Rebellyous Foods overcomes ‘quality at scale’ challenges for plant-based protein production to close supply-demand gap

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Rebellyous Foods plant-based plant-based meat

For the plant-based meat industry to close the supply and demand gap and reduce prices it must overcome what Rebellyous Foods CEO and Founder Christie Lagally describes as a “quality at scale” challenge, in which limited access to the “right tools” drives up production costs and lowers quality.

After years of R&D and multiple rounds of fundraising, including an infusion of $9.5m in an equity financing announced earlier this year, Lagally says she has developed a solution – patented, scalable technology that will come online in December and which leans heavily on automation to cut workforce costs by 90%, energy costs by 80% and material waste by 99%.

And now she is looking for other plant-based meat companies with which to co-produce and share the benefit of cost parity production.

“The vast majority of plant-based meat companies are scaling by using a contract manufacturer that typically – not always, but typically – is making animal-based meat. And one of the major challenges around that is that it’s … just the wrong tools for the job. And so, the ability to make the product in the first place is already requiring more labor and more steps [and more] careful attention to detail in order to use the wrong equipment to make the right plant-based meat product,”​ Lagally explained.

She added this also drives up labor and other costs that are passed on to consumers – leading to premium pricing that is increasingly difficult for some consumers to pay in the current economic climate.

Using the wrong tools also compromises the ability to control quality at scale, she added. For example, batches above 500 pounds tend to lack homogeneity in the mixing or the emulsification is insufficient because workers are to tired to make sure they follow recipes correctly.

“What we’ve done at Rebellyous Foods is to go back to first principles and design a tool from the needs of the production first. So, if we’ve got texturized protein that needs hydration, we built a hydrator. And if we’ve got emulsified oils, fats, starches that need to be emulsified together, then we built an emulsifier,”​ Lagally said.

By building the right tools or the job, Lagally said Rebellyous Foods has not only cut back production costs but also labor costs because the new equipment in its “Mock2” system can replace roughly 12 employees with one automation technician.

 By replacing production and labor costs, Rebellyous Foods will be able to pass those savings on to consumers and offer products that are more competitively priced.

Mock 2 will come online in December with extra production capacity

In December, Rebellyous Foods will deploy its updated Mock 2 system, which will be capble of producing about 10 million pounds of plant-based protein per year on one line – far more capacity than the startup currently needs.

“Rebellyous is still a small company. We probably will take up to 3 to 4 million pounds of that capacity in the first year. So, we’re excited for the opportunity to partner with other plant-based meat brands that are also looking for price parity production,”​ Lagally said.

She explained that while she is in talks with a handful of companies she is opening to hearing from more potential partners with the overarching goal of helping more consumers access plant-based protein and by extension offer a life line to a category that is struggling with sliding sales as consumers pull back on spending.

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