The next big restaurant chain may not own any kitchens

If investors at some of the biggest technology companies are right, the next big restaurant chain could have no kitchens of its own.

These venture capitalists think the same forces that have transformed transportation, media, retail and logistics will also work their way through prepared food businesses.

Investors are pouring millions into the creation of a network of shared kitchens, storage facilities, and pickup counters that established chains and new food entrepreneurs can access to cut down on overhead and quickly spin up new concepts in fast food and casual dining.

Powering all of this is a food delivery market that could grow from $35 billion to a $365 billion industry by 2030, according to a report from UBS’s research group, the “Evidence Lab”.

“We’ve had conversations with the biggest and fastest growing restaurant brands in the country and even some of the casual brands,” said Jim Collins, a serial entrepreneur, restauranteur, and the chief executive of the food-service startup, Kitchen United. “In every board room for every major restaurant brand in the country… the number one conversation surrounds the topic of how are we going to address [off-premise diners].”

Collins’ company just raised $10 million in a funding round led by GV, the investment arm of Google parent company, Alphabet. But Alphabet’s investment team is far from the only group investing in the restaurant infrastructure as a service business.

Perhaps the best capitalized company focusing on distributed kitchens is CloudKitchens, one of two subsidiaries owned by the holding company City Storage Solutions.

Cloud Kitchens and its sister company Cloud Retail are the two arms of the new venture from Uber co-founder and former chief executive, Travis Kalanick, which was formed with a $150 million investment.

As we reported at the time, Travis announced that he would be starting a new fund with the riches he made from Uber shares sold in its most recent major secondary round. Kalanick said his 10100, or “ten one hundred”, fund would be geared toward “large-scale job creation,” with investments in real estate, e-commerce, and “emerging innovation in India and China.”

If anyone is aware of the massive market potential for leveraging on-demand services, it’s Kalanick. Especially since he was one of the architects of the infrastructure that has made it possible.

Other deep pocketed companies have also stepped into the fray. Late last year Acre Venture Partners, the investment arm formed by The Campbell Soup Co., participated in a $13 million investment for Pilotworks, another distributed kitchen operator based in Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, Kitchen United has been busy putting together a deep bench of executive talent culled from some of the largest and most successful American fast food restaurant chains.

Former Taco Bell Chief Development Officer, Meredith Sandland, joined the company earlier this year as its chief operating officer, while former McDonald’s executive Atul Sood, who oversaw the burger giant’s relationship with online delivery services, has come aboard as Kitchen United’s Chief Business Officer.

The millions of dollars spicing up this new business model investors are serving up could be considered the second iteration of a food startup wave.

An earlier generation of prepared food startups crashed and burned while trying to spin up just this type of vision with investments in their own infrastructure. New York celebrity chef David Chang, the owner and creator of the city’s famous Momofuku restaurants (and Milk Bar, and Ma Peche), was an investor in Maple, a new delivery-only food startup that raised $25 million before it was shut down and its technology was absorbed into the European, delivery service, Deliveroo.

Ando, which Chang founded, was another attempt at creating a business with a single storefront for takeout and a massive reliance on delivery services to do the heavy lifting of entering new neighborhoods and markets. That company wound up getting acquired by UberEats after raising $7 million in venture funding.

Those losses are slight compared to the woes of investors in companies like Munchery, ($125.4 million) Sprig, ($56.7 million) and SpoonRocket ($13 million). Sprig and Spoonrocket are now defunct, and Munchery had to pull back from markets in Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle as it fights for survival. The company also reportedly was looking at recapitalizing earlier in the year at a greatly reduced valuation.

What gives companies like Kitchen United, Pilotworks and Cloud Kitchens hope is that they’re not required to actually create the next big successful concept in fast food or casual dining. They just have to enable it.

Kitchen United just opened a 12,000 square foot facility in Pasadena for just that purpose — and has plans to open more locations in West Los Angeles; Jersey City, N.J.; Atlanta; Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix; Seattle and Denver. Its competitor, Pilotworks, already has operations in Brooklyn, Chicago, Dallas, and Providence, R.I.

While the two companies have similar visions, they’re currently pursuing different initial customers. Pilotworks has pitched itself as a recipe for success for new food entrepreneurs. Kitchen United, by comparison is giving successful local, regional, and national brands a way to expand their footprint without investing in real estate.

