With $440 million in total funding, Eat Just is one of the best-capitalized startups in the alternative protein space.
Having started with plant-based eggs back in 2012, last year the startup became the first in the world to sell and get regulatory approval for a cell-cultured meat product.
Just a few months after that world first for its cultured chicken in Singapore last November, the company has raised funding specifically for that division, which it calls GOOD Meat, closing a $170 million funding round last week. It also started serving its chicken in another restaurant in the city-state, the JW Marriott Singapore South Beach’s Cantonese restaurant, Madame Fan.
Eat Just CEO Josh Tetrick has a very direct answer to the question of how the startup will use GOOD Meat’s new funding.
“To make more meat,” he tells AFN. “We need to make a whole lot more. We want to make a lot more chicken first and then beef and then pork. Building the infrastructure to make more meat requires a significant amount of capital. The kind of infrastructure we need is not available on the planet.”
Although GOOD Meat can currently produce thousands of pounds of chicken, the ultimate goal is to produce in the tens of millions of pounds, he adds.
The separate funding for GOOD Meat is not an indication that the company intends to place its plant-based eggs entirely in the cultivated meat basket; Tetrick says Eat Just is still bullish on plant-based eggs. The group as a whole raised $200 million in March 2021.
We’ll “definitely go public at some point”
Commenting on the public listing of Oatly last week, which reached a valuation of $13 billion in its first day trading, Tetrick says:
“It’s yet another sign that investing in building companies that are solving the problem of industrial animal agriculture is critical for the world. It ends up being really good for investors. I hope it attracts more capital to the space and it makes a million more companies out there who want to do plant-based milk.”
There have also been a flurry of SPAC deals in agrifoodtech in recent weeks; Benson Hill, Ginkgo Bioworks, AeroFarms and AppHarvest have all taken advantage of the Special Purpose Acquisition Company model of listing on a public exchange. You can read in-depth about SPACs here but in short, it enables companies to list without needing to do an official investor roadshow and can also mean more lenient regulations when it comes to communicating with investors.
Could that structure tempt Tetrick?
Eat Just will “definitely go public at some point,” according to Tetrick. For now, the company has not decided on whether that will be a traditional offering or a SPAC deal. And he still has some work to do.
Two hurdles in particular lie ahead for GOOD Meat: regulatory approval across the globe and social license from consumers. For Tetrick, regulatory approval is the less daunting of the two.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the US as the next country to approve this. Probably Europe after China. We will be ready to sell whenever regulators are open to approving it. But scaling up and getting consumers over the finish line is bigger than the regulatory aspect.”
Social license may prove more challenging but he’s confident that consumers will come around to the idea of eating cultivated meat. Eat Just has commissioned various surveys to assess consumers’ attitudes towards cultivated meat.
“Two-thirds of consumers said they would be open to replacing conventional meat with cultivated meat and 80% of restaurants said they would be open to switching it out entirely,” Tetrick says.
“Eighty-eight percent of people that have bought our cultivated meat said they felt good about eating it and 70% said it tasted as good as or better than chicken.”
The startup also surveyed consumers about what might stop them from eating cultivated meat. Most concerns center around a lack of understanding about the technology, such as whether it’s genetically engineered.
“Those are really understandable fair questions for anyone. It’s up to us to answer them very straight and clearly,” he says.
“It’s not genetically engineered. We went through an extensive safety review by the regulatory authorities in Singapore and if we’re fortunate to get approved anywhere else it will be an extensive safety review.”