Meati Foods raises $28m to expand its fungi-based protein platform
The round – which also featured participation from Prelude Ventures, Congruent Ventures, Tao Capital, Once Upon a Farm CEO John Foraker, and Sweetgreen co-founders Nicolas Jammet and Jonathan Neman – will help the Boulder, CO-based startup expand its team and construct a state-of-the-art production facility.
Meati Foods – which has soft launched its products in the foodservice sector - is gearing up for the direct-to-consumer launch of its protein- and fiber-packed fungi-based products in Q4, with a retail launch to follow in 2021.
Unlike most players in the meat alternative space, who use extruded soy, peas, or wheat protein, Meati Foods is seeking to stand out in a category dominated by processed products such as burgers and nuggets by using a naturally occurring organism, a strain of mycelia, the filamentous-like root structures of mushrooms (although the strain Meati is using doesn't have a mushroom 'cap'), said founder and CEO Dr Tyler Huggins.
‘We have a PDCAAS score of 1, which is similar to eggs and milk’
Inherently high in protein and fiber, the fungi can be grown highly-efficiently in fermentation tanks fed with "a cheap carbon source like sugar," Huggins explained to FoodNavigator-USA in the summer.
“It’s got no inherent flavor and it’s bright white with long fibrous filaments that mimic muscle structure. It’s also really high in protein, much higher than Atlast [which is also developing edible 3D structures from mycelia, beginning with bacon]. We’re at greater than 60% by weight protein and we have a PDCAAS score of 1, which is similar to eggs and milk; there are few single plant-based proteins like this."
When it comes to growing conditions, he said, “We’re a little different to Atlast [which grows mycelium in trays via solid state fermentation to create white meaty slabs that can be cut and sliced] as we’re using a submerged fermentation process, so we’re growing our mycelia in a process similar to brewing beer in fermentation tanks, so the speed of growth is incredible, we’re talking about a 18-hour batch time.
“As we harvest it we can realign the fibers in different orientations, making chicken breasts or beefsteak, which is harder if you’re using solid state approach. We harvest using a mechanical process, and it’s a whole food, so we’re not extracting proteins.”
“For years we have looked for an alternative meat that is as nutritious as it is sustainable. With Meati, there is no need to compromise. The company has attracted a uniquely experienced syndicate of investors to help Meati get to market in a significant way.”
Lucas Mann, managing partner, Acre Venture Partners
'What we’re doing is like urban agriculture for protein'
A GRAS determination for the ingredient – which would be labeled as ‘mycelium’ on US ingredients lists - has been put together, and will be sent to the FDA, said Huggins.
“People are looking for something new and exciting, and I think we’re going to see a whole new category of fungi-based products, which is awesome.”
He added: “The FDA considers mushrooms as part of the plant-based category, so we could tap into that [trend], but we see an opportunity to talk about fungi-based as a whole new category with a short simple ingredients list, a whole, all natural product with an improved nutritional profile, and when we talk to consumers, they love this idea.
"What we’re doing is like urban agriculture for protein.”
3oz of Meati Fungi-Based Steak contains 16g of complete protein, 6g fiber, 80% of the DV for vitamin B12 (a nutrient not typically found in plants), more potassium than a banana, and zero cholesterol.
The nutrition of the steaks is tunable, in that it can be altered through the addition of nutrients to the growth medium, says Meati Foods CEO Dr Tyler Huggins. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to add tons of ultra-expensive nutrients to the medium to get anything decent out of the fungi.
“We tuned the growth media to bump the iron up to be close to beef, but the media is what we call in the field, ‘minimal media’ as fungi are really good at making their own proteins for example.”