The race for the best-tasting alternative to meat is on: A mushroom-based startup called “Meati,” which is based in Boulder, Colorado, just raised $50 Million.
Meat uses mushrooms roots to create whole cuts like steak, chicken breast breaded, and fried in a sandwich. A large portion of its Series B funds will go towards constructing an 80,000-square feet production plant. This will allow Meati to produce millions of pounds in time for a commercial launch of Meati in 2022.
“Ultimately, we’re introducing an entirely new type of food, a whole different type of protein,” Tyler Huggins (CEO and co-founder), giggling over Zoom in his Boulder office. I want people to come to the meat table with me and have a good conversation.
Acre Venture Partners was the lead investor, and BOND, a new investor. BOND is a venture capital firm founded by Mary Meeker (longtime Midas List honoree). BOND is the first venture to surpass the billion-dollar mark that was female-founded and led by a woman. Participated in the financing round were Congruent Ventures (Prelude Ventures), Tao Capital, and Congruent Ventures.
It is not uncommon for food industry experts to double as investors or advisors. Rose Marcario (ex-CEO of Patagonia), Annie’s Organic John Foraker (who runs the brand Once Upon a Farm), Jonathan Neman (two of the three Sweetgreen cofounders), and Acre Sam Kass partner, former White House senior nutrition policy advisor and former co-owner of Blue Hill Restaurants. Almanac Investments founder David Barber is also on the list.
Meat uses fermentation to make its protein. This is a popular technological innovation that investors are now embracing. According to the Good Food Institute (and at least $435 million) of the $2 Billion raised by alternative protein companies in 2020 was generated by startups using fermentation in research and development.
Investors looking at fungi-based products are confident that they will be more successful in the future. There are fewer ingredients and processing involved, and the product is often healthier than other protein-based options like soy or pea proteins. Meati’s three-year-old competitor has some well-funded research. They all want to eat a piece of America’s $1 billion meat industry.
At last, Food Co., a New York-based spinoff founded by a decade-old pioneer in mycelium research on mushroom roots, is a significant competitor. At last, he secured $40 million in Series-B funding in April. Meat, which also raised $18million in debt financing, secured $28million in Series A funding from Acre in fall 2020.
Huggins and Justin Whiteley, the CTO of Meat, founded Meati in 2019 after meeting at the University of Colorado at Boulder during their respective Ph. D.s. Whiteley is a specialist in materials, while Huggins is a former field biologist and discovered the power of mycelium.
Huggins was raised in Montana on his father’s bison ranch. Huggins regularly ate grass and grazed animals on it day in and out. “I learned from an early age that meat is not available at the grocery store. Huggins points out that there have been many steps before that. It was this mindset that eventually opened Huggins’ eyes to the possibilities mycelium might offer as a food source. He says that he was using nature as a “toolbox” to view it.
Meat, the sole public benefit corporation in alternative protein, claims that its mycelium “extremely efficient” and that Meati’s plant can produce the equivalent of 4,500 cows each 24 hours. Huggins believes that the company will reach parity in price with industrial-agricultural meats at this rate.
Rose Marcario is a board member, and she says that Rose Marcario founded Patagonia Provisions. Rose ran Patagonia for seven years. Responsible companies are those that look into their supply chain and strive to improve it. It gives them an edge.”