“One of the directions that the company was thinking of going was toward the restaurant industry and the second was in the food service entrepreneurial sector,” said Collins. “Would it be a company that served restaurants with their expansions? Now, we’re in deep discussions with all kinds of restaurants.”

Smaller national fast food chains like Chick-Fil-A or Shake Shack, or fast casual chains like Dennys and Shoney’s could be customers, said Collins. So could local companies that are trying to expand their regional footprint. Los Angeles’ famous Canter’s Deli is a Kitchen United customer (and an early adopter of a number of new restaurant innovations) and so is The Lost Cuban Kitchen, an Iowa-based Cuban restaurant that’s expanding to Los Angeles.

Kitchen United is looking to create kitchen centers that can house between 10-20 restaurants in converted warehouses, big box retail and light industrial locations.

Using demographic data and “demand mapping” for specific cuisines, Kitchen United said that it can provide optimal locations and site the right restaurant to meet consumer demand. The company is also pitching labor management, menu management and delivery tools to help streamline the process of getting a new location up and running.

“In all of the facilities, all of the restaurants have their own four-walled space,” says Collins. “There’s shared infrastructure outside of that.”

Some of that infrastructure is taking food deliveries and an ability to serve as a central hub for local supplier, according to Collins. “One of the things that we’re going to be launching relatively soon here in Pasadena, is actually in-service days where local supplier and purveyors can come in and meet with seven restaurants at once.”

It’s also possible that restaurants in the Kitchen United spaces could take advantage of restaurant technologies being developed by one of the startup’s sister companies through Cali Group, a holding company for a number of different e-sports, retail, and food technology startups.

The Pasadena-based kitchen company was founded by Harry Tsao, an investor in food technology (and a part owner of the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Football Club) through his fund Avista Investments; and John Miller, a serial entrepreneur who founded the Cali Group.

In fact, Kitchen United operates as a Cali Group portfolio company alongside Miso Robotics, the developer of the burger flipping robot, Flippy; Caliburger, an In-n-Out clone first developed by Miller in Shanghai and brought back to the U.S.; and FunWall, a display technology for online gaming in retail settings.

“Kitchen United’s data-driven approach to flexible kitchen spaces unlocks critical value for national, regional, and local restaurant chains looking to expand into new markets,” said Adam Ghobarah, general partner at GV, and a new director on the Kitchen United board. “The founding team’s experience in scaling — in addition to diverse exposure to national chains, regional brands, regional franchises, and small upstart eateries — puts Kitchen United in a strong position to accelerate food innovation.”

GV’s Ghobarah actually sees the investment of a piece with other bets that Alphabet’s venture capital arm has made around the food industry.

The firm is a backer of the fully automated hamburger preparation company, Creator, which has raised roughly $28 million to develop its hamburger making robot (if Securities and Exchange Commission filings can be believed). And it has backed the containerized farming startup, Bowery Farming, with a $20 million investment.

Ghobarah sees an entirely new food distribution ecosystem built up around facilities where Bowery’s farms are colocated with Kitchen United’s restaurants to reduce logistical hurdles and create new hubs.

“As urban farming like Bowery scales up… that becomes more and more realistic,” Ghobarah said. “The other thing that really stands out when you have flexible locations … all of the thousands of people who want to own a restaurant now have access. It’s not really all regional chains and national chains… With a satellite location like this… [a restaurant]… can break even at one third of the order volume.”

 

The next big restaurant chain may not own any kitchens

If investors at some of the biggest technology companies are right, the next big restaurant chain could have no kitchens of its own.

These venture capitalists think the same forces that have transformed transportation, media, retail and logistics will also work their way through prepared food businesses.

Investors are pouring millions into the creation of a network of shared kitchens, storage facilities, and pickup counters that established chains and new food entrepreneurs can access to cut down on overhead and quickly spin up new concepts in fast food and casual dining.

Powering all of this is a food delivery market that could grow from $35 billion to a $365 billion industry by 2030, according to a report from UBS’s research group, the “Evidence Lab”.

“We’ve had conversations with the biggest and fastest growing restaurant brands in the country and even some of the casual brands,” said Jim Collins, a serial entrepreneur, restauranteur, and the chief executive of the food-service startup, Kitchen United. “In every board room for every major restaurant brand in the country… the number one conversation surrounds the topic of how are we going to address [off-premise diners].”

