Small Giants: The South Africans Getting To The Meat Of The Matter

Published 27 days ago
Untitled design (2)
Chanel Retief, Nicole Pillay and Oluwatomisin Amokeoja

From fintech to foodtech solutions; from beauty brands to biotech infusions, FORBES AFRICA’s inaugural list of Small Giants across Africa showcases the tenacity of homegrown businesses and their impact on the communities they serve. Their pan-African CEO-founders and leaders are making giant strides in progressing Africa’s growth narrative, prioritizing ideas and innovation.

By Chanel Retief, Nicole Pillay and Oluwatomisin Amokeoja
Art Direction: Manelisi Dabata
Videography: Thabo Mathebula
Photography: Katlego Mokubyane ; Assistant: Sbusiso Sigidi | Studio: NewKatz Studio, Johannesburg 
Styling: Deneal Van Wyk
Hair & Makeup: SnehhOnline Beauty

If one had said a decade ago that you could eat meat from an animal without killing it, you’d probably think it was a hoax. Food-tech and biotech has made the seemingly impossible, possible. And it’s in this space that founders Brett Thompson and Tasneem Karodia have thrived.

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“We were the first in Africa to look at this technology called cultivated meat or cellular agriculture,” Thompson says. “We were like ‘let’s do it first – make African meat’. And I think it was a great thing to do because we got a name out but we also thought the technology that we’ve developed doesn’t have a border.”

So, what is cultivated meat?

“We take a selection of cells harmlessly from an animal – we’ve taken cells, and we do the cell lines from lamb, beef and pork. Essentially, what we’re trying to do is create a stable cell line that keeps producing; it’s ultimately what we do at scale as a brewery,” says Thompson.

As co-founders, they reminisce the journey of Newform Foods (formerly Mzansi Meat). “I told Tas not to quit her day job and she didn’t listen,” Thompson says, instantly making Karodia laugh.

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“I was looking to move into this space and was doing a lot of research,” Karodia explains. “There were no jobs for my particular skill set. Everyone was looking for a scientist and I am not a scien-tist… and Brett was willing to take me.”

Capitalizing on the demand in countries like China and the U.K., Thompson and Karodia wanted to develop technology that could be ap-plied for any country around the world.

“The industry is only 11 years old,” Karodia says. “And that means it’s quite difficult to get people to interact with our products. And so, I think, through luck, people find what we’re doing quite interesting.”

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