Boulder, Colorado-based Meati just secured $150 million in Series C funding to accelerate the production of its whole-cut meat alternatives made from mushroom root.
The round was led by growth capital firm Revolution Growth. Cultivate Next, the venture fund of QSR brand Chipotle, also participated.
Like a number of other alternative protein companies today, Meati uses the root structure of fungi to make meat analogues. Unlike other companies, Meati has developed a proprietary process that enables it to churn out whole-cut meat analogues for chicken, steak, jerky, and other products.
- One of Meati’s key claims is that it offers “whole food nutrition” in its products; co-founder and CEO Tyler Huggins tells AFN the company’s products are 95% to 98% mushroom root with few other ingredients and minimal processing.
- The company uses biomass fermentation, though Huggins notes the definition of that term is “in flux right now” perhaps hinting at the ongoing conflict between precision fermentation and anti-GMO camps regarding its use of genetically engineered inputs. An easy way to think of it is as growing mushrooms with a process similar to beer-brewing or cheese-making, says Huggins.
- Meati products are currently available at various restaurants in Colorado and Arizona. The company has also partnered with local Sprouts stores in Colorado and will be distributed systemwide at the grocer retailer soon.
How Meati will use the funding:
Huggins emphasizes that one of the company’s main goals is making its products highly accessible to consumers, both geographically and price-wise. To that end, much of the Series C funding will go towards increasing output, which can not only serve a greater number of consumers but also potentially bring down costs. “This category requires large volumes,” says Huggins. “We’ve been moving super aggressively to build out capacity in order to get Meati into everyone’s hands.
- The company’s current facility, dubbed “the Ranch,” runs 24 hours per day.
- The Series C round will help Meati complete its 100,000-square-foot “Mega Ranch” in Colorado to increase product output. The facility is expected to produce tens of millions of pounds annually.
- Funds will also go towards breaking ground on the “Giga Ranch,” which will produce hundreds of millions of pounds annually and be the blueprint for future Meati facilities domestically and globally.
Why it matters:
The bulk of meat analogues right now don’t score very high when it comes to nutrition. Some are teeming with saturated fat and sky-high levels of sodium. Others are made from pea protein, which is not a complete protein. Still others use ingredients linked to deforestation and other practices that impact planetary health.
Meati says its analogues offer a complete protein along with more fiber than other products and no cholesterol. “No other alternative protein comes close to the health benefits that Meati has,” says Sam Kass, a former White House senior policy advisor for nutrition and partner at Acre Venture Partners, which led Meati’s Series A round and co-led its Series B. “It’s a single-ingredient platform; it’s not a hyper-processed product. Meati represents a new generation and [has] really raised the bar of what we should expect from food companies.”
Alternative protein is also an important part of climate tech. While investment in AgFunder’s Innovative Foods category, which is largely made up of alternative proteins, grew 103% year over year in 2021, according to AgFunder data, the landscape looks far less rosy this year with startups struggling to set themselves apart from their many competitors and break new ground with consumers. [Disclosure: AgFunder is AFN’s parent company.] Inflation, a looming recession, and a tech downturn are not helping these companies court investors either. But Huggins says Meati’s products speak for themselves, and that demand from its retail and foodservice partners is up. “Having a very ambitious mission for positive changes and with a clear approach that can actually deliver on that was helpful,” he says.
For its part, Meati plans to be available in a great many more locations, physical and online, by the end of 2023.
What they’re saying:
“I’ve looked at a lot of products in my day and it’s probably the healthiest food I’ve ever seen,” Sam Kass, a former White House senior policy advisor for nutrition, tells AFN about Meati. Kass is also a partner at Acre Venture Partners, which led Meati’s Series A round and co-led its Series B.
“It can be manufactured in a pretty efficient manner which will allow us over time to get these products to the people who need it most and serve those who need nutrient-dense food at affordable prices,” he adds. “It’s not some far distant promise within 25 years; it’s going to be happening right away once we get the first facility up and running.”
“Meati is poised to be the leader in this large and growing category with a capability to produce plant-based meats in whole-cut form with a clean ingredient list,” Fazeela Abdul Rashid, a partner at Revolution Growth, added in a statement. “The company is meeting an unmet demand for products that are delicious, healthy, and good for the planet.”
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