Colorado-based mycelium meat producer Meati has opened a direct-to-consumer online storefront to enable product deliveries and subscriptions for its customers. The Meati Marketplace will allow people to try its alt-meats before they hit shelves, while a $169 Innovation Kitchen Subscription offers four current products and at least one completely new one every month.
Meati makes whole-cut steaks and chicken cutlets with mushroom root. These products (two flavours for each) will be joined by 16 servings of newly introduced mystery innovations that will make people signed up to the Innovation Kitchen Subscription the first to try them. Customers will be able to offer feedback for these new meats, which Meati will leverage to inform its product and sales strategies.
“We regularly get requests from Meati superfans to make our products available for direct shipment. Meati Marketplace lets us reward these loyal Meati eaters with regular shipments of their favorite Meati products while introducing them to all-new concepts,” said Meati COO Scott Tassani. “We can also gain important feedback to shape what we launch into the commercial market.”
Product testing could be key to retail success
It’s a clever move that comes during a tough period for US alternative meat brands in particular. The news comes a week after Meati announced it was laying off 10% of its workforce and shutting down its pilot plant – months after it had let go of 17 employees (about 5%). The company cited near-term profitability in a “highly competitive industry in a challenging economic climate” as the reason for its restructuring.
It’s part of a wider trend in the industry that has seen giants like Impossible Foods cut 20% of its workforce (132 employees) in February and Beyond Meat lay off 19% of its staff (200 team members) last October. Many plant-based meat companies, meanwhile, have ceased operations or come close to bankruptcy.
This comes on the back of dwindling retail sales for plant-based alternatives in the US, which saw its number of vegans hit a 10-year-low and only a fifth of its population following a meat-reduced diet last year. While the foodservice sector reached an all-time high for plant-based meat sales, the retail industry flatlined. And according to Circana, retail sales declined by 7.3% year-on-year, while units saw a 15.6% drop, as of July 2, 2023.
Considering this backdrop, consumer testing is a promising strategy for new products in the alt-meat category. Trialling under-development products and receiving feedback could help brands gauge how their innovations are perceived by the general public. And this could prove to be a vital building block to a brand’s retail footprint and subsequent success, especially in the current climate.
Meati’s continued expansion
Meanwhile, selling directly to consumers could help Meati boost sales by bypassing in-person retailers and avoiding these (currently) stagnant channels. “We have a special consumer community, and are excited to provide this opportunity,” Tassani said. “This approach to product innovation will let us better connect with new and die-hard fans while making it more convenient for them to fit Meati into their daily lives.”
While consumer tastings appeal to brand fanatics and early adopters rather than a wider customer base, Meati enjoys mainstream visibility thanks to partnerships with popular American chefs David Chang and Rachael Ray and has attracted total financing of over $325M (following a $150M Series C raise last year, with an extension round last week).
It also opened a ‘mega ranch’ in Thornton, Colorado in January, which can produce tens of millions of pounds of its mycelium meat products. “Very few brands have ever entered the market in this way, with immediate category leadership and extreme consumer resonance,” a Meati spokesperson told Green Queen in an emailed statement about the layoffs. “Meati’s team will continue to grow as nearly 100 additional positions are added in the near term to expand production capacity.”
The new Meati Marketplace will also offer limited-edition products and bundles, as well as options to try its never-seen-before meats without a subscription. It will join the brand’s growing retail presence, which covers over 1,500 stores including Whole Foods, Sprouts Farmers Market, Meijer and Fresh Thyme nationwide. It also has dining partnerships with Birdcall, PLNT Burger and Next Level Burger, and a foodservice distribution agreement with Dot Foods.
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