Collins’ company just raised $10 million in a funding round led by GV, the investment arm of Google parent company, Alphabet. But Alphabet’s investment team is far from the only group investing in the restaurant infrastructure as a service business.

Perhaps the best capitalized company focusing on distributed kitchens is CloudKitchens, one of two subsidiaries owned by the holding company City Storage Solutions.

Cloud Kitchens and its sister company Cloud Retail are the two arms of the new venture from Uber co-founder and former chief executive, Travis Kalanick, which was formed with a $150 million investment.

As we reported at the time, Travis announced that he would be starting a new fund with the riches he made from Uber shares sold in its most recent major secondary round. Kalanick said his 10100, or “ten one hundred”, fund would be geared toward “large-scale job creation,” with investments in real estate, e-commerce, and “emerging innovation in India and China.”

If anyone is aware of the massive market potential for leveraging on-demand services, it’s Kalanick. Especially since he was one of the architects of the infrastructure that has made it possible.

Other deep pocketed companies have also stepped into the fray. Late last year Acre Venture Partners, the investment arm formed by The Campbell Soup Co., participated in a $13 million investment for Pilotworks, another distributed kitchen operator based in Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, Kitchen United has been busy putting together a deep bench of executive talent culled from some of the largest and most successful American fast food restaurant chains.

Former Taco Bell Chief Development Officer, Meredith Sandland, joined the company earlier this year as its chief operating officer, while former McDonald’s executive Atul Sood, who oversaw the burger giant’s relationship with online delivery services, has come aboard as Kitchen United’s Chief Business Officer.

The millions of dollars spicing up this new business model investors are serving up could be considered the second iteration of a food startup wave.

An earlier generation of prepared food startups crashed and burned while trying to spin up just this type of vision with investments in their own infrastructure. New York celebrity chef David Chang, the owner and creator of the city’s famous Momofuku restaurants (and Milk Bar, and Ma Peche), was an investor in Maple, a new delivery-only food startup that raised $25 million before it was shut down and its technology was absorbed into the European, delivery service, Deliveroo.

Ando, which Chang founded, was another attempt at creating a business with a single storefront for takeout and a massive reliance on delivery services to do the heavy lifting of entering new neighborhoods and markets. That company wound up getting acquired by UberEats after raising $7 million in venture funding.

Those losses are slight compared to the woes of investors in companies like Munchery, ($125.4 million) Sprig, ($56.7 million) and SpoonRocket ($13 million). Sprig and Spoonrocket are now defunct, and Munchery had to pull back from markets in Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle as it fights for survival. The company also reportedly was looking at recapitalizing earlier in the year at a greatly reduced valuation.

What gives companies like Kitchen United, Pilotworks and Cloud Kitchens hope is that they’re not required to actually create the next big successful concept in fast food or casual dining. They just have to enable it.

Kitchen United just opened a 12,000 square foot facility in Pasadena for just that purpose — and has plans to open more locations in West Los Angeles; Jersey City, N.J.; Atlanta; Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix; Seattle and Denver. Its competitor, Pilotworks, already has operations in Brooklyn, Chicago, Dallas, and Providence, R.I.

While the two companies have similar visions, they’re currently pursuing different initial customers. Pilotworks has pitched itself as a recipe for success for new food entrepreneurs. Kitchen United, by comparison is giving successful local, regional, and national brands a way to expand their footprint without investing in real estate.

“One of the directions that the company was thinking of going was toward the restaurant industry and the second was in the food service entrepreneurial sector,” said Collins. “Would it be a company that served restaurants with their expansions? Now, we’re in deep discussions with all kinds of restaurants.”

Smaller national fast food chains like Chick-Fil-A or Shake Shack, or fast casual chains like Dennys and Shoney’s could be customers, said Collins. So could local companies that are trying to expand their regional footprint. Los Angeles’ famous Canter’s Deli is a Kitchen United customer (and an early adopter of a number of new restaurant innovations) and so is The Lost Cuban Kitchen, an Iowa-based Cuban restaurant that’s expanding to Los Angeles.

Kitchen United is looking to create kitchen centers that can house between 10-20 restaurants in converted warehouses, big box retail and light industrial locations.

