The plant-based meat movement is evolving rapidly to deliver animal-free alternatives to every type of meat. While plant-based brands such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods initially set their sights on replacing ground beef, which is easier to replicate given its lack of structure, now, whole cuts of beef are getting the plant-based treatment.
An emerging player in this new era of plant-based meat is Juicy Marbles, a Slovenian company founded in 2020 by food technologist Tilen Travnik, microbiologist Luka Sincek, and biotechnologist Maj Hrovat. The startup makes vegan filet mignon steaks by layering soy protein into linear fibers using the Meat-o-matic Reverse Grinder TM 9000, its patent-pending (and playfully named) technology that reverse-engineers animal meat and improves upon it in terms of flavor longevity, juiciness retention, crust development, and nutrition profile.
And while the product is undoubtedly innovative, is there really a market for whole-cut vegan steak? As it turns out, there is. On May 8, Juicy Marbles made its vegan filet mignon available to US customers for the first time through what it calls a “meat leak.” Within eight hours, the company sold thousands of steaks for a sell-out success—despite a hefty price tag of approximately $40 per steak.
“What’s interesting about the challenge of fixing our food system is that solutions need to protect the environment and culinary traditions at the same time,” Vladimir Mićković, Juicy Marbles’ Co-Founder & CBO, said in a statement. “The culture around meat is beautiful and needs to be preserved, as it brings us together in celebration of life and just being together, present and alive. If we keep the culture, and just remove current means of production, we’re going to have a good time in the future.”
Juicy Marbles’ current pricing is due to its small production capacity. However, the startup aims to drastically bring the price of its steak below animal meat in one to two years.
Plant-based steak coming to Michelin-starred restaurants
While Juicy Marbles has already found success in a direct-to-consumer approach, Israel-based Redefine Meats is taking on the high-end foodservice industry with its whole-cut steak and lamb—called “New-Meat”—that it makes entirely from plants.
Founded in 2019, Redefine Meat uses a revolutionary 3D technology that maps 70 sensorial parameters to create a cut of vegan meat that mimics the taste, texture, and juiciness of a whole-cut of animal meat. To give chefs a variety of plant-based protein options, the company also produces culinary-grade ground beef, sausages, premium burgers, and lamb kebabs.
Last year, it raised $29 million to bring its innovative meats to international markets and landed in the foodservice sector in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom—where Marco Pierre White, the first British chef to get three Michelin stars, features New-Meat on the menu of his 22 steakhouses.
This week, Redefine entered into a new partnership with Classic Fine Foods, a high-end distributor that will supply New-Meat to the UK’s culinary market, including Michelin-starred restaurants, hotels, and dining venues.
“Ever since Redefine Meat came onto the UK scene, we’ve had our eye on them,” Ash Parkes, Plant-Based Category Manager at Classic Fine Foods, said in a statement. “Initially, the Flank cut products caught our attention, but seeing the exciting culinary potential of their minced meat products, sealed the deal for our partnership. Our customers are looking for stand-out contenders for plant-based food, while also using something that will enable them to be creative.”
Meatless Farm gets into vegan steak
The Meatless Farm Co. is a UK-based brand that initially got into plant-based meats by way of easier to replicate grounds. Now, the company is releasing a whole-cut pea protein-based steak made using its proprietary technology to emulate the taste and texture of beef steak. Launched to coincide with an uptick in at-home steak consumption among British consumers, Meatless Farm’s new plant-based steak is now hitting 125 locations of supermarket chain Sainsbury’s at a relatively affordable price point of £3.50 ($4.41) for two filets.
“Our new plant-based steak is our latest step in creating exciting and innovative new products and further diversifying the plant-based market,” Michael Hunter, Managing Director of Meatless Farm UK and Ireland, said in a statement. “Responding to consumer demand, we’ve brought another credible contender to the market to challenge the red meat sector. Many people enjoy a steak meal, yet red meat has the highest environmental impact, so we’ve created a plant-based version to help consumers enjoy a steak experience in the week that delivers on taste and texture yet is better for the planet.”
Other players in the emerging whole-cut meat steak include Vivera, a Dutch company that was acquired last year by JBS for $410 million, a strategic move that gives the Brazilian meat giant a bigger foothold in the plant-based industry.
Stateside, Colorado-based company Meati Foods is also working to bring its vegan steaks to market. Meati makes its steaks and chicken cutlets using mycelium, the fast-growing root system of mushrooms. After securing $28.2 million in Series A funding in 2020, the company is expanding its production capacity with a new factory slated to open in September which will be able to produce 45 million pounds of vegan meat.
At scale, Meati says its growing process can produce the vegan meat equivalent of 4,500 cows every 24 hours and requires less than one percent of the water and land compared to conventional industrial meat production.
For more about whole-cut vegan meat, read: 100 Steakhouses Just Added Asia’s First “Whole-Cut” Vegan Steak
Startup Raises $40M To Bring “Whole-Cut” Vegan Bacon to Stores
New Brand Debuts Vegan Chicken Breasts and Steaks Made From Mushrooms