At the start of 2023, Meati Foods opened what the company called a “mega ranch” in Thornton, Colorado. The large-scale manufacturing facility has a target of producing 45 million pounds of its mushroom meat product annually. Now, the mycelium meat maker is kicking off the New Year by broadening the availability of its product substantially.
Today, the company announced a food distribution deal with select Super Target stores nationally as well as an additional agreement to expand in Albertsons markets.
The food distribution deal puts Meati on track to achieve its goal of being in 8,000 food stores nationwide by the summer, said COO Scott Tassani in an interview with Food Dive. By the end of January, the company’s products will be on the shelves of about 3,600 stores.
Meati already has commercial partners in Whole Foods, Sprouts Farmers Market, and Meijer, among others.
Paving the way for a new category
“Our commercial partners have said to us that we shouldn’t even be considered in the alternative protein space — and we are creating a new category,” said Tassani.
Meati’s products are 95% mushroom root, a cult-favorite ingredient that touts health benefits like improvement in heart health and digestion.
The Boulder, Colorado-based company’s products boast repurchase rates of up to 60%, the highest among animal-free proteins, according to its commercial partners — including Whole Foods and Sprouts.
Meati has also stood on its own with the help of an extraordinary marketing strategy that uses a sleek and memorable ad campaign.
Overall, the plant and alternative protein sectors had a tough time in 2023. Consumers have increasingly demanded transparency in plant-based products and confusion arose over the nutritional impact of some popular plant-based brands.
When you think about some of the “heritage players,” in the alternative protein space like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, said Tassani, “they’ve done a good job of getting trial because people were looking for better nutrition and they have an appeal from a sustainability standpoint, but they’re not necessarily seeing the receipt and it’s because of the experience they offer.”
Another aspect of Meati that Tassani believes separates the company is its stance on plant-based eating in general.
“We are not anti-meat, and we stay away from the polarization that you have seen from some of the earlier players in the alternative protein space.”
Meati’s founder, Tyler Huggins, grew up on a bison ranch.
“Four in ten of the people buying Meati have never bought an alternative protein product before,” said Tassani.
The company also created a term they call “modernizers,” which goes beyond the characteristics of vegans, vegetarians and even flexitarians to encompass a whole population of people who are interested in better food products and food innovation, but don’t want to be pigeon-holed into putting a label on the way they eat and purchase foods.
In terms of how Meati plans to respond to the push for cleaner ingredients in alternative protein options, Tassani said that this is “in the company’s DNA to be cleaner, simpler, while elevating the consumer experience.”
The New Year blueprint
Last month, the company received endorsements from two athlete moguls — Aly Raisman and Chris Paul — adding to its list of celebrity supporters like Rachel Ray and Derek Jeter.
“We want to continue to build secure partnerships with folks who are authentically committed to the space,” said Tassani.
The company is also focused on building its community of consumers — mainly through its DTC channel.
“From an innovation standpoint, we plan to do more pre-sales of products that we plan to launch and market over the next coming months.”
The DTC space will also be used to launch new forms of products, he said. In October, the company claimed a stake in the plant-based snacking category with the launch of its mycelium-based jerky. At first, the new product was available exclusively through its website.
Continuing to build a community of loyal customers will be key heading into 2024, said Tassani. “At the end of the day, talking to consumers at the point of purchase, whether they be in store or on our digital app, will be key to continuing to elevate our brand.”