The worldwide meat substitute market was worth $4.51 billion two years ago and is predicted to quadruple by 2027, drawing entrepreneurs like alternative meat food tech business AKUA that want to make a name for themselves in the burgeoning industry. Courtney Boyd Myers, a former technology writer, co-founded AKUA with Matthew Lebo five years ago after looking for a profession that would allow her to leave a legacy and achieve her purpose of reversing climate change.
Boyd Myers said she learned personally, what a fast-food diet could do to a person growing up with a father who worked in the food industry and was constantly seeking healthier food alternatives that were also good for the environment. Initially, the co-founders considered replacing factory farming with regenerative ocean farming to replace the unsustainable aspect of food. When a friend invited her to visit a kelp farm, she accepted and was so impressed that AKUA was created.
AKUA today announced a $3.2 million seed round sponsored by Vibrant Ventures, bringing the company’s total funding to $5.4 million. A Republic campaign, pre-seed investors, and funding from the co-founders make up the entire funds.
Pegasus Sustainable Finance, Halogen Ventures, Fifth Down Capital, Alumni Ventures Group, Karmagawa, New England Patriots coach and former linebacker Jerod Mayo, beauty founder Cristina Carlino, SmartyPants CEO Courtney Nichols Gould, Sir Kensington’s co-founder Brandon Child, Gellert Global Group president Andy Gellert, SOA’s Seabird Ventures, and the Blue Angels were among those who participated in the round. Kelp Jerky, which comes in four varieties, was the company’s debut product in 2019, and it a product Boyd Myers believed would be a good trial run to let consumers perceive ocean-farmed kelp in a fresh light.
“It was hit-or-miss,” she noted, “but it’s extremely nutritious.” “During the epidemic, we went back to the drawing board on a new product and developed The Kelp Burger.” The burger is with ocean-farmed kelp, cremini mushrooms, pea protein, black beans, quinoa, crushed tomatoes, and superfoods and is vegan, non-GMO, soy-free, and gluten-free. They decided to form a food club and send samples of the burger in the mail because they could not do the food tastings they could with the jerky. Eventually, 1,000 people joined up, and The Kelp Burger has become the “hero product,” according to Boyd Myers.
Meat substitutes include chemical preservatives and other difficult-to-pronounce substances. which might negate the goal of choosing a healthier alternative. Even businesses are looking into it, such as Shiru, which just garnered $17 million to produce healthier meat bonding agents. Those assertions, according to Boyd Myers, influenced how AKUA developed the ingredient list for their kelp burger, which comprises 15 components, all of which are food or food-derived.
“The Boca Burger, beans, and tofu were the first wave of plant-based eating,” she continued. “Impossible and Beyond is the second wave, and the third wave will be a return to whole foods and clean eating. We are only as great as the titans that came before us, and we wouldn’t be making a better plant-based burger today if it weren’t for them.” In May, AKUA began selling directly to customers and now ships to every state except Alaska and Hawaii. Boyd Myers said that there are sales and returning customers, but that discussing growth figures was premature.
However, the firm is experimenting with retail sites, and she anticipates preorders from over 100 stores in New York to go out in the coming months, followed by stores in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Kelp Pasta is part of the AKUA repertoire, which also includes jerky and burgers. The extra funds will be used to conduct research and development for new goods in the fields of alternative meat and plant-based seafood, as well as what else can be done with kelp and other foods such as lentils. According to Boyd Myers, AKUA soft-launched kelp ground meat product and will release a crab cake product in the second quarter of 2022. In addition, the firm will recruit more people and increase its sales and marketing operations.
Meanwhile, Boyd Myers expressed her delight at the prospect of working with Vibrant Ventures CEO Jarret Christie, whom she introduced to by other entrepreneurs. Vibrant Ventures, situated in Los Angeles, is a new plant-based fund that began in July. Christie regarded Boyd Myers as a community builder who was leading a movement away from industrial farming, combating climate change, and assisting people in accessing lower-cost, healthier meals, as he has to know her. He explained, “Kelp was not on anyone’s radar six months ago, but it is now being explored for crop feed, packaging, and crop fertilization.” “She’s collaborating with kelp farmers, and I feel this is only the beginning.”