- As it prepares for a wide-scale retail launch this year, Meati Foods hired operations and supply chain leaders with years of experience in the CPG space. Elizabeth Fikes is the mycelium meat analog maker’s new chief supply chain officer, and Joseph Johnston is the senior vice president of operations and engineering.
- Fikes comes to Meati from Stanley Black & Decker, where she has been the chief transformation officer and manufacturing strategy and optimization leader for global operations for about two years. Prior to that, she was vice president of global operations and transformation at PepsiCo. Johnston, who spent most of the last decade at Sabra, left that company as vice president of supply chain.
- Meati is preparing for a national retail launch in the second half of this year. The company just opened its large-scale manufacturing facility, called its Mega Ranch, in January.
Meati has been on the road to a large retail launch since late 2021, when the company hired Scott Tassani to be its president. Tassani, who worked three decades at General Mills, spent much of his career forging retail partnerships and getting products on store shelves — a skill set that a startup in a relatively unknown category could benefit from.
Meati has been selling its mycelium steak and chicken breast analogs in limited quantities online and direct-to-consumer since last spring. CEO and co-founder Tyler Huggins has said he plans for Meati to be the market leader in meat alternatives by 2025, and it recently opened a facility to produce a significant amount of products. The company’s “Mega Ranch” is larger than 100,000 square feet, and at full capacity will be able to produce more than 45 million pounds of product per year.
With that amount of production, Meati needs people who can handle both the operations of the facility and the supply chain to ensure that the product can be made and packaged correctly, as well as get to where it’s going.
Fikes has that experience from her previous jobs as a leader in supply chain and operations at Stanley Black & Decker, PepsiCo and Procter & Gamble. Her responsibilities at Meati will include overseeing the integrated supply chain; conceiving of and executing capacity and capital expenditure plans; and supporting productivity, supply security and efficiency parameters. According to her LinkedIn page, Fikes has experience in optimizing older supply chain functions to lead to cost savings, so she has the expertise to get Meati’s supply chain off to an efficient start.
Johnston, who will report to Fikes, will oversee capital projects and operations, ensuring product quality and efficient delivery. During his time at Sabra, he worked with the company as it shut down for cleaning to remedy a salmonella outbreak. Before Sabra, Johnston worked at Campbell Soup four and a half years as a project engineer.
People like Fikes and Johnson aren’t always thought of as vital employees to add to food tech companies in the R&D phase. However, they’re needed for the consumer product functions that come later. Tassani said in a written statement that the execution of Meati’s ambition to offer a quality product begins well before it can get to store shelves, and these new hires will work toward that goal.