Eat Meati’s expansion into Target bucks retailer trend to downsize alternative proteins

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Meati Foods
Source: Meati Foods

Related tags Meati Foods fungi Meat alternatives mycelium mushrooms

At a time when many retailers are cutting back on the assortment and number of plant-based proteins they stock, fungi-based newcomer Meati continues to gain retail shelf space with the launch of four of its whole-cut MushroomRoot cutlets and steaks in select Super Target stores nationwide, announced today.

The startup, which was available in fewer than 400 Sprouts Farmers Market stores in 23 states less than a year ago is now in 3,000 stores across a diverse range of channels and retailers, including at Whole Foods Market, Meijer, The Giant Company, Save Mart, Cub Foods, Lowes Foods and Fresh Thyme.

By this summer, the company plans to be in 8,000 retail stores, nearly tripling its current count, while also offering its products in a series of bundles online at meati.com/shop.

The company’s rapid growth is possible in part thanks to the opening of Meati’s 100,000+ square foot production facility, nicknamed Mega Ranch, in Colorado last January, which has the potential to produce tens of millions of pounds mycelium in fermentation tanks that it then processes and packages into Eat Meati’s cutlets, steaks, breaded nuggets and jerky.

But Meati’s success isn’t just a case of “if you build it, they will come.” Rather, president and COO Scott Tassani told FoodNavigator-USA last year that Meati stands out from other plant-based meats that are suffering from slowing sales and volumes because it offers a clean-label, whole-food product that delivers nutrition and taste.

“There has been some really good work done by the existing players to try and generate an experience that is comparable to the traditional look, taste and texture of [animal protein], and as a result the alternative protein category exploded. But the challenge for many of those players is that they haven’t had the repeat purchase rates they need because consumers are unwilling to make a trade off on taste or their health,” Tassani told FoodNavigator-USA at Natural Products Expo West last March.

“When consumers look at the nutritionals of many of the meat alternatives on the market they are unhappy and they are concerned about 20-plus ingredients and so it doesn’t feel ‘clean’ to them. And that is a limiter. It has capped the potential,” and as their velocities have fallen retailers have cut back on how much shelf space they are willing to allocate, he explained.

Eat Meati’s short, clean ingredient deck offers ‘huge upside’

By comparison, Eat Meati offers a “huge upside” to retailers and a reason for consumers to be excited because its ingredient lists are short and easily identifiable, Tassani said.

The company’s Classic Steak, for example, includes mushroom root, less than 2% of: salt, natural flavor, fruit juice for color, oat fiber, vegetable juice for color and lycopene for color. Likewise, its Original Jerky has MushroomRoot (mycelium), sugar, brown sugar, salt and less than 2% of natural flavor, yeast extract, garlic powder, acacia gum, oat fiber and chickpea flour.

Eat Meati products also are lower in calories and fat than competing animal-like burgers, while still packing a notable amount of protein and fiber – two macronutrients that consumers continue to seek.

By delivering on taste, nutrition and consumer demand for clean labels, Eat Meati reports it has generated a strong repurchase rate of up to 60%, which is appealing to retailers, even as many stores are cutting back on the number of alternative proteins they stock.

“Many retailers are right-sizing the category assortment, but they also remain committed to offering alternative proteins because they see the upside potential they offer when they look at markets outside of the US,” Tassani told FoodNavigator-USA.

“Alternative proteins have only 1% of revenue protein share, but in other markets it has 3-4%. And each point of protein share is worth about $1.6bn. And so retailers look at that say, ‘Yes, there is a huge upside potential. It is just a matter of having the right offering,’” he explained, adding, “the feedback we are getting is that we are the right offering.”

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