The prospect of alternative meat products has come under scrutiny recently, with articles in Bloomberg and The Washington Post questioning whether it will really be accepted by consumers. Other news, such as price cuts beyond meat and wholesale cuts on perishable foods, has led to further questions about the future of the industry.
But amid all this scrutiny, Fable Food, an Australian startup that makes plant-based meat from mushrooms, announced its latest round of funding, an $8.5 million Series A round led by Singaporean venture capital firm K3. Other participants include Greg Creed, former Yum! Brands, parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, and Peter Singer, Princeton professor and prominent animal rights activist and SaladStop! Founders Frantz Braha and Adrien Desbailets. Existing investors Blackbird, AgFiunder and Aera VC return for the round, along with vegan TV personality and podcaster Osher Gunsberg and his wife Audrey Griffin.
TechCrunch covered Fable Foods when it announced a $6.5 million seed round in August 2021, and it has since expanded into Australia and entered international markets such as the United Kingdom, United States, Singapore, New Zealand and Canada, according to a co-founder. and CEO Michael Fox.
Next month, Fable will launch mushroom burger slider patties at STK Steakhouse as the chain’s first plant-based option. The startup’s go-to-market strategy is to work with major restaurants and F&B businesses for key segments: restaurants, premium quick-service restaurant chains, meal kit companies and retail value brands, such as Whole Foods that use Fairy Food products in their ready-to-eat burritos.
Other startups producing plant-based meat from mushrooms include Methi, Mushroom Meat Company and MyForest Foods. Fox explains that Matty and MyForest Foods ferment the mycelium to make their meat alternative products. “We like and encourage what mycelium-based companies do, but at Fable we use farmed shiitake and agaricus mushrooms,” Fox said. “As opposed to the mycelium, we’re using the fruiting body of the fungus. Humans have eaten mushrooms for tens of thousands of years and we’ve farmed for thousands of years. The fungi need us to eat them to spread their spores, so they’re made to be very nutritious and delicious.”
A recent cover, Fox is sanguine, because plant-based foods do not underperform.
The Bloomberg article is right that other meat alternatives as a category are not yet meeting consumer demand for taste, value and health. “It’s not cheaper than animal meat, they’re more expensive than animal meat and consumers aren’t sure if the surface of the ingredients is healthier than animal meat,” he said.
Additionally, while most of the meat alternatives on the market are soy or pea-based, the fabled shiitake and white button mushrooms are worth it for a number of reasons. For one thing, they contain lots of glutamates and “meaty, umami flavors.” Their chitin cellular structure can be cooked in a way that resembles the appearance of animal meat.
“Mushrooms are delicious with their natural umami flavor, and the mushrooms we use naturally have meaty fibers that give you that meaty bite you get from animal proteins,” he says.
Fable Food’s funding will be used for research and development, as well as mushroom-based meat production. Fable plans to enter more international markets with a focus on North America, the United Kingdom and Singapore.