Using demographic data and “demand mapping” for specific cuisines, Kitchen United said that it can provide optimal locations and site the right restaurant to meet consumer demand. The company is also pitching labor management, menu management and delivery tools to help streamline the process of getting a new location up and running.

“In all of the facilities, all of the restaurants have their own four-walled space,” says Collins. “There’s shared infrastructure outside of that.”

Some of that infrastructure is taking food deliveries and an ability to serve as a central hub for local supplier, according to Collins. “One of the things that we’re going to be launching relatively soon here in Pasadena, is actually in-service days where local supplier and purveyors can come in and meet with seven restaurants at once.”

It’s also possible that restaurants in the Kitchen United spaces could take advantage of restaurant technologies being developed by one of the startup’s sister companies through Cali Group, a holding company for a number of different e-sports, retail, and food technology startups.

The Pasadena-based kitchen company was founded by Harry Tsao, an investor in food technology (and a part owner of the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Football Club) through his fund Avista Investments; and John Miller, a serial entrepreneur who founded the Cali Group.

In fact, Kitchen United operates as a Cali Group portfolio company alongside Miso Robotics, the developer of the burger flipping robot, Flippy; Caliburger, an In-n-Out clone first developed by Miller in Shanghai and brought back to the U.S.; and FunWall, a display technology for online gaming in retail settings.

“Kitchen United’s data-driven approach to flexible kitchen spaces unlocks critical value for national, regional, and local restaurant chains looking to expand into new markets,” said Adam Ghobarah, general partner at GV, and a new director on the Kitchen United board. “The founding team’s experience in scaling — in addition to diverse exposure to national chains, regional brands, regional franchises, and small upstart eateries — puts Kitchen United in a strong position to accelerate food innovation.”

GV’s Ghobarah actually sees the investment of a piece with other bets that Alphabet’s venture capital arm has made around the food industry.

The firm is a backer of the fully automated hamburger preparation company, Creator, which has raised roughly $28 million to develop its hamburger making robot (if Securities and Exchange Commission filings can be believed). And it has backed the containerized farming startup, Bowery Farming, with a $20 million investment.

Ghobarah sees an entirely new food distribution ecosystem built up around facilities where Bowery’s farms are colocated with Kitchen United’s restaurants to reduce logistical hurdles and create new hubs.

“As urban farming like Bowery scales up… that becomes more and more realistic,” Ghobarah said. “The other thing that really stands out when you have flexible locations … all of the thousands of people who want to own a restaurant now have access. It’s not really all regional chains and national chains… With a satellite location like this… [a restaurant]… can break even at one third of the order volume.”

 

Not Everyone Relishes This Pizza That Uses Sliced Pickles Where the Pepperoni Belongs

A pizzeria has been “convicted” of committing misdemeanors against pizza by the internet

Their crime? Creating a pickle-topped pizza with a side of ranch dressing.

Rhino’s Pizzeria and Deli created a pizza pie that swapped garlic sauce for the traditional marinara, put sliced dill pickles in lieu of pepperoni, and covered the entire thing in mozzarella cheese, according to WHEC. They posted the picture on Facebook with the suggestion to “Try it with ranch for dipping.”

That was the final straw for some pizza lovers. After the pizza shop posted the pizza on Facebook heir Facebook post has been shared more than 41,000 times as of Thursday morning and despite 14,000 comments, people continue to weigh in on the controversial pizza. While most seem to consider the pickle-topped pizza a travesty, demanding answers, “Why?! In the name of all that is holy, why did you do this to pizza?!” wrote one Facebook commenter. Another brought up that equally controversial topping—pineapple—writing, “And people have the damn nerve to complain about pineapples on a pizza.” One amateur food critic noted, “Pineapple and pickles have no business on a pizza. Once you vary off cheese and pepperoni it’s not pizza anymore…” Another summed it up, tidily: “Pickles on pizza, hell no.”

A surprising number of people, some admittedly in the throes of pregnancy-related food cravings, thought the pickle-topped pizza sounded delectable, some hoping for a sweet-pickle version, and others plotting day trips to New York state for a pie. These are undoubtedly the same people who like marshmallow Peeps on pizza and consider strawberries a reasonable topping.

‘No Snack Is Safe.’ People Are Losing Their Crackers About the Ritz and Goldfish Recalls

It’s been a rough week out there for crackers and snackers since Monday when a number of Ritz Crackers and Goldfish products were recalled over potential risk of salmonella.

