validate at our existing scale. 

Through the EPIC expansion, we will demonstrate: 

  • Our ability to transfer our process into successively larger and more efficient scales while maintaining the taste, quality, and safety that we have been able to consistently achieve at the 2,000 liter cultivators currently at EPIC. 
  • Consumer and customer demand at meaningful volumes. While our whole-cut product goes on the road to delight new guests (check out social posts here and here for some behind-the-scenes!), we’ll use our larger-scale production at the expanded EPIC facility to make our next generation of products available at large volumes, pending completion of the regulatory process.

We still plan to build a full-scale commercial facility as originally envisioned. The incredible hard work and resources that have been invested in the process to date  — as well as the proof points we anticipate from EPIC — will allow us to move with speed when that time comes. 

As we’ve previously shared, we are taking the best learnings from our first whole-textured chicken launch and are using them to develop our next generation of delicious cultivated meat products. We can’t wait to share them with the world, pending regulatory approvals, and are excited that they will help demonstrate the path towards commercial scale.

Taking Our Chicken on the Road

We launched our flagship cultivated chicken at Bar Crenn through our partnership with three Michelin-starred chef, Dominique Crenn, and are thrilled to have provided consumers with a delicious taste of the future. The feedback has been amazing! 

  • The Washington Post described it as “the kind of chicken that once was common in America, before the poultry industry sacrificed flavor for rapid growth.” The same article notes, “It may be the most chicken-y chicken I’ve tasted in a long time.”
  • Eater noted that “the meat itself was less sickly white than supermarket birds, and the taste evoked the kind of nostalgic, delicate meatiness proper chicken should provide.” 

After an incredible run, we’ve wrapped up our dinner series and are now offering our chicken through a variety of events, both on the road and at our own facility.

Why? Well, we strongly believe that “tasting is believing,” so we want to give more people the opportunity to experience our products firsthand. We’ve already kicked off these events, starting with one at our EPIC facility, where we hosted a group of philanthropists passionate about solutions to society’s most pressing problems, and a tasting event in New York that brought together a group of global thought leaders.

In the words of Chris Anderson, Curator of TED, who tasted our products at the event in New York:

“Last night I was lucky to be among the first group in New York to get to taste chicken grown from a droplet of…cells. It was…. DELICIOUS.  Succulent, moist, the right texture. Chicken as it should be.  Even though full commercialization is a way off, it made me excited for the future…This technology really matters. It will probably be impossible to lure humans away from our meat addiction. I personally love meat. I want it to be part of my future.  And last night I saw a glimpse of how that can happen in a way that will be both delicious and kind — to our fellow creatures, and to the planet.”

See the full post here. 

We’re looking forward to serving our chicken at future events, so that more people can experience our products and the promise of cultivated meat. 

That’s the latest on our journey towards Rubicon and the next step for UPSIDE and for the cultivated meat industry. From the bottom of our UPSIDE heart, THANK YOU to all who believe as deeply as we do in the importance and necessity of this mission. We’re fighting every day to make cultivated meat a reality for generations to come.