UPSIDE Foods brings in PepsiCo SVP as it gears up for commercial launch of cell-cultured chicken

It’s a couple of things,” ​said Chen, who has held senior sales, operations, strategy and innovation roles at PepsiCo in the US and China, most recently as SVP of the North America Beverages business.

“One was the potential for impact on a massive scale… this is an incredible opportunity to make the food system better; we’re really at a historic inflection point as this industry moves from R&D to the commercial and consumer world,​ so it’s a perfect time to be jumping in.

“The other thing is the team and the culture that ​[UPSIDE Foods’ founder and CEO Dr] Uma ​[Valeti] has built, it’s phenomenal, they’re the leaders in science and tech in the industry, but also just incredibly passionate people.”

We’re selling real meat

So how do you sell cell-cultured (a.k.a. ‘lab-grown’) meat to Americans, who are pretty partial to the conventional variety, and are also bombarded with messages from food companies who claim, albeit often disingenuously, that their food is ‘made in a kitchen/on a farm, not in a lab…’?

“I think right now we are at this interesting intersection of food and tech, which personally I find fascinating,” ​observed Chen, but consumers want first and foremost to eat food, not a science experiment, she said.

“One of the things I’ve learned from my years at PepsiCo is the power of telling a story around food, making it craveable, delicious and something that people want to eat.

“So first and foremost, a lot of what we need to do, not only at UPSIDE Foods but also in the cultured meat industry as a whole, is tell the story: this is the meat that you love, this is familiar craveable delicious meat that’s been part of your culture and part of your traditions, just made in a more sustainable way.”

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