Juicy Marbles gets $4.5 million to sizzle plant-based steaks – TechCrunch

Convincing meat-eaters to adopt a climate-friendly diet might get a little easier thanks to Slovenian startup Juicy Marbles, which has found a way to create plant-based whole cuts of meat, if that doesn’t sound too much. oxymoronic.

“Fancy Plant Meat” is his most concise pitch for a product that aims to provide a vegan alternative to eating a filet mignon steak or other “premium” cuts of (animal) flesh.

Ljubljana-based startup announces $4.5m fundraising to bring its first piece of premium plant-based protein to market — starting with the aforementioned (vegan) filet mignon, which is set to launch in Q1 2022.

Why tenderloin? He says this type of cut shows off his proprietary “marbling technology” best. Filet mignon is also chosen because the cut is considered the “crown jewel” of (meat) steaks.

Additionally, there is relatively little competition in the high-end fake meat market compared to dozens of players producing less sophisticated/more minced alternative protein products such as burgers, sausages, bacon, chicken fillets, etc. a way to stand out in the sizzling alternative protein space.

“We decided to start with filet mignon as it is the ‘crown jewel’ of the steak world, and it showcases our marbling technology – which we believe is our clear and defining selling proposition. , before moving on to another set-cuts,” Juicy Marbles tells TechCrunch.

“We want to be known for our sirloins, rumps, tenderloins, tomahawks, wagyus, as well as our tenderloins – not just the most expensive cuts in the long run. In the long term, our view is that we want to make filet mignon more affordable and accessible, given the different economics of its plant-based production. »

What are you actually eating when/if you bite into a Juicy Marbles filet mignon? The main protein is soy – which the startup says is both nutritious and environmentally sustainable.

“The wider issues of soy farming that cause deforestation are only related to our need to feed livestock – 97% of soybean production is for animal feed, and if all of our meat was plant-based , all the negative effects of growing soybeans would simply disappear,” it suggests. “As a crop intended to feed humans, a much less dense land use would be needed for soybeans for purely human consumption – probably less than a third of the agricultural land currently needed.”

Soy is also versatile, Juicy Marbles noting that it can be eaten in all sorts of ways – from fresh to dried, plain, sprouting, ground, fermented, curdled, in a sauce, soup, dessert or drink, etc — and, thus, by being a “soy-centric food company,” it will therefore have greater flexibility in what it can prepare.

Ongoing concepts include a soy-based tuna steak, for example. (Though it’s not the first to market an animal-free tuna substitute; see, for example, YC-backed Kuleana.)

“Our business is based on the concept of protein texture – it’s the driving factor that draws people to steak, versus a cheaper cut. In the plant-based meat vertical, there’s no there hasn’t been as much innovation in the whole cuts space, and no one has come close to inventing a steak that looks like something high-end,” he also tells us. “Given the need to decarbonize/offer a plant-based alternative in this space as well, we believe this is a huge untapped opportunity by our biggest rivals.”

Picture credits: juicy balls

“If you look at plant-based products, the offers are currently limited to cheaper cuts – for example, the burger, the sausages or the bacon – there are also pieces, i.e. fillets chicken or cans of tuna, but there are no whole cuts,” he adds.

Juicy Marbles is keeping the lid on how it’s able to produce such big slaps of fake meat (saying that “many big food companies are snooping” trying to figure out its protein marbling technology).

Although he says he will be more transparent over time – once he is able to ensure that his intellectual property is protected.

He clarifies that his plant-based steaks are not lab grown or 3D printed, saying he uses his own patent-pending 3D assembly technology – which he says allows him to create “quality cuts of meat superior A5, with total control over shape, texture, marbling, flavors, aromas and nutrition”.

Of course, the proof of all these claims will be in the eating. But Juicy Marbles suggests meat eaters should prepare to be wowed — both by the “high-level marbling effect” and “the bold, rich flavor.”

And also by a price that, at launch, will reach “parity” with a “mid-priced” filet mignon – and which he predicts will decrease so that the cost per steak will eventually (“within 2-3 years ”) would be like paying for a more conventional cut of meat.

On the added benefits front, Juicy Marbles points out that plant-based steaks use unsaturated fats and are low in sodium compared to meat equivalents – so there may be health reasons to consider switching to plant-based steaks. herbal (you know, if the future of life on Earth isn’t reason enough).

Its round is led by tree-planting search engine Ecosia’s new Global Fund, a €350 million fund targeting startups building technologies that can help decarbonize the planet we covered launching last month. (Juicy Marbles is the Global Fund’s first investment.)

Commenting in a statement, Danijel Visevic, general partner of the fund, said: “There has been a seismic shift in recent years towards plant-based alternatives, driven by a generation who want to make a real difference for the planet and their health. However, they are often faced with poor substitutes, or they resist an all-vegetable diet because they are unwilling to give up small luxuries, like whole cut meats. The Juicy Marbles team fully understands this. Their realistic and thoughtful approach, combined with their technology — and their appetites! – saw them finally crack a major piece of the herbal puzzle. We are excited to join them and see just how much of an impact they are expected to have in the months and years to come.

Other investors in the round are Agfunder, as well as a number of angel investors from Y Combinator and Fitbit.

Juicy Marbles says the seed funding will be used to ramp up production so it can launch its first plant-based steaks into the retail market.

He plans to sell to supermarkets, not just artisan grocers and restaurants. But says direct-to-consumer sales will be limited to special offers only because of the complexity of producing “planet-responsible” packaging for shipping perishable goods to individual consumers.

He also plans to expand his team and strengthen his R&D efforts, particularly on the development of new cuts.

“This is all a learning cycle, so with the next cycle, we can set up a plant meat gigafactory to scale operations and further reduce the price of plant meat,” he adds.

And in case you were curious, the founding team – Luka Sinček, Maj Hrovat, Tilen Travnik and Vladimir Mićković – consists of both vegans and meat eaters.

Dino S. Williams