The global plant-based foods industry accounted for $8 billion in sales and received $1.2 billion in investment in 2022, according to new figures from the Good Food Institute.
Those with recent funding include No Meat Factory, Planetarians, ISH Company and Chunk Foods, which is developing a plant-based alternative protein that mimics the texture and taste of traditional meat, initially steak, and eventually pork, lamb and poultry.
Amos Golan, founder and CEO of Chunk Foods, told TechCrunch that while the plant-based market is around $8 billion, the traditional meat market is about $1.4 trillion, which means “we're not even scratching the surface of the addressable market there.” He founded the company in 2020 while at MIT.
Israel-based Chunk Foods took in $15 million in seed funding in November, which Golan said “is the biggest seed round ever for an Israeli plant-based company.” Fall Line Capital led the new investment and was joined by The MIT E14 fund and FootPrint Coalition. Chunk Foods previously raised $2 million in pre-seed funding.
The company develops whole cuts of alternative proteins using fermentation technology and food-grade microorganisms to turn soy and wheat into its proteins. And, yes, Chunk Foods does have some products in the pipeline without those two ingredients for consumers with allergies. Its steak product has no preservatives, additives, cholesterol or GMOs and has 25 grams of protein.
Golan said what sets his company apart from other plant-based companies is that Chunk Foods' proprietary fermentation technology has been able to mimic the texture, color and taste of traditional meat along with the direction and thickness of the fibers and juiciness of the cut. It is also doing this with a shorter and cleaner ingredient list, void of gums and stabilizers often used to thicken and preserve the shape of foods.
Its technology has also helped the company bring its costs down to around $5 per steak, which Golan said is near the same price as traditional beef tenderloin. The “economies of scale are not fully there yet,” due to also having to import to the United States.
Like other companies in this industry, Chunk Foods is in its early stages. It started its pilot phase in the fourth quarter of 2022 and is still pre-revenue, though its steak product is already being served in New York City restaurants, including Coletta, Anixi and The Butcher’s Daughter.
Chunk Foods is deploying the new funds into a new facility in Israel, which Golan touts will be “one of the largest plant-based whole cuts factories in the world.” It is expected to be completed in June, and once it is, will be able to manufacture “millions of steaks” per year, Golan added.
As mentioned, the company is not yet selling its products, but has closed on enough pre-sales that Golan said will keep the new facility busy initially for a couple of months. Funds will also be used to expand its current employee base of 25, with the R&D in Israel and commercial team in the U.S. There is also another, even larger, facility in the works as Chunk Foods eyes retail.
Meanwhile, the plant-based meat alternative industry has gone through a roller coaster ride in the past year between layoffs at Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, both among the first generation of companies in the industry, production woes felt by Oatly and other setbacks.
Addressing the speculation that the end of the plant-based alternative protein was near, Golan noted that what happened was that tens, if not hundreds, of companies came out with products in this area rapidly to grab a piece of the market, often with products that “were not good enough.”
Even with its layoffs earlier this year, Golan pointed to Impossible as a company that has been able to grow rapidly as the plant-based market moved slowly. In 2023, Impossible launched four new products, including three plant-based “chicken” products and a leaner version of its “beef” product.
“Some companies are not going to exist for very long,” Golan said. “They're going to be either absorbed in other companies or they're going to disappear. The third generation of plant-based companies are offering a better product and are leading the pack. Chunk is with them at the moment. Our products are more reasonably priced for the offering and we communicate better with our consumers.”
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