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Interview with Meati Foods CEO Tyler Huggins

Each month, BizWest asks a business leader to participate in a question and answer feature to help shed light on a business topic, an industry or add insight to a field of endeavor. This month, Tyler Huggins, the CEO of Meati Foods, a trade name for mushroom-based whole-food proteins producer Emergy Inc., answers our questions. It’s been a big summer for the startup: The company launched its first retail sales and raised a $150 million Series C round that will allow it to build a 100,000-square-foot facility in Thornton with the capacity to produce more than 45 million pounds of fungi-based meat annually. This interview has been lightly edited for length, content and formatting.

BizWest: How does Meati’s process of creating meat using mycelium differ from some of the more traditional plant-based meat alternatives?

Huggins: Meati produces a whole food. There isn’t anything like Meati out there — each cut is made up of at least 95% mushroom root. It all starts with mushroom root, which we grow in nutrient-dense water for optimal purity and nutritional content. After being harvested, the roots are gently formed into whole-cuts and coloring and flavoring is added. As the cuts are formed, we are able to arrange the roots to replicate the textures of specific animal cuts, so our whole cuts can have the texture of a chicken breast, sirloin steak or anything else.

BizWest: Could you talk a bit about the demand for meat alternatives that don’t come ground or in a patty form?

Huggins: There have been a ton of great innovations over the past decade that have elevated the alternative protein category to where we are today, beyond just ground and patty form meat alternatives. More than 60% of meat sales in the U.S. are of whole cuts and existing alternative protein products rarely check all of the boxes consumers need to substitute plant-based options in for traditional meat. Meati delivers a whole food product that checks the boxes on exceptional flavor and texture, ingredient transparency and minimal processing, and an unmatched nutrition profile, all while being sustainably made. 

BizWest: Meati just raised an impressive, $150-million Series C round. What do you plan to use the funding for and are there plans for any additional capital raises in the near future?

Huggins: Our funding to date (including our recent Series C round), will primarily support the quick scaling of our operations so we can meet the existing consumer needs. Specifically, funds are supporting the completion of our 100,000-square-foot Mega Ranch in Thornton and starting the buildout of our even larger Giga Ranch. Our focus is on scaling production to create an omnichannel footprint for Meati, with availability in more than 10,000 doors among retailers and food service partners by late-2023.

BizWest: Could you update us on your production facilities? It’s my understanding that Meati is building out its Mega Ranch, a 100,000-square-foot facility with the capacity to produce more than 45 million pounds of fungi-based meat annually, and setting its sights on its first Giga Ranch?

Huggins: Correct. We’re very close to officially shipping from our Mega Ranch, which once fully built and commissioned, will have the capacity to produce tens of millions of pounds of product annually. We’re in the process of mapping out our Giga Ranch, which will allow us the capability of producing hundreds of millions of pounds of Meati annually.

BizWest: Meati has recently made some connections with some big players in the fast-casual restaurant space (namely, Chipotle and Birdcall) and has launched retail sales. Which of these sales channels represents the biggest opportunity for the company in the near term?

Huggins: They’re equally important in driving trials — everyone likes to try a new food on their own terms. Each of our partnerships creates unique, new opportunities for us as a company, and we’re eager to explore all channels with time. These partnerships are vital to our growth and ladder towards our mission of creating the most accessibility to our nutritious offerings possible. Partners such as Birdcall and SALT Bistro really reinforce our emphasis on working with businesses that hold the same values of quality and taste as we do.

Source: BizWest

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