- Meat alternative maker Meati appointed General Mills veteran Scott Tassani as its president. Meati, which makes whole-cut meat analogs from mycelium, plans to launch to consumers early next year, and Tassani will help pave Meati's way to the larger market, the company said.
- Tassani, who starts with Meati on Dec. 6, spent three decades at General Mills. Most recently, he was president and chief customer officer for the company's North American unit.
- Meati is one of several newer companies using biomass fermentation to create meat analogs. The company raised $50 million this summer to complete an 80,000-square-foot plant, and also had plans to double its employee count as it prepared to launch.
Meati has huge ambitions. Not only does the Colorado-based company want to be one of the first to bring whole-cut meat analogs from the root structure of mushrooms to market, but it also aims to have $1 billion in annual sales by 2025.
By bringing someone with Tassani's experience into the fold, Meati's goals may not seem so farfetched. Tassani has vast experience in forging partnerships, getting products on store shelves, creating and growing new categories, keeping products relevant and finding M&A opportunities. As a new brand in a relatively new category, Meati could use all of this experience to establish itself in the marketplace.
“When creating a new and exciting category, the strategic partnerships that deliver on all fronts is critical, and I couldn’t be more excited to welcome Scott to the team and partner with him to bring lasting change to the broader protein category," Meati CEO and Co-founder Tyler Huggins said in a written statement. "I’m already blown away by the trust and relationships he brings, which will enable a new level of speed for Meati to be more widely available.”
In its announcement about Tassani's hiring, Meati previews its go-to-market strategy for 2022. The company plans to initially offer its products online, in direct-to-consumer e-commerce. But after that, the statement says, "Meati's roadmap is clear — sweeping availability at the lowest barrier to entry: food retailers."
The newness of Meati's brand and the type of product it presents — a meat analog that is not plant-based and is structured more like whole cuts of meat — may pose some challenges both in convincing retailers to carry it and getting consumers to buy it. Tassani, whose previous positions at General Mills include vice president of sales in U.S. grocery and Walmart team leader, has the connections and experience to help the brand break into stores. He's also the latest well-connected person to get involved with the company, whose backers include former Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario, former Annie's CEO and Once Upon a Farm CEO John Foraker, former Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb, former White House policy adviser Sam Kass and Tom Colicchio of "Top Chef."
Huggins said this summer that the company's products, made from the cultivated root structure of mushrooms arranged in a way to mimic the fibrous texture of meat, have high protein, zinc and iron levels, as well as a variety of vitamins and minerals. And Meati can make these products fairly inexpensively, he said, making it cost competitive with animal meat products. At scale, Meati said it can produce the meat equivalent of 4,500 cows every 24 hours, while using less than 1% of the water and land as traditional animal-based meat.
In its statement about Tassani's hiring, Meati didn't say what products it would launch first. This summer, the company noted it was in the final development stages of creating analogs of chicken breast, steak and jerky. Future products include pork tenderloin and deli meat.
If Meati is able to launch according to plan, it will be among the first of several fermented meat analogs that are planning to become available to consumers in the next year. Atlast Food Co., which makes mycelium-based MyBacon, has been on the market at a limited scale near its Albany, New York, headquarters since last year and plans a much larger launch soon. Aqua Cultured Foods, which uses fermentation to mimic the appearance and texture of seafood with its analogs, also is aiming for a launch in 2022. The Better Meat Co. unveiled a fermented meat analog business this summer that uses mycoprotein to make a product it calls Rhiza. In October, Hormel's 199 Ventures arm entered into a partnership with Better Meat to develop Rhiza-based meat analog products and bring them to market.