The combination of the two go-to staples of paper bag lunches everywhere getting recalled: a snack emergency for internet users.

Both Pepperidge Farm and Mondaelz stated that they were taking the precautionary measures due to what appears to be the same reason: potential contamination of the whey powder used to season the snacks. Straight out of that Little Miss Muffet rhyme, whey powder is used to season many snacks.

Proving your whole cupboard can darken in a day, Pepperidge Farm announced a recall of four different Goldfish flavors: Flavor Blasted Xtra Cheddar, Goldfish Mix Xtra Cheddar + Pretzel, Flavor Blasted Sour Cream and Onion, and Goldfish Baked with Whole Grain Xtra Cheese, all sold in the U.S. Pepperidge Farm said it announced the recall “out of an abundance of caution.”

Both snack makers said there were no illnesses yet reported as a result of eating their snacks, but they recommend you toss your personal stash nonetheless. Neither company has said if these recalls are connected, but for now, it may be time to pivot to another summer snack.

You’ll need to complete a reimbursement form online to get your Goldfish refund.

Which Ritz crackers have been recalled?

According to the company’s statement, Mondalez’s recall list includes Ritz bits, Ritz cheese cracker sandwiches, Ritz bacon cracker sandwiches with cheese, Ritz whole wheat cracker sandwiches with white cheddar cheese, Ritz everything cracker sandwiches, and two multipack Mixed cookie cracker variety assortments.

Salmonella infection is a bacterial disease that can cause abdominal cramps, fever and headache, according to the Mayo Clinic, some of which run their course in a few days, though life-threatening complications are possible.

This is by no means the first recall of the year. Swiss rolls, Melons and eggs were recalled over salmonella fears this year. Meanwhile, ice cream bars and Panera cream cheese were also recalled due to listeria concerns.

The internet has taken note of these dual cracker recalls, expressing strong feelings on Twitter, with one user dubbing it a “cracker cancellation.”

‘IHOb’ Is Already Back to Calling Itself IHOP Again

On June 11, the International House of Pancakes made a big announcement: they were changing their name to “IHOb,” at least temporarily, standing for “International House of Burgers,” and unveiling a new product on the menu. (A burger, naturally — or, in IHOb parlance, an “Ultimate Steakburger.”)

While the change got plenty of hype online, and resulted in brick-and-mortar locations swapping out their signage in favor of the new brand name for the ubiquitous diner chain, it was not meant to last long. And on Monday, IHOb reverted once more to its original name of IHOP.

“We really abbreciate the burgerin’ loyalty, but we’re back @IHOP again,” the IHOb Twitter account announced. (The gimmick of the alternate brand had been replacing “P’s” with “B’s” in all of their language, which explains the unusual spelling.)

When one Twitter user joked that their change of heart (and name) must not have gone well, IHOP itself had a response: “The blan was to get beople talking about our new burgers. And it worked. Look at us, two silly pancakes talkin’ about burgers,” they explained of their nearly-one-month marketing stunt.

The plan does seem to have gotten people talking — after all, now we all know that IHOP serves both their traditional pancakes and, yes, a burger. Hopefully no one got too attached to the alternative “IHOb” name in the process. But if you already checked out the burger, and are a fan of that particular dish, the good news is it seems that menu item is at least sticking around.

Food delivery’s untapped opportunity

Investors may have already placed their orders in the consumer food delivery space, but there’s still a missing recipe for solving the more than $250 billion business-to-business foodservice distribution problem that’s begging for venture firms to put more cooks in the kitchen. 

Stock prices for Sysco and US Foods, the two largest food distributors, are up by more than 20 percent since last summer, when Amazon bought Whole Foods. But, these companies haven’t made any material changes to their business model to counteract the threat of Amazon. I know a thing or two about the food services industry and the need for a B2B marketplace in an industry ripe with all of our favorite buzz words: fragmentation, last-mile logistics and a lack of pricing transparency.

The business-to-business food problem

Consumers have it good. Services such as Amazon and Instacart are pushing for our business and attention and thus making it great for the end users. By comparison, food and ingredient delivery for businesses is vastly underserved. The business of foodservice distribution hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention — or capital — as consumer delivery, and the industry is further behind when it comes to serving customers. Food-preparation facilities often face a number of difficulties getting the ingredients to cook the food we all enjoy.

