The worldwide meat substitute market was valued at $4.51 billion two years in the past and is anticipated to double by 2027, attracting startups, like various meat meals tech firm AKUA, that intention to solidify a outstanding place within the up-and-coming trade.
Former expertise journalist Courtney Boyd Myers co-founded AKUA with Matthew Lebo 5 years in the past after looking for out a profession the place she may depart a legacy and fulfill her mission of reversing local weather change.
Rising up with a father who was a meals marketer, Boyd Myers mentioned she noticed firsthand what consuming a eating regimen of fast-food can do to an individual and was at all times on the lookout for extra wholesome meals choices that additionally had a constructive profit for the planet.
The co-founders initially considered changing the unsustainable a part of meals — manufacturing facility farming — with regenerative ocean farming. When a buddy provided the prospect to take a look at a kelp farm, she went and favored it a lot that AKUA was born.
At present, AKUA introduced a $3.2 million seed spherical, led by Vibrant Ventures, to present the corporate $5.4 million in complete fundraising so far. The entire funds embody backing from a Republic marketing campaign, pre-seed traders and capital from the co-founders.
The spherical additionally included participation from a bunch that features Pegasus Sustainable Finance, Halogen Ventures, Fifth Down Capital, Alumni Ventures Group, Karmagawa, New England Patriots coach and former linebacker Jerod Mayo, magnificence founder Cristina Carlino, SmartyPants CEO Courtney Nichols Gould, Sir Kensington’s co-founder Brandon Baby, Gellert International Group president Andy Gellert, SOA’s Seabird Ventures and the Blue Angels.
In 2019, the corporate got here out with its first product, Kelp Jerky, which is available in 4 flavors, and was a product Boyd Myers thought could be a great trial run to assist folks see ocean-farmed kelp in a brand new means.
“It was hit-or-miss, however could be very wholesome,” she added. “We went again to the drafting board in the course of the pandemic on a brand new product and invented The Kelp Burger.”
The burger is vegan, non-GMO, soy-free and gluten-free, created from ocean-farmed kelp, cremini mushrooms, pea protein, black beans, quinoa, crushed tomatoes and superfoods.
Nonetheless, as a result of they might not do the meals tastings they had been capable of with the jerky, they determined to begin a meals membership and despatched samples of the burger within the mail. Finally 1,000 clients signed up, and The Kelp Burger is now the “hero product,” Boyd Myers mentioned.
Meat options are recognized to have some chemical preservatives and different hard-to-pronounce substances in them, which may defeat the aim of looking for out a more healthy possibility. There are even startups trying into that, like Shiru, which lately raised $17 million to develop extra more healthy bonding brokers for meat.
Boyd Myers famous these claims had been inspiration for a way AKUA approached creating the ingredient listing for its kelp burger, which has 15 substances, all of that are meals or food-derived.
“The primary wave of plant-based consuming was the Boca Burger, beans and tofu,” she added. “The second wave is Inconceivable and Past, and the third wave goes to be the return to entire meals and clear consuming. We’re solely as nice because the giants that got here earlier than us, and if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be right here as we speak doing a greater plant-based burger.”
AKUA began promoting by way of direct to customers in Could and at the moment ships to all states besides Alaska and Hawaii. Boyd Myers defined that there are gross sales and repeat clients, nevertheless it was too early to debate progress metrics. Nonetheless, the corporate is dabbling in retail places and has preorders from over 100 shops in New York, and he or she expects these will exit within the coming months, adopted by shops in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Along with the jerky and burger, the AKUA portfolio additionally contains Kelp Pasta. The brand new funding will probably be used on R&D for brand new merchandise within the areas of other meat and plant-based seafood that additionally seems to be at what extra could be finished with kelp and different meals, like lentils.
AKUA soft-launched a kelp floor meat product and can have a kelp crab cake product popping out within the second quarter of 2022, Boyd Myers mentioned. The corporate will even rent further expertise and ramp up its gross sales and advertising and marketing efforts.
In the meantime, Boyd Myers mentioned she was excited to work with Vibrant Ventures founder Jarret Christie, to whom she was launched by different founders. Vibrant Ventures is a brand new plant-based fund out of Los Angeles that launched in July.
As Christie received to know Boyd Myers, he noticed her as a group builder who was constructing a motion away from manufacturing facility farming, preventing local weather change and serving to folks have entry to lower-cost more healthy meals.
“Kelp was not on anybody’s radar six months in the past, however is now being thought-about for crop feed, packaging and crop fertilization,” he mentioned. “She is working hand-in-hand with kelp growers; I consider that is only the start.”