- Baseball Hall of Famer Derek Jeter invested an undisclosed amount in mycelium meat analog maker Meati Foods.
- The Yankees great also will be an adviser to the company, which uses mushroom mycelium to make whole cut analogs of steak and chicken.
- Jeter is one of several celebrities to partner with Meati this year. The company’s Meati Culinary Collective — celebrity chefs showcasing its products in their restaurants, through recipes and in at-home kits — was kicked off by David Chang in February. TV personality and cookbook author Rachael Ray joined last month.
In terms of finding an athlete to validate the nutritional benefits of Meati Foods’ items, the company has hit a home run.
Jeter spent 20 years as a star shortstop for the New York Yankees. Following his retirement in 2014, he’s been busy in business, co-founding sports website The Players Tribune, starting trading card platform Arena Club, and formerly serving as CEO and part owner of the Miami Marlins.
“When it came to considering an investment in this industry, I had three main priorities in evaluating the food: nutrition, sustainability and taste,” Jeter said in a release. “Meati certainly delivers, with great quality steaks and cutlets and an institutional emphasis on high nutritional value and sustainable practices.”
Jeter has made a few other investments in food and beverage companies since his retirement from baseball. They include medically tailored meal delivery service Performance Kitchen, botanic spirits and self-care product company Amass, and rapid-aging spirits startup Bespoken.
Meati President and COO Scott Tassani said Jeter’s investment is a “huge validation” of the company’s food.
As Meati breaks into the meat alternatives category with products that are new to consumers, it is important for it to partner with people that consumers know and trust.
A whole-cut steak analog made from mycelium — mushroom roots — may be an off-putting idea to some. But the backing of well-known chefs, TV personalities and athletes can demonstrate that it is a product worth trying from both a culinary and nutritional standpoint.
Meati has been charging forward with a long-planned national retail expansion, which it plans to continue throughout the year. Its products are currently available at more than 500 grocery stores nationwide, including all Sprouts Farmers Market locations and 260 Meijer stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin.
In January, it opened its Mega Ranch manufacturing facility, which the company said should make enough product to supply 7,000 grocery stores. It’s not clear what scale Meati has reached, though last week the company laid off 5% of its workforce, or 17 people.
As sales of meat alternatives tend to get more tepid, a newer player in the marketplace such as Meati will be able to benefit from all the endorsements it can get.
Analysts have said that with their different textural and taste profiles, shorter ingredients list and better nutritional density, products like Meati’s steaks and chicken cutlets could turn around perceptions of the segment and total category sales.
But consumers may need some encouragement. While Jeter’s association with the company doesn’t necessarily include marketing campaigns, his investment carries weight — and in his capacity as an adviser, he can help the company use its products and marketing to target people looking for alternative protein.