Why Chipotle Mexican Grill Invested in Meati Foods

An investment from Chipotle Mexican Grill’s Cultivate Next venture fund last week has put mushrooms in the spotlight as the next big meat alternative.

One of the first two investments from Chipotle’s $50 million fund went to a Boulder, Colo.-based company called Meati Foods, which makes a plant-based protein made from the root of the mushroom — or actually straining a spore from root-like filaments. called mycelium, which grows in a fermentation process.

Debut products that will soon hit grocery stores nationally and will be available for food service include chicken-like patties (a breaded version and a classic four-ounce “breast”) as well as “steak ” (a classic filet and carne asada) under the Eat Meati brand.

Including the investment led by Chipotle, Meati Foods last week completed a $150 million Series C funding round, bringing its total funding to more than $278 million. The support will accelerate the production of the meat alternative, which has a protein content similar to meat (18 grams per serving) with more fiber (12 grams) and no cholesterol.

The round was led by Revolution Growth with participation from new and existing investors including Grosvenor Food & AdTech, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Wellington Management.

Scott Tassani, president of Meati Foods, said in an interview Monday that the world of all proteins, including meat, in the U.S. is about $160 billion.

“Alternative proteins are about 1% of that, and the vast majority of the business in that 1% has been primarily in grinds and burger alternatives. But 60% of that $160 billion [protein] sales in the US are made against entire product cuts and, to date, there really hasn’t been an offer in [plant-based] space that can do what Meati does,” said Tassani.

Even as interest in plant-based proteins grows, the race is on to bring more “food” products to market that can shake the reputation of being created in a lab.

The meat products are almost entirely composed of mycelium, and the ingredient list is only six or seven items — while the ingredient list for the Beyond and Impossible products number in the high teens or higher, Tassani said.

So far, three Colorado restaurant operators are working with Meati products on their menus, but that’s only because the company hasn’t fully ramped up production yet, he said.

Birdcall, based in Denver, includes a crispy Meati patty sandwiched with Asian slaw, wontons, General Tso’s sauce and sriracha aioli.

In Boulder, Colo., diners can substitute Meati patties for meat on sandwiches at the fast-casual concept Raglin Market. And upscale restaurant Salt is serving up a Nashville Hot Meati sandwich with white cheddar, roasted garlic aioli and pickles for $16.

Meati is expected to become more available in September, when the company is slated to open a 100,000-square-foot Mega Ranch in Thornton, Colo., that will have the ability to produce tens of millions of pounds a year.

Next year, the company plans to break ground on a Giga Farm capable of producing hundreds of millions of pounds, which will help the company increase production of a wider range of products.

Tassani said the brand will be available in Sprouts stores in October. He declined to comment on any potential product tests by Chipotle, but Curt Garner, the fast-casual chain’s chief technology officer, said in a statement that any tests would begin with the open-scene process by which all items are authenticated. new menu. .

Meat is not alone in seeking mushrooms as a meat alternative for American consumers.

New York celebrity chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin has become a culinary advisor to Chicago-based Nature’s Fynd, which produces a fungal protein called Fy. Ripert is testing the product as a dessert on Le Bernardin’s summer menu as a type of dairy-free cream cheese.

Other manufacturers of mushroom protein include Perfect Day (dairy alternatives), MyForest Foods (MyBacon) and Fable Foods (ready-to-eat products).

Tassani, who previously headed North American sales for General Mills, said Meati Foods has plans to make the micellar products a household brand.

“Space is getting busy,” he said. But once partners and potential customers taste it, the feedback so far has been “we have a much superior product.”

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @livetodineout

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