First cultivated meat company from China. First prototype tasting. I’m chewing while all the cameras point at me waiting for the moment of truth: what does it taste like?

Well, the cultivated fish maw tasted exactly like it should. Like fish maw. I did not expect anything else. It’s from the same cells after all!

But let’s take a step back for a moment. Fish maw? What is that?

Fish maw is the swim bladder of large fish like croaker and sturgeon. It is one of the most expensive parts of the fish, traditionally consumed as an anti-aging health food due to its high collagen content. According to Chinese medicine practice, fish maw also nourishes one’s yin energy and strengthens one’s lung and kidney health.

But even if you’re not Chinese, it doesn’t mean you haven’t experienced fish maw before. Drink beer and wine? Fish maw is used in the clarification and fining process of some beer and wine.

Avant Meats’ cultivated fish maw is a brilliant example of how companies born from different culinary cultures will come up with different products based on a deep understanding of local market dynamics and consumer preferences. Think about why people are consuming a certain product. Some foods are necessities that provide us with essential nutrition and energy to function; some are consumed in ways more akin to supplements or nutraceuticals. Fish maw is the later. Imagine if you are consuming a type of food in order to strengthen your health. Wouldn’t a cultivated option that is 100% free from mercury, pollutants, antibiotics, and micro-plastics be more attractive than what is currently offered on the market?

Avant Meats has been brilliant in three ways: how they staged their product launch, how they educated the market through such staging, and how they can fund their longer-term research and development by bringing the most premium product to market first. To imagine how this might work in the United States, think about first selling foie gras instead of goose meat. In that case, it is much easier to reach price parity with a conventional premium product. The proceeds can then fund research into other products.

Make no mistake though, Avant Meats’ next project is fish fillet and the team is currently developing multiple cell lines with varied product ideas brewing.

The plant-based and cultivated meat space is about so much more than burgers. It’s not news that many innovators are focusing on alternatives to animal products beyond beef, especially in Asia, where consumption of pork, poultry, and seafood are much more prominent. The actual part of an animal and the type of end product are also important to consider – as shown by fish maw.

The food system is global. Climate change is global. To spark an epic transformation, we need the full range of cultural, markets and scientific insights from around the world.