Meati Foods gears up for DTC launch of fungi-based steaks: 'We're creating a whole new category'


By Elaine Watson, Food Navigator USA



Meati Foods (formerly Emergy Foods) is gearing up for the direct-to-consumer launch of protein- and fiber-packed fungi-based ‘steaks’ in Q4 after a successful debut in foodservice, carving out new territory in an alternative meat category that remains dominated by processed products such as burgers and nuggets.


The toolkit for meat-free formulators is growing by the day, as firms explore everything from yeast, bacteria and algae to new sources of plant-protein as source materials, although most still use extruded soy, peas or wheat, Meati co-founder Tyler Huggins told FoodNavigator-USA. However, brands have struggled to create realistic steaks, chicken breasts or other whole cuts.


Boulder, CO-based Meati Foods​​ uses a naturally occurring organism – a strain of mycelia, the filamentous-like root structures of mushrooms (although some mycelia have no visible mushroom ‘cap,' including the variety that Meati uses) - that is inherently high in protein and fiber, and can be grown highly-efficiently in fermentation tanks fed with “sugar water​,” said Huggins.


“We searched all the libraries of filamentous fungi and whittled them down slowly but surely until we found the one​ we’re using now. Our particular strain doesn’t produce mushroom caps. It’s a trade secret for the time being, and we had to create a whole new way of cultivation for it, so everything from the fermentation, the environmental conditions… the downstream post processing is also protectable, so we’ve filed multiple patents."​


Complete protein


He added: “It’s got no inherent flavor and it’s bright white with long fibrous filaments that mimic muscle structure. It’s also really high in protein, much higher than Atlast​​​ ​[which is also developing edible 3D structures from mycelia, beginning with bacon]. We’re at greater than 60% by weight protein and we have a PDCAAS score of 1, which is similar to eggs and milk; there are few single plant-based proteins like this."​


18-hour batch time​


When it comes to growing conditions, he said, “We’re a little different to Atlast​ [which grows mycelium in trays via solid state fermentation to create white meaty slabs that can be cut and sliced] as we’re using a submerged fermentation process, so we’re growing our mycelia in a process similar to brewing beer in fermentation tanks, so the speed of growth is incredible, we’re talking about a 18-hour batch time. ​


“As we harvest it we can realign the fibers in different orientations, making chicken breasts or beefsteak, which is harder if you’re using solid state approach. We harvest using a mechanical process, and it’s a whole food, so we’re not extracting proteins.”​


'What we’re doing is like urban agriculture for protein'​ ...


Funding ​...


The go-to-market strategy​ ...