Who are these food-preparation facilities? They range from your local restaurants, hotels, school and business cafeterias, catering companies, and many other facilities that supply to grocery markets, food trucks and so on. This market is gigantic. Ignoring all other facilities, just U.S. restaurants alone earn about $800 billion in annual sales. That’s based on research by the National Restaurant Association (the “other NRA”). Specific to foodservice distribution in the U.S., the estimated 2016 annual sales were a sizable $280 billion.

How it works today

Every one of these food-preparation facilities relies on a number of relationships with distributors (and sometimes, but rarely, directly from farms) to get their necessary ingredients. Some major national players, including Sysco and US Foods, mainly supply “dry goods.” For fresh meats, seafood and produce, plus other artisanal goods, these facilities rely on a large number of local wholesale distributors. A few examples of wholesalers and distributors near where I live in the San Francisco Bay Area are ABS Seafood, Golden Gate Meat Company, Green Leaf, Hodo Soy and VegiWorks.

Keep in mind that the vast majority of these food-prep businesses don’t shop for ingredients the way you and I may shop for ingredients from our local supermarkets or farmer markets. There’s too little margin in food and doing so would be too costly, as well as highly inefficient (e.g. having to pay to send staff out “grocery shopping”). A few small operators do buy ingredients from wholesale chains such as Costco or Restaurant Depot. But in general, it’s way more efficient to place an order with a distributor and get the goods delivered directly to your food-prep facility.

But that’s where the problems lie. These distributors are completely fragmented, and the quality of fresh ingredients varies meaningfully from one distributor to the next. Prices fluctuate constantly, typically on a weekly basis. What’s worse is delivery timeliness, or rather the lack thereof. These distributors each employs their own delivery staff and refrigerated trucks. There is a limited number of 6 am deliveries they can make for a given delivery fleet.

As a food business operator, you may be ordering quality ingredients at the right price, but if the delivery doesn’t show up on time, you’re outta luck. You won’t be able to prepare the food in time, all the while paying for staff who are sitting around waiting for ingredients to arrive.

As a result, you keep getting seemingly random offline pitches with promotions and price breaks from these distributors. But there’s no way to ensure timely delivery. Everybody makes verbal promises and it’s all based on who you know. Things may work for a week or two until you get “deprioritized” by one of the distributors and you have to start the process of finding the next one.

You intentionally rotate among the different distributors, just to keep them “on their toes.”

The opportunity for a food distribution platform

What’s missing is a platform that hosts a catalog of products from these distributors, with updatable availability, pricing and inventory. On it, food businesses could browse for products and place orders. Fulfillment can be done by the distributors at the beginning, but ultimately that operation may need to be done by the platform to maintain consistent quality of service. Reliable fulfillment may end up being the biggest differentiator for such a platform.

I’m aware of startups that have tried to become the dominant B2B platform for food service distribution. But it takes meaningful resources to get to critical mass, and these startups tend to flame out before reaching that point. It’s not necessarily their fault for not being effective.

This industry has low margins, is slow to adopt new technologies and has many incumbent players. But the opportunity to design and execute on this platform is significant, with clear ROI as a reward and a built-in moat once it reaches critical mass.

Food-prep businesses are hungry for a better solution. And as any food entrepreneur knows, hungry customers are the best kind.

Tyson Foods investment arm backs another lab-grown meat manufacturer

The venture investment arm of massive meat manufacturer Tyson Foods is continuing its push into potential alternative methods of poultry production with a new investment in the Israeli startup Future Meat Technologies.

The backer of companies like the plant-based protein-maker Beyond Meat, and cultured-meat company Memphis Meats, Tyson Ventures’ latest investment is also tackling technology development to create mass produced meat in a lab — instead of on the farm.

Future Meat Technologies is working to commercialize a manufacturing technology for fat and muscle cells that was first developed in the laboratories of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“It is difficult to imagine cultured meat becoming a reality with a current production price of about $10,000 per
kilogram,” said Yaakov Nahmias, the company’s founder and Chief Scientist, in a statement. “We redesigned the
manufacturing process until we brought it down to $800 per kilogram today, with a clear roadmap to $5-10 per kg by 2020.”

The deal marks Tyson’s first investment in an Israeli startup and gives the company another potential horse in the race to develop substitutes for the factory slaughterhouses that provide most of America’s meat.

