Tattooed Chef Returns to US Supermarket Shelves A Year After Filing for Bankruptcy

5 Mins Read

Meatless brand Tattooed Chef is back on retail shelves in the US under its new parent company Planted Ventures, 10 months after filing for bankruptcy.

Nearly a year after its collapse, Californian meat-free producer Tattooed Chef has relaunched into US retail with a series of frozen ready meals and smoothie bowls under its new parent company, Planted Ventures.

The products span four meatless (but not entirely vegan) categories – Entrée Bowls, Smoothie Bowls, Veggie Blends, and Veggie Commodities – and are available at select Costco stores in the US, with a broader rollout in club and retail stores expected later this year. Planted Ventures is also working on private-label offerings.

“The return of Tattooed Chef reflects our belief that simple food is the best food, with ingredients that are honest and sustainably sourced,” said Tattooed Chef founder and executive chef Sarah Galletti.” We are reinventing the classics that people already recognize and are excited to eat and making it easy and accessible for them to do so.”

Planted Ventures is helmed by founder Sam Galletti, who is Sarah’s father. “We are and always will be a family business that is all about food,” he said.

How Tattooed Chef went into bankruptcy

tattooed chef stock
Courtesy: Tattooed Chef

Tattooed Chef’s resurrection comes 10 months after it initiated a bankruptcy process, following increased costs and an unsuccessful attempt at raising funds to secure the loss-making business. The company was caught in the headwinds affecting the larger alternative protein industry, with several startups running out of capital and being forced to shut.

The 2018-founded frozen foods producer suffered from a 12.7% drop in revenue and net losses of $19M in Q1 2023 due to increased labour, packaging, energy, equipment and raw material costs. But its financial troubles began at least a year before that, owing to inflationary pressures and falling sales in key retailers.

Its collapse was ascribed to a variety of factors. Competing in a crowded market, it was adjudged to have a weak brand identity, and too many product lines. Much of its range was vegetarian and not vegan, and it was accused of misleading consumers with unclear labelling. Its CEO at the time, Salvatore Galletti, had also suggested that the company was considering selling meat products. “It opens up a lot more avenues and a lot more doors,” he told Forbes, arguing that profitability suddenly became much more important after the company was publicly traded on the NASDAQ.

Sam and then-CFO Stephanie Dieckmann were also the subject of a class action lawsuit in December 2022, which alleged that, in its account filings from March 2021 to October 2022, Tattooed Chef made false and/or misleading statements, downplayed issues with “internal controls”, and overstated revenue while understating losses.

In March 2023, a “derivative complaint” was filed against the company, which accused it of a “breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, abuse of control, gross mismanagement, [and a] waste of corporate assets”. A former employee – who was among a number of staff members laid off by the company in 2022 and 2023 – told AgFunderNews that the business was “poorly run” and “could not pay their bills, causing supply chain issues”.

Its stock dipped under the minimum bid price of $1 per share required to be listed on the NASDAQ in June 2023. Tattooed Chef was given 180 days to comply, or risk being delisted. Despite a $12M unsecured loan from Sam, who was the president and chairman of the business, it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in California a month later.

Going back to the roots

tattooed chef acai bowl
Courtesy: Tattooed Chef

Tattooed Chef’s insolvency came around the same time many of its counterparts were facing similar fates. Meatless Farm, Plant & Bean and VBites were in the same boat – but all three have been rescued in some way. Tattooed Chef is following that journey.

Planted Ventures purchased part of the company’s assets in September 2023, and has now managed to revive the brand. “We are excited to commence this relaunch of the Tattooed Chef brand, establish and renew industry relationships, and to become part of the healthy eating journey of millions of plant-based intenders,” said Sam.

“In my 40 years in the food industry, I have come to understand that success is defined by three things: surround yourself with good people, control the manufacturing, and have strong private label relationships,” he added. “At Planted Ventures, we have all that and more – we have a brand that consumers have embraced and, quite frankly, have missed.”

The reinvigorated business has seen Sarah create a frozen line-up of plant-based and vegetarian products that blend her Italian heritage with Los Angeles culture. Among Tattooed Chef’s offerings are returning SKUs like the cauliflower mac and cheese, vegan beef burrito bowl and organic acai bowls, alongside new innovations such as vegetable lo mein and Mexican-style street corn.

The company also offers prepared food like sheet pan or oven-baked vegetables, riced cauliflower and pre-cut zucchini and yellow squash. “With Planted Ventures, we have gone back to our roots as a company and are redefining the concept of better-for-you frozen food,” said Sam.

Planted Ventures describes itself as a vertically integrated manufacturer, with operations based at a farm it has acquired in Prossedi, Italy. The majority of its produce is grown, prepared and packaged in the 100,000 sq ft fully automated facility. This, the company says, ensures a “dependable supply and end-to-end quality assurance” for both its Tattooed Chef-branded products and white-label offerings.

You might also like