- Meati Foods, which makes whole-cut meat alternatives from mycelium, raised $50 million in new funding in what it said in a release is an oversubscribed investment round. The Colorado-based company plans to use the money to finish building an 80,000-square-foot plant, which will be used to make product for a planned commercial launch next year. The company also plans to double its employee base in preparation for the launch.
- The round was led by Acre Venture Partners, which led a previous fundraising round for Meati last year. It adds several prominent personal investor-advisers to Meati's backers as well, including former Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario, former Annie's CEO and Once Upon a Farm CEO John Foraker, former Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb and former White House policy adviser Sam Kass.
- Meati is one of several companies using biomass fermentation to create meat analogs. Several other companies using fermentation for protein analogs — including Nature's Fynd and Atlast — are nearing product launches. Many others are currently in development.
When it comes to traditional meat, most of the products are whole cuts, which have so far been challenging for alternative protein manufacturers to replicate. While many companies have been able to mimic the appearance, texture and taste of ground or processed products — like hamburgers, chicken nuggets or flaked tuna — turning alternative ingredients into a cut of meat like a steak, with a very distinct appearance and texture, has been trickier.
Meati takes mycelium, which is the long and fibrous root structure of mushrooms, and cultivates it. The resulting product arranges these fibrous roots to mimic muscle structure. Tyler Huggins, Meati's CEO and co-founder, said at the virtual Future Food-Tech conference last month that it has a good health profile, with 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 traditional animal meat products.
According to the press release announcing the funding, four and a half ounces of Meati steak offers 25 grams of complete protein and more than one third of daily fiber needs. The company's processes are efficient and sustainable. At scale, Meati can produce the meat equivalent of 4,500 cows every 24 hours, the company says, using less than 1% of the water and land as traditional animal-based meat.
Meati is in the final development stages of creating its analogs of chicken breast, steak and jerky, the release noted. Future products include pork tenderloin and deli meat.
Once a process used only for transformation of traditional foods — including yogurt, beer and kimchi — fermentation has become a vital process to the future of food. In a few years, it's gone from a process used by only a few businesses, including British meat analog company Quorn, to what the Good Food Institute described last year as the "next pillar" of alternative protein in its first report detailing the process and the companies using it.
The fermentation space has been so hot that the only things likely to be still accurate in that report, which was published in September 2020, are the descriptions of different types of fermentation.
Funding has exploded in this space, with large rounds this year coming for companies including Meati, Atlast, which will use mycelium to make a bacon alternative and Air Protein, which takes fermentation to turn carbon dioxide into something edible. There have been new partnerships, including Unilever's agreement with fermented ingredient provider Enough. And new players have entered the fermentation space, including established player The Better Meat Company, which unveiled a stealth-developed fermented analog business last month.
With this funding, Meati may be among the first of the next generation of fermented meat analogs on the market, but it certainly will have plenty of company soon afterward.