“This is definitely in the Memphis Meats… in the lab-based meat world,” says Justin Whitmore, executive vice president of corporate strategy and chief sustainability officer of Tyson Foods.

Whitmore takes pains to emphasize that Tyson is continuing to invest in its traditional business lines, but acknowledges that the company believes “in exploring additional opportunities for growth that give consumers more choices,” according to a statement.

While startups like Impossible Foods are focused on developing plant-based alternatives to the proteins that give meat its flavor, Future Meat Technologies and Memphis Meats are trying to use animal cells themselves to grow meat, rather than basically harvesting it from dead animals.

Chef Uri Navon mixing ingredients with FMT’s cultured meat

According to Nahmias, animal fat produces the flavors and aromas that stimulate taste buds, and he says that his company can produce the fat without harvesting animals and without genetic modification.

For Whitmore, what separates Future Meat Technologies and Memphis Meats is the scale of the bioreactors that the companies are using to make their meat. Both companies — indeed all companies on the hunt for a meat replacement — are looking for a way around relying on fetal bovine serum, which is now a crucial component for any lab-cultured meats.

“I want my children to eat meat that is delicious, sustainable and safe,” said Nahmias, in a statement, “this is our commitment to future generations”.

The breadth of backgrounds among the investors that have come together to finance the $2.2 million seed round for Future Meat Technologies speak to the market opportunity that exists for getting a meat manufacturing replacement right.

“Global demand for protein and meat is growing at a rapid pace, with an estimated worldwide market of more than a trillion dollars, including explosive growth in China. We believe that making a healthy, non-GMO product that can meet this demand is an essential part of our mission,” said Rom Kshuk, the chief executive of Future Meat Technologies, in a statement.

One of the company’s first pilot products is a lab-grown chicken meat that chefs have already used in some recipes. 

FMT’s first cultured chicken kebab on grilled eggplant and tahini sauce

In addition to Tyson Ventures, investors in the Future Meat Technologies seed round included the Neto Group, an Israeli food conglomerate; Seed2Growth Ventures, a Chicago-based fund backed by Walmart wealth; BitsXBites, a Chinese food technology fund; and Agrinnovation, an Israeli investment fund founded by Yissum, the Technology Transfer Company of The Hebrew University,

“Hebrew University, home to Israel’s only Faculty of Agriculture, specializes in incubating applied research in such fields as animal free meat sources. Future Meat Technologies’ innovations are revolutionizing the sector and leading the way in creating sustainable alternative protein sources,” said Dr. Yaron Daniely, President and CEO of Yissum.

 

There’s something called Bacoin now

To paraphrase a saying popularized by countless dorm room stoners: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you use the hype around decentralized crypto economies to sell bacon.” The latest example of this age-old adage comes to us from Oscar Meyer and involves their exciting new cryp-faux-currency, Bacoin.

The currency can be redeemed for bacon and you “mine” it by sharing the good news of bacoin with your friends. Instead of taking up massive amounts of electricity, the production of the final store of value – pig parts – requires only a massive agricultural system dedicated to the wholesale destruction of mammals that are as smart as dogs and, in the right context, quite cute. The end product, bacon, is considered by many to be far more interesting than anything Vitalik created. In short, it’s a win-win.

How does it work? It’s basically a sweepstakes. From the rules and regulations:

The value of the Bacoin is tied to overall sharing meaning that the more people who share via the Website (as outlined above), the higher the value of the Bacoin. If overall sharing is slow, the value of the Bacoin will decrease. If sharing is slow and the value of the Bacoin is low, Sponsor may increase value of Bacoin in its sole discretion. The current value of the Bacoin will be displayed on the Website. Once the Bacoin is at a value you want, follow the instructions to “cash out” and you will receive a coupon with the corresponding value (all possible values of the Bacoin coupon are outlined in Section 4 below).

The current value of a single mined bacoin is about 28 slices of bacon and the more you share the more you mine. Given that it is in no way a decentralized cryptocurrency and has nothing to do with anything technical at all I’m hard pressed to find a reason to post this here except to admire the sheer chutzpah of a company who knows exactly what breed of Reddit-loving bacon eater will jump at a chance to Tweet about pork products. To paraphrase another saying by my friend Nicholas Deleon: I hope the asteroid they promised comes for us all soon.

Bacoin. Yeah.