Convincing meat enthusiasts to switch to a more environmentally friendly diet may become a bit simpler according to Slovenian firm Juicy Marbles, which has developed a method for creating plant-based entire meat pieces, assuming that does not sound too oxymoronic. Its snarkier pitch for a product that attempts to give a vegan equivalent to filet mignon steaks and other “prime” slices of (animal) flesh is “Fancy Plant Meat.”
The Ljubljana-based firm has raised $4.5 million in venture funding to bring its first cut of premium plant protein to market, beginning with the aforementioned (vegan) filet mignon, which will be available in Q1 2022. What is the deal with filet mignon? This style of cut, according to the company, best displays its exclusive “marbling technology.” Filet mignon is also chosen because it is regarded as the “crown gem” of (meat) steaks.
Furthermore, compared to dozens of competitors turning out less fancy/more chopped up alternative protein items such as burgers, sausages, bacon, chicken tenders, and so on, there is very less competition at the luxury end of the fake meat industry. Therefore, in the burgeoning alternative protein market, being large and chunky is one way to stand out.
“We’ve opted to start with filet mignon because it is the ‘crown jewel’ of the steak world, and it best exhibits our marbling technology — which we would argue is our clear and defining selling proposition,” Juicy Marbles tells TechCrunch. “In the long run, we want to be renowned for our sirloins, rumps, filets, tomahawks, wagyus, and filet mignons, not simply the most costly cuts.” Given the distinct economics of being plant-based, our long-term goal is to make filet mignon more inexpensive and accessible.”
When you bite into a Juicy Marbles filet mignon, what exactly are you eating? Soy is the main protein, which the company claims are both healthful and ecologically friendly. “Further difficulties with soy farming causing deforestation are purely tied to our need to feed animal cattle – 97 percent of soy output goes to animal feed, and if all of our meat was plant-based, all of soy farming’s negative consequences would simply vanish,” it claims. “As a crop for human food, substantially less intensive land-use would be necessary for soya — certainly less than a third of the existing farmed acreage required.”
Soya is also versatile, according to Juicy Marbles, as it can be eaten in a variety of ways — from fresh to dried, plain, sprouting, ground, fermented, as curd, as a sauce, in soup, as a dessert or a drink, and so on — and thus, as a “soya-centric food company,” it will have more flexibility in what it can prepare.
A soy-based tuna steak is one of the concepts in the works. (Although it would not be the first animal-free tuna alternative to market; see, for example, YC-backed Kuleana.) “Our company is built on the notion of protein texture, which is the distinguishing feature that lures consumers to steak over a cheaper cut.
“There hasn’t been as much innovation in the whole cuts sector in the plant-based meat vertical, and no one has come close to developing a steak that resembles anything high-end,” it also says. “Given the need to decarbonize/offer a plant-based alternative in this arena, we feel this is an enormous potential that our larger competitors have yet to exploit.”