Fungi, Mushrooms & Mycelium

The Mushroom Meat Co.’s Flexible Ingredient Platform to Support Scalable Production of Mushroom-Based Meat

The Mushroom Meat Co. is on a mission to carve a niche for itself in the creation of plant-based meats utilizing gourmet mushrooms and upcycled plant proteins. The products, designed to mimic the textures and flavors of meat, are whole-food based, low in fat and sodium, high in fiber, and free from the top 10 allergens.

The company was created by vegan couple Kesha Stickland and Dan Gardner, who have a self-proclaimed passion for mushrooms, plant-based nutrition, and good food. Both were software executives and consultants with 20+ years of experience in product development, and Gardner convinced Stickland it was time to turn their love for fermentation and culinary arts into a business, inspiring the invention of Mushroom Meat Co.’s platform.

“It’s a strong vision and a big challenge at the same time”

The Mushroom Meat Co. is focused on building an ingredient platform rather than developing one-off products to support the economical creation of a variety of products. According to the company, this strategy, embodied in its “Flexible Ingredient Platform,” allows for the exploration of various business and revenue models, aiming to position the company more significantly as an ingredient supplier than merely a brand.

This platform includes several key building blocks such as Textured Mushroom Protein (TMP®), an umami booster, and a fat replacer, which, the company says, can be used in various combinations to replicate beef, pork, chicken, tuna, and lamb flavors.

Mushroom Meat Co.
© Mushroom Meat Co.

Growth and expansion efforts

In a recent discussion with vegconomist, CEO and co-founder Kesha Stickland shared insights into the company’s developments over the past year. The Mushroom Meat Co. has notably increased its production scale from 2lb to 50lb batches, amounting to 200 lbs per month, with plans to scale production significantly further. Following two years of bootstrapping, the company has opened a seed raise to secure additional funding for platform refinement, product development, patent filings, and larger trials, including commercial pilots.

Stickland explains the strategic choice to target the food service market, citing better margins compared to retail consumer packaged goods (CPG) and the potential for creating viable raw meat replacements for chefs. She comments, “Many investors also believed that it was impossible to build real IP in the whole-food or better-for-you (although we prefer to call it the “good-for-you”) space. There was just deep tech like precision fermentation, cell-based, or biomass fermentation plays. We didn’t fit into any of these.”

Being a new product, she highlights that food service seemed like a faster way to show traction than going straight to ingredient sales, with the company entering competitions like MassChallenge Switzerland, winning the Best Meat Alternative award at Plant Based World Expo, making it onto the FoodTech 500 List for 2023, conducting public tastings and speaking at conferences.

Mushroom Meat Co.
© Mushroom Meat Co.

Stickland recently attended the Fermentation-Enabled Alternative Protein Summit in San Francisco, where she hosted a workshop on perfecting pricing and making it to market. She also discussed leveraging customer insights to guide product development in a panel discussion.

Vision and challenges

Looking ahead, The Mushroom Meat Co. plans further platform improvements to enhance scalability and expand its product range. Despite the challenges posed by the current fundraising environment, the company remains optimistic about exploring partnership opportunities to support its growth in the ingredient market.

Stickland told vegconomist, “It’s a strong vision and a big challenge at the same time. The product volumes and scaling costs required to move into the ingredient market are much greater than food service. The current fundraising environment also makes this a tougher play. We’re entertaining partnership opportunities that could help us make this leap. We’ll see where the market takes us.”

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