Three years after launching a mission to replace meat with plant-based substitutes using 3D printing technology, Israeli food tech startup Redefine Meat is carving out an important spot in the vegan meat space.
Last summer, Redefine Meat unveiled the world’s first plant-based 3D-printed steak (Alt-Steak) that looks, cooks, and tastes like beef. And in January, the startup launched a large-scale blind taste test with Rishon Lezion-based meat distributor Best Meister, serving vegan grilled kebabs and spiced arayes in a pita, among other delicacies, from a food truck to hungry, unsuspecting Israelis lining up for their meat fix.
On Tuesday, Redefine Meat reached another milestone, announcing the completion of a $29 million Series A funding round, the largest amount raised by an alternative meat company at this growth stage.
The round was led by Hong Kong-based global venture capital firm Happiness Capital and US-Israeli firm Hanaco Ventures. They are joined by CPT Capital, a leading alternative protein investor and early supporter of Redefine Meat, as well as other notable new international investors including Losa Group, Sake Bosch, and K3 Ventures.
Redefine Meat indicated that the investment will be used to expand the company’s portfolio and support its commercial launch and international growth in 2021. It will also be used to support the slated completion of a large-scale production facility for Redefine Meat’s industrial 3D Alt-Meat printers set for later this year.
“The large-scale pilot line is already underway and we’re all looking forward to its completion in the not too distant future,” Eshchar Ben-Shitrit, co-founder and CEO of Redefine Meat tells NoCamels, “In terms of our plans, the pilot-line will manufacture our first industrial-scale 3D Alt-Meat Printers to be delivered to customers later this year and we will rapidly scale up production in 2022 as we expand globally.”
The funding round “is a major step towards becoming the world’s biggest alternative meat company by 2030,” Ben-Shitrit said in a company announcement.
Founded in 2018 as Jet Eat by Ben-Shitrit and Adam Lahav, Redefine Meat created digital processes to produce sustainable, high-protein, no-cholesterol, plant-based meat alternatives that taste like real meat, and have the correct texture to boot by layering embedded properties like flavor and color, the company says. The feat is part of Redefine Meat’s vision to reduce meat consumption and keep food waste at bay.
“We’ve come so far from when my partner and I founded the company in 2018. We started just a few of us with a use technology to improve the world in a meaningful way – today we’re making that a reality, with a team now over 40 that comprises some of the smartest minds I’ve ever come across,” Ben-Shitrit says.
In Israel, Ben-Shitrit says the Rehovot-based company will begin the rollout with meat distributors who will supply their Alt-Meat products to restaurants and other food service channels. The second phase will deploy the solution with retail partners.
While he declined to share details on specific restaurants or butcher shops in Israel that will receive the alt-meat at the time of publication, Ben-Shitrit indicates that the company is already in advanced discussions with their distributor, Best Meister, on the plan.
“We will reveal the initial locations in due course,” he says.
After the launch in Israel, the company will begin rollouts in Europe, followed by Asia and North America later in the year.
“Instead of going to the largest markets (US and China) first, we want to spend the first year working with the best chefs and partners in smaller countries such as Israel, Switzerland, Singapore and a few others,” Ben-Shitrit tells NoCamels. “The rationale behind this order is our desire to scale in a healthy way. We chose markets that have the ability to support our mission and business ambition while allowing us to iterate and improve our products before we deal only with becoming a giant operative company.”
What does plant-based meat taste like?
In January, Redefine Meat set out to entice passersby in the central Israeli town of Kidron with plant-based alternatives, setting up shop in a food truck in partnership with Best Meister. The menu included kebabs, Moroccan cigars, kubbeh, and spiced arayes in a pita – and the line was long.
Only after they ordered and gobbled up the Mediterranean dishes did customers learn that they consumed Redefine’s offering of plant-based alternative meat. By then, over 600 visitors had shown up at the food truck, when the startup had only expected to offer 200 servings in two days. The visitors purchased close to 1,000 dishes of “meat.”
“There’s something magnetic about people lining up to buy food – it attracts more and more people. Soon word started to spread to other residents of the moshav through WhatsApp groups and people went back home and came back with their spouses and kids for a fun lunch outdoors. We then faced a challenge that we didn’t expect – not enough meat,” Ben-Shitrit told NoCamels earlier this month.
The company asked visitors for detailed feedback on the alt-meat that was served that day, as many raved that the authentic taste and look of the meat was indistinguishable from animal meat.
Ben-Shitrit says the feedback will be implemented in the company’s upcoming launch and will “definitely make the coming products even more amazing.”
All revenue from the event was donated to support local restaurants affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Redefine Meat said.
Offering plant-based meat
Ben-Shitrit says the company’s agreement with Best Meister, a meat company, is a winning strategy
“Our vision is symbiotic – they want to be able to extend their meat offering to include high-quality alternative meat products and we believe we have a product range that consumers can love without any compromise. It’s a win, win,” he explains.
Ben-Shitrit also says the company has other market-leading strategic partners already in place in other key target markets. While he declined to give their names, he said they will be announced throughout the year.
“We are very open to working with other stakeholders in the industry to better understand meat, the industry, the supply chain, and ultimately how best to bring our products to market,” he adds.
While the alternative meat industry has come a long way, Ben-Shitrit admits that there is still a huge gap when it comes to mainstream adoption.
“Pioneers like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have no doubt paved the way, bringing to market tasty burgers, minced meat products and a handful of other meat alternatives. However, the inherent limitations of traditional meat production processes can only take us so far. To move the industry on from minced meat products to whole cuts of meat requires drastic technological change, and we believe we’re at the forefront of this transformation,” Ben-Shitrit claims.
With new financing under their belt, Redefine Meat can back up the claims, with all the building blocks in place to disrupt the multi-billion dollar whole cut beef market, the company’s founder says.
“Creating meat that tastes and feels as good as animal meat is a huge challenge, and while many companies are doing some incredible things in this area, we have demonstrated that we can achieve this – not just in a lab, but in a commercial and scalable way,” Ben-Shitrit says.
“The investors who have been with us since day one have seen this first hand and was why we raised this round in record time, along with new investors who share our vision of being a world-leading alternative meat company in the years to come,” he concludes.