Meati Pushes Growth of Mushroom Meat Alternative

The mycelium-based Eat Meati line is expanding into Super Target stores, the latest in a slew of retail coups as production ramps up at the Mega Ranch facility.

Meati Foods Chicken Cutlet
Meati Foods

Boulder, Colo.-based Meati Foods, which makes whole-cut meat alternatives based on its patented MushroomRoot, announced a significant retail expansion of its Eat Meati line of products in Target stores across the country.

Consisting of its cutlets in Classic or Crispy flavors and steaks in Classic or Carne Asada flavors, the mycelium-based Eat Meati line will initially be available at select Super Target stores nationwide. Three recently launched cuts—Spicy Crispy and Italian Seasoned cutlets, and Garlic & Pepper steak—are currently available only online but are expected to make retail debuts later this year.

Though founded in 2017, Meati spent its early years focused on refining its secret sauce. “Until about 2021, the company was still just a handful of people,” says Christina Ra, vice president of marketing and communications. “We spent a very, very long time finding the perfect species and strain of mycelium, which is what we call MushroomRoot. That is really what separates Meati from any other food out there. It’s naturally very, very nutrient-dense. It grows extremely fast. So in these early year, that small crew was really focused on how do you most effectively and efficiently grow MushroomRoot. That took years, but we can now take a teaspoon of spores and, within four days, have hundreds of cows worth of finished food product.”

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It’s been only since early 2023 that Meati has really launched itself into the retail space. In March 2023, the company announced the release of its products at 380 Sprouts Farmer Market locations in 23 states in the U.S. In May, Meati announced a retail partnership with Meijer and its stores in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky. By July, the company announced it would be in all Whole Foods locations. Also in July, it announced a partnership with Dot Foods, North America’s largest food industry redistributor, to distribute the Eat Meati line to a network of 5,200 distributors throughout the U.S.

Meati has seen growing loyalty among its customers in its lineup of retail locations—which also includes Giant stores, Save Mart, Cub Foods, Lowes Foods, and Fresh Thyme—with repurchase rates of up to 60%. The four SKUs in the Eat Meati product line are consistently among the top performers in the animal-free meat category, according to their maker.

Meati finished 2023 with a store count of 3,000. Continues expansion with Albertsons stores and adding Super Target, as well as smaller regional players, should bring the company up to 3,600 by the end of January, Ra says.

Scaling production alongside retail

All of this success in the past year—and subsequently reaching its goal of 8,000 retail stores by mid-2024—has a lot to do with the Mega Ranch, a more than 100,000-sq-ft production facility that Meati launched at the start of 2023. The ramp-up of retails outlets has largely scaled with the production facility, Ra says. “We opened the Mega Ranch and commissioned it in phases. In fact, we just finished commissioning the final phase a few weeks ago,” she says, explaining the optimization of processes as they move through the phases. “This most recent phase of the Mega Ranch has its own fermentation room. It really unlocks a great deal of capacity.”

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Meati grows its mycelium through submerged fermentation, and it’s through a series of tanks that the mycelium continues to grow over the duration of a few days, Ra says. The MushroomRoot is harvested from the tanks (looking, to the naked eye, like applesauce) and forms it into steaks and cutlets. It gets what coloring and flavoring it needs beyond the mycelium itself, then is pasteurized before being frozen.

“The reason we’re able to have the textures that we do is because, as we are making cutlets and steaks, we’re also aligning those MushroomRoot fibers to create that texture,” Ra adds. “So it’s really leveraging that natural state of MushroomRoot, as a whole food, to create those cutlets and steaks.”

Once at full capacity, “cranking at full tilt,” Meati should be able to produce tens of millions of pounds of Eat Meati products from the Mega Ranch facility. And yet, with demand continuing to grow, it might not be long before Meati is again supply-constrained. Though the details are still being worked out as to exactly how, Meati expects to need to expand production beyond the facility’s existing footprint. “That will allow us to get to 8,000 doors—and beyond as we get to the end of the year,” Ra says. “Of course, also key to this is continuing to bring on new relationships and new customers. There is frankly going to be a ton happening nearly every month this year.” (Ra previewed an exciting announcement coming out next week, which I’ll link from here when it goes public.)

Up until 2023, the Eat Meati line had been available primarily through the company’s Meati Marketplace, a direct-to-consumer (DTC) online presence. With the focus on expanding into retail and foodservice, that largely went away. But in September, Meati brought back its DTC channel to allow customers to order directly online. “It allows us to do certain things like introduce new flavors and get pretty rapid-fire feedback,” Ra says. “We launched a few new flavors of cutlets and steaks. We launched a jerky product. We launched a Crispy Bites product, which is sort of our answer to the nugget. And we’re really using the channel to understand what resonates with people and what we should focus on moving forward.”

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