The promise of alternative meat products has come under scrutiny lately articles in Bloomberg and the Washington Post the question of whether it will ever really be embraced by consumers. Other news such as Beyond Meat’s share price fall and mass layoffs at Impossible Foods have raised further questions about the industry’s future.
However, amid all this research, Fable Food, an Australian startup making plant-based meat from mushrooms, announced its latest round of funding, an $8.5 million Series A led by Singaporean company K3. Other participants included Greg Creed, former global CEO of Yum! Brands, the parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, and Peter Singer, a Princeton professor and well-known animal rights activist and SaladStop! founders Frantz Braha and Adrien Desbaillets. Existing investors Blackbird, AgFiunder and Aera VC also returned for the round, along with vegan TV personality and podcaster Osher Günsberg and his wife Audrey Griffen.
australiabusinessblog.com last reported on Fable Foods when it announced its $6.5 million seed funding in August 2021. It has since expanded in Australia and has begun to enter international markets such as the United Kingdom, United States, Singapore, New Zealand and Canada, said co-founder and CEO Michael Fox.
Next month, Fable will launch its mushroom burger slider patties at STK Steakhouse as the chain’s first plant-based option. The startup’s go-to-market strategy is to partner with top chefs and F&B companies in key segments: restaurants, premium quick-service restaurant chains, meal kit companies, and value-added retail manufacturing such as Whole Foods that using Fable Foods products. in their ready-to-eat burritos.
Other startups making plant-based meat from mushrooms include Meati, Mushroom Meat Co. and MyForest Foods. Fox explained that Meati and MyForest Foods ferment mycelium to make their meat alternative products. “We like what the mycelium-based companies are doing and we applaud them, but at Fable we use farm-raised shiitake and agaricus mushrooms,” Fox said. “We use the fruiting body of the fungi instead of the mycelium. Humans have been eating mushrooms for tens of thousands of years and we have been growing them for thousands of years. They’ve evolved to be very nutritious and delicious because the fungi want us to eat them to help spread their spores.”
Regarding the recent coverage of the lackluster performance of plant-based foods, Fox is optimistic.
“The Bloomberg article and others are right that meat alternatives as a category do not yet meet consumer needs in terms of taste, price or health. They don’t yet taste as good as animal meat, they are more expensive than animal meat and consumers aren’t sure if the ingredient decks are healthier than animal meat,” he said.
He added that while most meat alternatives on the market are made with soybeans or peas, Fable’s shiitake and white mushrooms have an advantage for several reasons. For starters, they contain more glutamates and “meaty, umami flavors.” Their cellular structure of chitin can also be cooked in ways that mimic the texture of animal flesh.
“Mushrooms are very flavorful with their natural umami flavors, and the mushrooms we use naturally have the meaty fibers that give the meaty bites you normally get from animal proteins,” he said.
Fable Food funding will be used for research and development, with more mushroom-based meat products in the works. Fable also plans to enter more international markets, focusing on North America, the United Kingdom and Singapore.