This week, vegan nugget startup NUGGS closed a $7 million investment deal led by its manufacturing partner McCain Foods—the world’s largest manufacturer of frozen potato products. Founded by 19-year-old entrepreneur Ben Pasternak, the company also secured funding from Bob Pittman (founder of MTV and CEO of iHeartMedia); mattress company Casper founder Neil Parikh; and John Malony (former president of Tumblr). At 15 years old, Pasternak became the youngest entrepreneur to receive investment capital from Silicon Valley venture capitalists for his app Monkey. After the app was acquired in 2017, Pasternak turned his sights on tackling factory farming and built an exemplary team at NUGGS to help him do so, including Head of Product Liam Mullen (who worked as a pastry chef at Michelin-starred restaurant Daniel at age 16) and Head of Growth Alex Michelle (who currently boasts six million social media followers). In launching NUGGS, Pasternak used his technology background to create a system that constantly refines the formula for his pea protein-based chicken nuggets based on user feedback. “NUGGS is the intersection of food and the internet,” Pasternak said. “We set out to make the best nugget period, a chicken nugget simulation is just the baseline.” The nuggets are currently available for order through the company website in boxes of 40 nuggets—at $24 for one box, $29 for two boxes, and $10,000 for 420 boxes. The company aims to use its partnership with McCain to expand into retail and foodservice in the near future. “At McCain, we believe NUGGS has developed an incredible product that uses plant-based technology to uniquely simulate a high-quality chicken nugget,” Mauro Pennella, Chief Growth Officer at McCain Foods, said. “We believe the combination of the NUGGS approach and McCain’s production and commercial expertise will accelerate the brand’s growth and deliver market scale.” NUGGS joins a growing number of companies that aim to replace chicken with plants, including Rebellyous Foods (formerly Seattle Food Tech) which plans to license its machinery for use by other plant-based meat makers to quickly scale production and make vegan meat cheaper than its animal-based counterparts, thus saving billions of birds.
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