US shoppers get a taste for mycelium

Mushroom meat makes huge strides into the ever-expanding plant protein sector.

US shoppers get a taste for mycelium
source: Meati via Canva

The thread-like root fibres of mushrooms are being transformed into chicken cutlets and beef steaks on a mega scale out of a shiny new 100,000-square-foot factory in Colorado.

The owner and operator of the mycelium 'Mega Ranch' – Meati Foods – says its plant can produce the equivalent of hundreds of cows' worth of protein in four or five days, but with a much lighter environmental footprint.

Meati Foods was founded in 2017 and until last year sold most of its products online. Fast forward 12 months and it now supplies retailers including Super Target, Whole Foods Market, Sprouts Farmers Market, Meijer, Wegmans and Kroger across 7000 retail locations in all 50 states in the US with plans to hit 10,000 by the end of the year.

The rapid growth has been boosted by strong investor appetite for mycelium meat. The company raised US$200 million in 2022 and 2023 to fund its Mega Ranch and has just raised a further $100m to expand its retail push in a funding round led by an existing investor, Grosvenor Food & AgTech.

The vertically integrated facility, which began operating in 2022, now grows, harvests, processes and packages millions of mycelium steaks and cutlets.

With healthier-for-you plant protein rising in popularity, mushrooms are emerging as a strong contender with other companies including Maia Farms, MyForest Foods, Fable Food and Nosh bio also operating in the space.

"Meati is on a mission to make MushroomRoot the undisputed leader of the centre of the plate."

Meati Foods, however, says its mycelium meat products are a step ahead as they're made from 95 per cent mushroom root and provide 17 grams of protein, 12 grams of fibre, and zinc and vitamin B12.

Grosvenor Food & AgTech managing partner Katrin Burt said: "Meati produces delicious, nutritious and affordable protein and our firm is proud to back this category-leading product, talented team and mission to make MushroomRoot a global food staple."

Meati Foods, meanwhile, remains undeterred by the commercial challenges of carving out a new market. According to the company, repurchasing rates of its products are at 60 per cent and consistently among the top performers in the animal-free protein category.

"Meati is on a mission to make MushroomRoot the undisputed leader of the centre of the plate," Meati Foods CEO Phil Graves said. "The backing of our investors, the belief by retailers nationwide, the love from our customers and the commitment from our employees leave no doubt in my mind that we’re on the right path to get there.”

The tech
Meati Foods harvests the mycelium and in a patented process aligns its fibres into patterns that are similar to muscle to create 'MushroomRoot'. MushroomRoot makes up 95 per cent of its Meati product line along with just a few other ingredients. The steak product, for example, includes salt, natural flavour, oat fibre, and fruit and vegetable juice for colour.