You’ve heard of Impossible Foods, you’ve heard of Beyond Meat — but there’s a new plant-based meat company on the scene. Seattle Food Tech launched in 2017 and recently raised a $1 million seed round, led by Fifty Years and Blue Horizon.
The nascent company hopes to produce plant-based meat at a scale and price comparable to traditional meat. In February, they finished developing their first product: a “chicken” nugget made of textured wheat, oil, chicken flavoring, cornstarch, and corn breading. What sets the product above its humble ingredients and makes it so good, according to founder and CEO Christie Lagally, is how it’s processed.
“It’s really all about the processing,” she told The Spoon. In order to make plant-based meat at scale and at a price competitive with meat, plant-based food companies have to develop intensive manufacturing technology specialized to their product.
This is the big way that Seattle Food Tech is disrupting the meat — heck, even the plant-based meat — industry. Along with several partners and equipment suppliers, Lagally is working on developing specialized machines for plant-based meat production. Essentially, she wants to industrialize the meat alternative industry.
At the moment, the “nuggets” are made through a contract manufacturer. However, the end goal of Seattle Food Tech is to start a facility specifically designed to manufacture plant-based products on a large scale. If they succeed, Lagally believes that it would be the first and only company to do so.
Seattle Food Tech also distinguishes itself from other plant-based meat companies in its go to market strategy. While Impossible Foods goes after restaurants and Beyond Meat sells on supermarket shelves, the Seattle-based company plans to market their product wholesale to institutional dining halls, such as school and hospital cafeterias.
By opting not to sell their nuggets as a CPG, Seattle Food Tech would be able to offer them at roughly the same cost as meat — around $2 per serving. Lagally says that eventually, once they get their volumes up, they might consider putting their products in large grocery stores, such as Walmart and Costco.
They hope to have their nuggets in schools and hospital dining halls by fall of 2018. Next up, they want to tackle “chicken” strips, which, along with nuggets, are two of the most eaten low-cost chicken products. This is a tougher mechanical lift than the nuggets, since replacing the strip will require extrusion to mimic the texture.
Lagally said that Seattle Food Tech will use their funding to hire staff and continue developing specialized manufacturing equipment.
“Fundamentally we can’t replace meat if it’s not convenient, good tasting, priced well, and widely available,” said Lagally. To do that, Seattle Food Tech will need some very innovative manufacturing technology — and some very good-tasting nuggets.