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."
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' ...
The go-to-market strategy ...