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Slovenian startup Juicy Marbles has successfully completed a $4.5 seed round to scale its whole-cut vegan steak. Self-described as “fancy plant meat”, the Ljublijana-based company is zeroing in on the alt protein market to offer meat eaters an alternative to conventional premium prime cuts. The first product to be brought to market will be a vegan filet mignon, with an early 2022 launch date being floated.
Alongside a number of angel investors, environmentally-astute search engine Ecosia’s new World Fund. Juicy Marbles is the €350 million-strong climate tech fund’s first investment, as part of designed to bring climate tech to the forefront of new business and make decarbonisation a value driver. Seed funding is earmarked for scaling production to meet 2022 launch targets, with fully realised products in the retail sector early next year. The startup is targeting supermarkets, restaurants, and independent artisanal outlets, with direct-to-customer channels a key focus in order to minimize excess packaging and shipping.
Premium cuts only
Noting a lack of competition in the premium vegan meats sector, Juicy Marbles has focussed its initial efforts on creating whole-cut products that showcase the company’s strengths. Most notably, its “marbling technology” that can replicate a filet mignon. “We’ve decided to begin with the filet mignon because it is the ‘crown jewel’ of the steak world, and it showcases our marbling technology best — which we would say is our clear and defining selling proposition, before we move onto other whole-cuts,” the company told TechCrunch.
Deliberately shunning more everyday product lines such as sausages, burgers, and nuggets, Juicy Marbles is planting a flag firmly in the luxury vegan meats sector. Though price-prohibitive products are not the end goal: “We want to be known for our sirloins, rumps, filets, tomahawks, wagyus, as well as for our filet mignons — not just the most expensive cuts long-term. Long-term, our view is that we want to make filet mignon more affordable and accessible, given the different economics of it being plant-based.”
Taking soy further
Founded by a team of both vegans and meat eaters, Juicy Marbles is using soy to create a comparable alternative to animal-based steak. This is why the development of proprietary marbling has been important and, company-defining. There is little information available about their proprietary process, other than for their patent-pending 3D assembly technology. The company says that it will be more open in the future, when intellectual property protection is in place.
According the the company, using soy as the primary protein allows it to have greater flexibility in terms of future product development. Soy is a highly flexible ingredient, and can be manipulated in a wide variety of ways, including fermentation, freeze-drying, and sprouting so the company won’t be limited in terms of texture diversity. In turn, this will allow for more authentic vegan meats and seafood to be created. The team is already prototyping a vegan tuna steak.
Deforestation has become a major concern in connection to soy farming and Juicy Marbles addresses the issue head-on, noting that 97% of soy production is used to manufacture animal feed. “As a crop to feed humans, much less dense land usage would be required for soya for purely human consumption — likely less than a third of the farming land currently required.”
The (realistic) steak race
A number of other companies are currently developing flagship whole-cut meat analogue products. The race is on to find the most authentically textured and flavoured vegan steak, with Indonesia’s Green Rebel having unveiled beef steak and chicken alternatives and Israel’s Redefine Meat is not far behind with its 3D printed whole-cuts. Mycorena has announced a new addition to its product portfolio as well, in the form of a fungi-based fat that will help steak producers to capture a juicy mouthfeel.
As consumers begin to demand better vegan meat options, more realistic texture are becoming more important for startups. Animal-free whole-cuts are a potential solution and Juicy Marbles is keen to get out ahead of the pack thanks to this latest round of funding.
World Fund General Partner Daniel Visevic added: “Their realistic and considered approach, combined with their technology — and appetites! — has seen them finally crack a major piece of the plant-based puzzle. We’re excited to join them and witness just how much of an impact they’re due to make in the months and years to come.”
Lead image courtesy of Juicy Marbles.