Interviews

Mooji Meats: “As Ribeyes Are Arguably the Most Popular Yet Intricate Meats, We Chose Them as Our Flagship Product”

Mooji Meats, a Harvard spinoff that has developed a premium plant-based ribeye steak with the aim of bringing meat alternatives to fine dining, was founded in 2022 and quickly saw success after participating in the Y Combinator accelerator program.

Previously utilizing a 3d printing methodology, the startup has now developed a more natural process whereby its proprietary platform replicates muscle structure with plant fibers, claiming to offer the firmest texture and most authentic mouthfeel available. The plant-based steak is described as juicy with real marbling and connective tissues that mimic animal meat when cut.

We spoke with CEO and founder Insa Mohr, who explains that European consumers are more open than Americans to trying plant-based meats, and that, in many ways, Mooji “is bridging the roles of a deep tech and a CPG company, which is both frightening and exciting.”

Can you describe the initial inspiration behind starting Mooji Meats and choosing to focus on plant-based ribeyes?
Mooji Meats was born from a personal passion for plant-based foods. During my term at Harvard Engineering School, I discovered a lab dedicated to replicating nature to create useful innovations for humanity.

I felt that the lab’s work perfectly addressed some of the biggest challenges in the plant-based meat industry, particularly in creating authentic textures. As ribeyes are arguably the most popular yet intricate meats, we chose them as our flagship product.

The result is a plant-based ribeye with a distinct, firm, and chewy texture. It has fibers and marbling akin to a real ribeye, while remaining unique enough to appeal to vegans.

Mooji Meats steak closeup
© Mooji Meats

What are the most significant challenges you’ve faced in developing textured meat products?
The most significant yet exciting challenge is that there’s no blueprint. There are currently only three other companies worldwide that have commercialized advanced textured steaks, and all of them are in the startup stage.

“Europeans tend to be more open to trying plant-based meats compared to the US”

As no comprehensive solution was available, we’ve developed our own technology platform, which we believe is better and more scalable. However, the downside is that we can’t rely on existing knowledge but instead have to develop this game-changing technology ourselves.

Furthermore, there’s no clear blueprint for growth since premium plant-based steaks are unprecedented. In many ways, we’re bridging the roles of a deep tech and a CPG company, which is both frightening and exciting.

Could you elaborate on the technological innovations that allow you to create such novel products at scale?
We use plant fibers to replicate the muscle fibers found in animal meat. Under the microscope, cow muscles consist of many hair-thin fibers bundled together. By shredding and aligning plant fibers in a similar manner, we can reproduce the distinctive microstructure of conventional muscle meat.

This creates an authentic mouthfeel with a “chewy” and firm texture, something that hasn’t been known in plant-based meats until now. Best of all, it’s naturally processed and non-GMO!

Mooji Meats logo
© Mooji Meats

Plant-based steak sounds like much more of an upscale product than the plant-based meat products we’ve seen so far. How do you envision consumer acceptance of premium plant-based meats evolving over the next few years?
Awareness and acceptance will continue to grow as people become more familiar and educated. Many who try our product or others, like New School Foods‘ or Oshi’s salmon filets, feel that this is a new generation of plant-based meats. As more people become aware, perceptions will change accordingly.

You’ve been piloting your plant-based ribeye at steakhouses on the East Coast. How have consumers responded?
Consumer responses have been overwhelmingly positive during our pilot runs at East Coast steakhouses and vegetarian restaurants. Many vegan diners appreciated the taste and texture, remarking that the texture is something they have been missing with other products so far. This response has given us the confidence to continue refining our product and exploring new opportunities.

Are there plans to extend Mooji Meats’ offerings to other types of restaurants or foodservice establishments beyond steakhouses? What about retail?
We aim to expand our presence geographically and into other types of dining establishments. As we receive so many reachouts from fellow vegans, we would also love to sell directly to consumers – however, we still need to figure out a good way to balance the costs of shipping refrigerated items with affordability for our customers.

Mooji Meats ribeye steak
© Mooji Meats

Are there any other plant-based products or whole cuts in development at Mooji Meats?
Yes! We’ve noticed that restaurants include our steaks in tacos, salads, and sandwiches, so we’re excited to launch a tailor-made product soon. We’d love for any establishments selling salads, poke bowls, burritos, or similar to reach out if they’re interested in partnering with us!

Are there any plans for international expansion?
We absolutely have plans for international expansion, especially in Europe. As a German who lived in the Netherlands and the UK, I recognize that these are some of the world’s most advanced markets for plant-based meat.

“Ultimately, we want to make the way people eat more healthy, sustainable, and compelling.”

More than 40% of Germans in our generation consider themselves flexitarian, vegan, or vegetarian. Europeans tend to be more open to trying plant-based meats compared to the US, where consumers often hold more polarized views, either fully embracing a plant-based diet or being full-blown carnivores. We hope that this is something we can change.

Looking ahead, what are Mooji Meats’ short and long-term goals?
Our short-term goal is to step out from under the radar to establish ourselves in the vegan community. As a vegan myself, I love to see the support and excitement among vegans which is why we want to focus on them in the short-term. We want to strengthen our presence in vegan restaurants and get as much feedback as possible.

In the long term, we want to make meat alternatives with a real texture a thing. They will make it easier for vegans to stick to their lifestyle while making it more convenient for carnivores to switch to meat-free options. Ultimately, we want to make the way people eat more healthy, sustainable, and compelling.

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