Why a Startup Says Mushroom Meat is the Next Wave of Protein Alternatives

A new startup is looking to disrupt the plant-based meat market.

Meati, founded in 2019, creates a meat alternative made from mushroom root, a superfood protein similar to the root structure of mushrooms.

“We believe we are the third and final wave of alternative proteins,” said Tyler Huggins, co-founder and CEO of Meati. The executive, who received his doctorate in environmental engineering in 2016, stressed that Meati’s taste and experience are “unmatched”, adding that he would describe the brand as neither “plant-based nor “laboratory grown”.

“We are whole food protein,” he said. “That’s the key – producing food with a simple, highly nutritious ingredient list.”

The goal from the beginning was the production of defileable foods…Tyler Huggins, co-founder and CEO of Meati

The brand’s whole “chicken” cutlets, sold at retail and direct to consumer, contain 17 grams of protein per serving (2 cutlets), along with other key vitamins found in traditional animal products – like vitamin B, zinc and iron.

The company will discontinue a limited number of its all-new “steak” protein per his website from Monday. Its last product release (April) sold out in just 20 minutes.

(Courtesy of Meati)

In order to create the alternative meat, the company described the process “like upstream brewing” and downstream “cheese processing.” The whole process takes four days from start to finish and creates a level of meat comparable to what a pregnant cow would produce.

“It’s not high tech, it’s nature,” Huggins said, pointing out that each product contains only four to six ingredients. For comparison, a Beyond Meat (BYND) burger has 18 ingredients in total.

“We grow the roots of the mushrooms in nutrient-rich water where they grow freely. We then harvest them, gently form the different cuts and flavors, and then it’s done,” he explained, adding, “It’s alive during the whole process. It’s true all flavored, ready-to-go nature foods.”

[Meati] is a supply chain solution…Scott Tassani, President of Meati

The company, which currently operates from a pilot ranch in Boulder, Colorado, is preparing to commission its first mega ranch this summer.

The mega ranch is expected to produce over 45 million pounds of produce annually.

“We are a supply chain solution,” said Scott Tassani, president of Meati. He credits the brand’s “super clean” production operation, in addition to the limited number of ingredients, for enabling it to provide a “vertically integrated manufacturing process” that helps alleviate supply chain issues.

The company plans to launch a retail pilot program this summer with the goal of achieving a nationwide retail footprint by early 2023. In addition to retail, the company aims to ensure of several key restaurant partners and to be present in 10,000 locations by the end of the year.

As for pricing, Meati says its products (which sell for $7.99 for two chicken cutlets and $9.99 for two steak fillets) are in line with the premiums consumers see with other brands. of alternative proteins like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, although its price is even more expensive. compared to traditional meat.

Still, “with all the inflationary pressures, that gap is narrowing, so it’s less of a premium over time,” Tassani noted.

According to the latest CPI printout from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, traditional chicken prices jumped more than 18% in April compared to the same period last year. Ground core saw a 15.3% year-over-year increase.

So far in 2022, grocery store prices have risen at least 1.0% month over month.

“Democratizing Proteins”

US plant-based food sales grew twice as fast as animal-based food sales in 2020

US plant-based food sales grew twice as fast as animal-based food sales in 2020

US plant-based food sales grew twice as fast as animal-based food sales in 2020, totaling $7 billion, according to the latest Good Food Institute Industry Report. Within this category, plant-based meat has crossed the $1 billion mark, increasing its dollar sales by 45% from 2019.

Today, the traditional American meat market is Over $170 billion with alternative protein sales amounting to approximately $1.6 billion.

Meati’s Tassani dubbed that protein alternative “will easily make up 5% of the category in the next five to six years,” underscoring the company’s goal of achieving $1 billion in sales at the pace by 2025.

(Courtesy of Meati)

(Courtesy of Meati)

Overall, Meati says its mission is to provide “sustainable food production” and “democratize protein” for all.

“It’s crazy that we live in the most industrialized and wealthiest country in the world; yet access to good, high-quality nutrition is still not fully accessible,” Huggins lamented.

“What we want to do here is diversify the differences,” continued the leader, explaining that the company is not anti-animal products.

Instead, Meati aims to “elevate animal-based protein to a celebrated level, provide ethical treatment for animals, pay farmers and ranchers fairly, and help supplement the market.”

According to a recent study by the international journal, Natureeliminating animal meat consumption and adopting more plant-based alternatives can help prevent deforestation, in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing excessive water consumption.

The study predicted that replacing just 20% of traditional meat consumption with alternative options would reduce “annual deforestation and associated CO2 emissions by about half, while also reducing methane emissions”.

“We would say it’s the most efficient and healthiest way to feed the planet,” Huggins of Meati said.

He explained that the brand identity “is based on first principles, basically taking energy from the sun and producing protein.”

“How do you work with nature? How do you guide biological processes in ways that are beneficial, working with nature rather than against it, to create a more sustainable future?”

As for the critics who may not be very enthusiastic when it comes to eating mushroom meat?

Huggins chuckled, “Trying is believing.”

Alexandra is a senior entertainment and food reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193 or email her at [email protected]

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