- Alternative protein company Nature's Fynd will begin construction on a 200,000-square-foot production and R&D facility on the South Side of Chicago, and plans to start selling its products in Mariano's grocery stores in the Windy City.
- This will be the third office location for the company, joining its current 35,000-square foot facility in Chicago's Union Stockyards and its Bozeman, Montana, R&D center. The new facility will create more than 200 jobs, increasing the company's workforce to about 350 by 2023.
- The funds for the new facility came from a blockbuster $350 million funding round the company received in July, which brought its total funding to more than $500 million, according to Crunchbase.
For most of 2021, Nature's Fynd has been in ramp-up mode. The company raised money, received FDA approval for its unique Fy protein to be used in products, had a highly successful test launch of its cream cheese and sausage analogs online, and debuted at retail at two grocery stores in Berkeley, California.
With these new developments, it's clear that Nature's Fynd is entering the next phase of its business: scaling up and commercializing its products.
"Following our successful retail launch in California, we are excited to expand our distribution to Chicago and other cities over the coming months," CEO Thomas Jonas said in a written statement. "Bolstering our production capacity in Chicago is the next major milestone as we bring our Fy-based foods that are better for people and better for our planet to more stores."
The story of Nature's Fynd could have come out of a science fiction novel. The company was created following the discovery of a fungus that thrived in an extremely acidic spring in Yellowstone National Park. The fungus, now known as Fy, is 60% protein, but it's also a complete protein. Researchers working with the company found a way to grow Fy through fermentation, and then used it to create food.
Fy is unlike other analogs in another way: It has an extremely diverse range of functions. While other companies use fermentation for alternative protein, Nature's Fynd is starting out with two very different products: a cream cheese spread and sausage patties. The company has said that Fy can be developed into a wide range of finished products, and has distributed a photo featuring Fy products ranging from chicken nuggets and hamburgers to pudding, dim sum and dressing.
Jonas told Just Food Magazine earlier this year the launch of two diverse products was strategic.
"What we really want to establish here is Fy, which is our new ingredient, this new protein platform," he said. "We’re not just another pea burger or soy milk. We are commercializing the first wave of products from this new protein platform, which just like chicken, milk or tofu is a protein platform in its own right."
It's not clear how much Fy the new facility will be able to make, and the timing and scale of the company's wider launch plans are still not known. But Nature's Fynd is close to being able to introduce Fy throughout the United States so that it becomes an item consumers everywhere recognize as being made through fermentation.
Though there are many startups doing R&D work in the fermentation space, the only one with widespread distribution is Quorn, the British fermented meat analog pioneer.