This summer, FootPrint Coalition-backed startup, Chunk Foods, will launch its whole-cut plant-based steaks in the United States. Based in Israel, Chunk raised $15 million in seed money last year, with backers including FPC Ventures, Fall Line Capital, and The MIT E14 fund.
The money will be used to expand its team and complete the construction of an Israel manufacturing facility that the startup says will be capable of producing millions of plant-based steaks by the summer.
So how does Chunk make the meat that raised the steaks for plant-based proteins, and had the FPC team asking for more?
According to CEO Amos Golan via AgFunder News it's a fermentation platform that turns recognizable ingredients like soy and wheat into protein and allows Chunk to “control the direction of the fibers, the thickness of the fibers, the thickness of the cut, the size of the cut, the color, almost any lever you can pull to change the character of the final product,”
Steve Levin, partner at FootPrint Coalition, says Chunk’s steak “hits all the marks.”
“There was unanimous praise for the product – not just in terms of taste, texture, and ease of preparation – but also in the list of ingredients,” he said.
Chunk isn’t stopping at steak. They have plans to eventually make plant-based pork, lamp, and poultry, with the ultimate goal of making nutritious planet-friendly whole cuts accessible and affordable to all.
With their technology, Chunk is able to achieve a cost of about $5 per steak, which Golan says is around the same price as a beef tenderloin. The “economies of scale are not fully there yet,” due to also having to import to the United States, he told TechCrunch.
Still the affordability “offers a unique opportunity to address the gaps in the plant-based market which has often been criticized for its high costs, overly processed options, and lackluster taste,” Eric O’Brien, co-founder and managing director of Fall Line Capital told the vegan business magazine Vegconomist.
And he’s right. According to reports by Good Food Institute, more consumers than ever are demanding plant-based options that are just as tasty and importantly, affordable as their animal-based counterparts. GFI’s 2022 plant-based food report shows that last year the plant-based meat and seafood retail industry generated $6.1 billion in global sales, up 8% by dollars.
This is due to a number of factors. More investors are leaning into the plant-based space, with the industry receiving $1.2 billion in investment in 2022 according to GFI.
Plus more traditional meat companies and large fast-food chains taking the plunge into the plant-based market as well. But GFI shows that consumer demand also has something to do with the rise.
Rather than for environmental and animal welfare reasons, more consumers who are either switching to plant-based diets or simply diversifying their plates, are doing so because they want to be healthier.
However, just jumping over the hurdle of consumers’ initial preconceptions about plant-based meat and getting them to try it isn’t enough. As research conducted by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) found, taste is the number one reason consumers don’t come back for more after trying a plant-based meat or seafood alternative.
That’s why Chunk is determined to make its product taste as meaty as possible. According to Golan the fermentation process not only contributes to texture but also to taste: “The product has more meaty notes and less beany grassy notes you can get with plant proteins,” he said.
Plus, while more people are inching toward plant-based meat for health reasons, additional research presented in GFI’s report showed that consumer perceptions and concerns include the idea that “meat is a better source of nutrients” and that plant-based proteins are “too expensive.”
Chunk is addressing both. While the startup has versions in the works that don’t include soy or gluten for those with allergies to the two, they are strong believers in soy for both its nutritional profile, protein amount, and affordability.
Right now Chunk can be found in high-end NYC vegan restaurants like Coletta, Anixi, and The Butcher’s Daughter, but as Chunk invests in research and development and an even larger facility, the startup is eyeing retail.
Whole muscle cuts like sirloin, chuck, and ribs account for about 60% of the beef market, making an alternative that tastes just as good and is as affordable as potentially the Holy Grail of alternative meats.
So Chunk isn’t the only one trying to crack the code. Last year Beyond Meat launched its first sliced steak product, a big step as priorly, the company has restricted itself to ground or minced foods like burgers, sausages, chicken tenders, and meatballs. Other startups embarking on the whole-cut plant-based meat adventure include PlantedFoods, Tender, Meati, Alfred’s FoodTech, and Project Eaden which is sewing together plant-based meat with bio fibers.
Another Israel-based startup, Redefine Meat is also aiming to, as its name suggests, redefine meat, and like Chunk, the startup uses soy. However, unlike Chunk, they also use pea protein, chickpeas, beetroot, nutritional yeasts, and coconut fat to 3D print their beef which reportedly, mimics flank steak.
Along with Beyond, Impossible Foods is also working on a whole-cut product, and as revealed in 2022, they have a filet minion prototype in the works. With the launch of four new chicken and beef products this year, it may not be long before Impossible Steaks are served with a side of A1 sauce for dinner or on the side of eggs for breakfast.
According to Golan via TechCrunch, “Some companies are not going to exist for very long. They’re going to be either absorbed in other companies or they’re going to disappear. The third generation of plant-based companies are offering a better product and are leading the pack.”
“Chunk is with them at the moment. Our products are more reasonably priced for the offering and we communicate better with our consumers.”