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Seattle’s Rebellyous Foods has produced restaurant-quality vegan chicken nuggets that are equal in price to meat thanks to proprietary technology, dubbed the Mock 1S. The company says it took three years to get to what they describe a ‘world first’.
Produced at scale, Rebellyous Foods’ nuggets offer attractive pricing, which remains a hurdle to consumer acceptance for many plant-based meats.
The launch comes on the heels of a recent Kearney report that concluded plant-based meat sales will boom if they can reach price parity with animal protein. The findings suggest a 3 percent increase in market share for plant-based goods each time prices come down by 1 percent.
Usurping chicken from the food chain
Consumers frequently look to chicken as a healthier, less environmentally impactful and cheaper meat, as compared to beef, lamb or pork. Of the 55 billion-plus animals reared every year for meat, more than 50 billion are chickens. Though a few decades ago chicken was one of the more expensive meats to buy, costs have come down drastically and chicken is now far more affordable than beef.
Activist-led vegan chicken brand VFC commissioned a survey that showed that consumers are in the dark about commercial chicken production. 5,204 people were asked about how chickens are farmed in the U.K. with most claiming that they would think twice if animal cruelty formed part of the process. 16 percent of participants claimed they would continue to buy commercial chicken, even after finding out cruel practices are the norm, mostly due to price and taste. Rebellyous claims its nuggets can solve for both.
Plant-based meat 2.0
“Rebellyous Foods was founded to solve some of the major issues inherent in current plant-based meat manufacturing: quality, consistency, and price. We are thrilled that our Mock 1S passed all functional tests,” Christie Lagally, Rebellyous CEO and founder said in a statement. “Our team is now working on the successor which will produce Rebellyous nuggets, patties, and tenders at 95% lower cost of manufacturing, and beat the competition … chicken!”
According to Rebellyous, bringing down the costs of plant-based meat comes down to the production progress rather than the actual product itself. Increased automation and self-regulating methodologies allow for vast operational savings, which can be passed directly to consumers.
Rebellyous has five patents pending for its proprietary automated tech. The self-contained manufacturing process is what allows costs to be significantly reduced. The company says that its reliance on automation reduced its workforce requirements by 90 percent. In addition, the company does not require a chilled environment, which means a 10 percent reduction in energy costs and a decrease in production space by one-third. Consistent production standards mean no time is lost and has led to a 90 percent reduction in material waste.
The company announced launch of its nuggets, alongside patties and tenders, in February last year. It is now focused on removing all price barriers to mainstream adoption of said products, in place of conventional chicken alternatives.
Consumers having their say
Shoppers’ attitudes to healthy foods are, on the whole, positive. In September 2020, data was released that showed consumers supported the idea of healthy foods being cheaper, while processed meats were levied to be less affordable. Governments have been slow or unwilling to engage with subsidising climate and health-optimal foods, so individual companies are looking to adjust pricing from their end.
All photos by Rebellyous Foods.