Burgers Are Out. The New Vegan Meat Trend? Low-Cost, Whole Cut Steaks.
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Israeli startup Chunk Foods is gearing up for a U.S. foodservice launch of its plant-based whole-cut meat after securing $15 million in a Seed funding round last year.
Last November, Chunk secured the largest Seed funding round ever for an Israeli vegan food company. The funding came from Fall Line Capital, The MIT E14 fund, and Robert Downey Jr.’s FootPrint Coalition.
Chunk has attracted investors and buzz for its use of a novel solid-state fermentation process — fermenting soy flour with food-grade microorganisms, which it says is cheaper than high-moisture extrusion or submerged fermentation. The tech can also be used on other protein sources, including those that are soy- and gluten-free.
Meatier plant-based steak
“The unique thing is our ability to control the direction of the fibers, the thickness of the fibers, the thickness of the cut, the size of the cut, the color, almost any lever you can pull to change the character of the final product,” CEO Amos Golan told AgFunder News.
Chunk says its fermentation process also allows it to enhance the flavor of its products — making them taste meatier than other plant-based proteins. With its new factory, Chunk says it will be able to produce “millions” of steaks per year at a cost of about $5 per steak.
“The unique thing is our ability to control the micro-texture within the whole cut, to the point where we can control the direction of the fibers, the thickness of the fibers, the thickness of the cut, the size of the cut, the color, almost any lever you can pull to change the character of the final product,” Golan said.
“We also don’t use any binders or gums, but the product is still super juicy, and holds water and fat very well, until they are released in your mouth, so you get a juicy, mouthwatering experience. It’s completely different to tempeh.”
The U.S. market demand for whole-cut vegan meat
New York City restaurants Coletta, Anixi, and The Butcher’s Daughter are already serving Chunk Foods’ steaks and the company is planning for a national roll-out later this year.
“Prior to investing, we worked with several top-tier restaurant groups and trialed the product in their test kitchens,” Steve Levin, partner at FootPrint Coalition, said. “There was unanimous praise for the product – not just in terms of taste, texture and ease of preparation – but also in the list of ingredients. The product hits all the marks.”
Chunk joins the growing whole-cut market segment, the “holy grail” of plant-based meat, which has been inherently challenging due to the challenges in replicating whole animal muscle.
But companies are succeeding; earlier this year, the Toronto-based New School Foods debuted a plant-based whole-cut salmon filet that it says looks, cooks, tastes, and flakes just like conventional salmon. Colorado-based Meati’s whole-cut mycelium meat is now available at Sprouts Markets nationwide. Last year, Boston-based Tender Food closed a $12 million Seed round led by Chris Sacca’s Lowercarbon Capital and actor Natalie Portman for its whole-cut vegan meat.