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Germany startup Keen 4 Greens, which makes vegan meat products including nuggets and burgers has announced a €1.8 million seed in funding to pursue whole meat cuts made using fermented mycelium. The round was led by Berlin-based FoodLabs, with Ryan Bethencourt’s Sustainable Food Ventures and Shio Capital participating as well, amongst others.
“The consumption of animal proteins is increasing worldwide. It is clear that traditional methods of raising and consuming animals is not sustainable and is reaching its limits in many respects. Consumers need nutritious, great-tasting alternatives,” Patrick Huber, general partner at lead investor FoodLabs said in a statement. “We were won over by Keen 4 Greens’ approach from the start and we are delighted to be supporting the team as they continue to develop their product range and growth strategy.”
Incoming funds will be used to scale production facilities and develop new product lines, including chicken strips, breaded chicken strips, beef and bacon. At present, a selection of Keen 4 Green products made using wheat problem are distributed through the hospitality sector. Restaurant chains on board include Otto’s Burger, Ruff’s Burger and Vincent Vegan.
New ranges will focus on “clean label” ingredients without any wheat or soy including a whole cut chicken analogue made from just five ingredients and no additives. Mycelium, pea protein, oil, salt and water is all that the startup’s vegan meat of the future will be made of, with the pea protein gradually replaced with increasing amounts of mycelium.
Making more with mycelium
The startup, which was founded in 2019 and bootstrapped till now, wants to focus its attention on allergen-free fungi as its base for recipes. Using the mycelium root structure from edible mushrooms, it harnesses fermentation to transform the ingredient into meat-like substitutes, with good nutrition. Though EU approval has yet to be granted for the sale of mycelium as a foodstuff, Keen 4 Greens does not consider it a ‘novel food’. Previous meat incarnations have been wheat protein-based, which are being phased out.
“The mycelia of our edible mushroom contain all eight amino acids that are essential for us humans and that are not normally found in vegan products.,” Franziskus Schnabel, co-founder of Keen 4 Green said. “This makes our food healthier than many other vegan products. We are more efficient in the production of our food ingredients because the growth time of mycelium is much faster – compared to the natural growth process of wheat or peas, for example.”
A popular addition to the vegan meat sector, pea protein has, according to Keen 4 Greens, become an increasingly fluctuating market. By stepping away from it and keeping as much protein sourcing as possible in-house, the startup is able to leverage independence and assert control over costs. Production methodologies allow food industry sidestreams to be taken advantage of, in further cost-saving initiatives. Vegetable peelings, for example, can be used in the cultivation process, thereby reducing food waste.
Bringing mycelium to market
With mycelium cultivation mastered, the German startup has secured funding to scale its production capabilities. A completely new facility is earmarked for construction, featuring an on-site laboratory to continually drive innovation forward. “We’re grateful for the support of our investors, which will enable us to further improve and scale our production technology and processes,” co-founder Daniel MacGowan-von Holstein said. The startup acknowledges that its biggest hurdles now are the construction of its specialist facilities and the acquisition of the right technology. Once these are overcome, scaling to the right size to make enough mycelium to launch commercially will be the last difficulty.
As Keen 4 Greens prepares to make its market debut with five-ingredient vegan meat, others are hoping to do the same.
Recently, US-based Meati Foods revealed that it pressed go on a limited pre-order run, with thousands of whole-cut mycelium-based cutlets selling out in one day. 1,116 were allocated in the first hour of pre-orders. Two products were available, both chicken in style, with a third, a beef analogue, slated for release later in the year.
Also in the US, MyForest Foods, fresh from a rebrand, is preparing to scale up. Backed by Robert Downey Jr.’s FootPrint Coalition, amongst others, the company scooped $40 million in a Series A last April to construct the biggest mycelium manufacturing facility in the U.S.
Lead photo by Keen 4 Greens.