Berkeley, CA-based food technology startup Umaro Foods has launched its first food product: vegan bacon made with seaweed-based protein. Umaro bacon is now exclusively available in San Francisco Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurant Sorrel, New York breakfast eatery Egg Shop, and Nashville bakery café D’Andrews.
Formulated with Umaro’s proprietary seaweed protein, the innovative bacon aims to replicate the sensory qualities of pork bacon. “We’ve nailed crispy bacon,” Beth Zotter, Umaro’s co-founder and CEO, said in a statement. “We’ve found a way to use seaweed in a totally new way to improve not just the meat, but also the unmistakable taste and texture of bacon fat.”
At Michelin-starred Sorrel Restaurant, Umaro bacon will be incorporated into Sorrel’s renowned tasting menu as an addition to a bite-sized, seasonal little gem lettuce bite with white peach, jalapeno, cucumber, and Umaro bacon. In a second offering, the company’s purified protein extract, sourced from nori, will be incorporated into Sorrel’s Parker House rolls, served with an accompanying wild onion cream caviar course, to add flavor complexity.
New York’s Egg Shop is offering Umaro bacon on its Egg Shop Bacon Egg and Cheese as a special item at both of its locations in the Nolita and Williamsburg neighborhoods. It will also be offering Umaro bacon as a side or as a plant-based substitute in any dish that currently includes bacon. And at Nashville’s D’Andrews Bakery, Umaro bacon will be featured in its classic BLT.
Later this year, Umaro Foods will be available in additional restaurants throughout the US, including the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and beyond.
Making seaweed into sustainable vegan bacon
Founded by Zotter and Amanda Stiles, Umaro is the first to develop and use concentrated red seaweed protein as an umami-enhancing ingredient in plant-based meat. The company’s origins began in the design of offshore seaweed farming systems, and it is now focused on delivering branded consumer food products featuring its proprietary Umaro red seaweed protein. Umaro’s mission is to develop an entire food system using this sustainable source of vegan protein.
Zotter and Stiles began the company with a $5 million grant to design and engineer open ocean seaweed farms, recently completed in the Gulf of Maine. “Seaweed offers the most sustainable, lowest-impact way to source protein, and the ocean is our biggest protein bioreactor,” Zotter said. “It requires no land, no freshwater, and no synthetic fertilizers. In the future, seaweed will supply the majority of our protein needs.”
The company’s bacon benefits from two proprietary innovations. The first is the company’s own patented protein, which it extracts from ocean-farmed red seaweeds and serves as a natural and functional replacement for heme—the red protein molecule that makes plant-based meat “bleed” and imparts a meaty flavor. The second is the use of seaweed-based ingredients to encapsulate plant-based oils into a fat that crisps and crunches just like animal fat.
“People often ask us what makes Umaro stand out from other plant-based bacon alternatives,” Zotter said. “While our technology is certainly unique, the taste, and fatty texture that consumers [now] have the chance to experience for themselves really puts Umaro bacon in a field of its own.”
Vegan bacon gets $1 million on Shark Tank
The foodservice launch of Umaro bacon comes on the heels of a record-setting bidding war for investment in the company and its product that was recently aired on Season 13 of ABC’s investment reality show, Shark Tank.
After Zotter and Stiles made their pitch on Shark Tank with an initial ask of $500,000 for 2 percent equity, “shark” investor Kevin O’Leary offered them $500,000 for an 8 percent stake. When the sharks asked what equity they would consider, Zotter and Stiles said they would be happy with $1 million for 8 percent—and Mark Cuban immediately made that offer. At the same time, Lori Greiner wanted in, offering $500,000 for 4 percent equity, but with no dilution through funding rounds. Zotter and Stiles asked Cuban if he would do $1 million for 7 percent equity, and he accepted.
Cuban has been known for investing in several vegan companies, including deli meat company Unreal Deli, Black-owned meat brand Everything Legendary, dog food brand Wild Earth, snack brand Pan’s Mushroom Jerky, plant-based milk machine Numilk, and snack company Snacklins.
For more on vegan bacon, read:
Atlast Will Grow 3 Million Pounds of Vegan Mushroom Bacon Annually
The World’s Largest Beef Company Says It Has Nailed Vegan Bacon
Gordon Ramsay Just Dropped A Crispy Vegan Bacon Recipe on TikTok