Meati Foods, a Colorado-based alternative protein company, announces today the launch of its inaugural scientific advisory board. Headed by Dr. Harold Schmitz, former Chief Science Officer at Mars, the five member board aims to further the company’s scientific knowledge around fungi.
According to Schmitz, the Meati Scientific Advisory Board (MSAB) will focus on five major themes: nutrition, taste and sensory, sustainability, affordability, and scale.
Founded in 2016 by Tyler Huggins and Justin Whiteley, Meati develops animal-free food products starting with chicken and beef. Meati cultivates a specific strain of mushroom root to create their current set of products, including chicken breast, crispy cutlet, and steak filet. While ‘plant-based meat’ has recently faced criticism for lagging market results, the fungi-based market has yet to mature.
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What initially drew Schmitz to Meati was the nutritional content. “My eyes lasered in on the zinc content,” he shared. “And the product was really interesting, not only because it is complete from a protein perspective, but as a nutrition profile with protein, fiber, micronutrients, and an absence of fat. It was more or less as ideal as you could get for a single food [product].”
One of the MSAB’s first tasks will be to review the nutritional profile of Meati’s product to understand the potential impacts on human health. This could help the company qualify future nutritional claims. Dr. Roberta Holt of the University of California at Davis will join the advisory council. She will lead a literature review to understand the full profile of nutrients present in Meati’s mycelium, including macronutrients such as protein and fiber and micronutrients such as zinc and vitamin B12. This understanding will then lead to a research strategy focused on better understanding the nutritional potential and health benefits for Meati’s products.
Another priority for the MSAB is tackling scalability. Meati closed a $150 million Series C round in 2022 to prepare for scale up, bringing total reported funding to date to $278.6 million. Meati co-founder Tyler Huggins shared, “The demand that we’re seeing is the need for high quality, whole food nutrition in the meat category… The challenge is to build out the infrastructure. We’re inventing new processes, and that is not simple.”
To that end, the company is building out a 100,000 square foot MegaRanch in Colorado. According to the company, they are targeting sales in between 7,000 and 8,000 retail stores this year with a forecasted revenue of $50 million. Meati shared in a statement, “The Mega Ranch also gives us the capacity to begin meeting demand – and we’re already focused on the development of future capabilities and facilities.”
The Meati Scientific Advisory Board (MSAB) will have five members who are compensated for their time, including:
Dr. Harold Schmitz, chairman of the MSAB, is a General Partner at The March Group and Senior Scholar in the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis). He previously served as the Chief Science Officer at Mars, Incorporated, and is an advisor to the Novo Nordisk Foundation’s BioInnovation Institute based in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Dr. Carl L. Keen, Professor Emeritus in the UC Davis Department of Nutrition, who worked on California’s Proposition 65, a landmark regulation in protecting drinking water sources from toxic substances that cause cancer and birth defects and the reduction or elimination of exposure to those same chemicals in consumer products
Dr. Roberta R. Holt, Associate Researcher in the UC Davis Department of Nutrition, who brings expertise in the effects of phytochemicals in whole foods on physiologic response and the refinement of dietary recommendations to reduce chronic disease development and their effects
Dr. Justin Siegel, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at the UC Davis Genome Center, who is the Faculty Director of the Innovation Institute of Food and Health and conducts research in the fields of protein science and protein bioavailability
John Munafo, Flavor Science Director at the University of Tennessee Department of Food Science, who has researched the enhancement of flavor and the health-promoting properties of foods to improve the quality of the global diet.
Dr. Schmitz shares, “This group is going to provide advice to this company, whether it’s convenient or inconvenient. This is not a plastic sort of superficial advisory group. This is a group that’s going to provide the best truthful advice to this company so they do the best things going forward – and then they have a track record of doing that.”
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