Eshchar Ben-Shitrit | Redefine Meat
Foodtech CEO talks geographical expansion and meeting investor demands as Redefine Meat transitions into a global food business
Since closing its significant $29 million Series A round in February, Israel-based foodtech firm Redefine Meat is preparing to launch its plant-based meat product portfolio into the foodservice industry in the coming weeks.
Redefine Meat CEO Eshchar Ben-Shitrit sits down with NutritionInvestor to outline the company’s plans for expansion beyond Israel and how it has met investor demands as it transitions out of a start-up into a global food business.
What have you been working on at Redefine Meat since closing your Series A?
This is the best possible time to be doing what we’re doing in the alternative meat industry and we think it’s only going to get better. The key, we believe, is to really have an experience that is without compromise. And to crack that you need technology that creates a differentiated product. It’s very easy to talk about the technology and the IP and the potential of the product.
What we’ve been doing over the past six months is iterating more and more and increasing the amount of meat alternatives that we make across a range of different products and constantly challenging ourselves with consumers via chefs or directly through the consumer.
We have served thousands of tasting opportunities and we didn’t position our products as an alternative to meat or plant-based meat. We just offered people a chance to taste our products in the context of meat to see what the reaction was and we came to the conclusion that we should launch our products as soon as possible.
We’re now preparing to launch the products in Israel but we intend to take our products to Europe this year and to Asia and the US next year. So, the company is now in a new phase although we’re still developing the products and we always will to improve the texture, the flavour and the appearance of our meat products.
We are also working on improving the cooking behaviour, for example optimising our products for cooking on an open grill and we have 45 employees in R&D working on these areas.
Part of the work, besides quality testing, is also on cost structure and scaling these processes. On top of that, we will now add a marketing team and an operations team to sell our products.
At the end of January, we closed our Series A round so we are also well funded and we have the ability to make our dreams come true. Securing funding is not the challenge of this industry, this industry has a lot of investment at the moment.
Our main focus now is going to market, which is very different to what we’ve been doing until now. When you have a technology company and you switch to a food company you learn so much about what it really means to feed consumers. It’s not the same as writing a patent and building the technology.
How did your Series A round go and how did you find the process of securing investment?
There is a saying that is very overused in the Israeli start-up ecosystem which is ‘we weren’t raising for money, an investor reached out to us and we clicked’. But actually, in this space you want to find the right investors. What we’re doing is very complicated and for us, most of the investors that we meet are not relevant.
We happened to meet a very established investment vehicle called Happiness Capital. They have a background in the food and have already invested in a few alternative meat companies. Meeting them is what basically brought the round together.
Now we have a very supportive executive board with a mix of investors that believe in this space both financially and to make an impact.
When do you think you will carry out another fundraising round?
We’re well funded now, as I said. We have grown to almost 90 employees and we’re now setting up manufacturing and branding. We will probably raise more funds later this year to support our growth. Our upcoming launch is already covered by our Series A, but the international growth and the move to manufacturing and branding in Europe and in other continents takes us already to the level of big food companies.
How challenging is it to meet investor demands as you grow from a start-up to a more established foodtech company?
One thing that I think differentiates us is that we give investors a product to eat. Then they have an emotional connection to us and the product because they’ve tasted it. Then our company is not just a spreadsheet or a team with a vision.
Time to market is important in our industry. You learn much more from being in the market and I think what investors are looking for now is products that can have market presence in a reasonable timeframe.
How have your recruitment efforts been going?
Our goal was to work with really high-end, high-quality meat restaurants as they have such a strong philosophy on food and taste and texture. And we reached the point that we know how to make our products at scale and the price level is okay. But really the taste and texture combination is very challenging and we still work on that even now that we have products in the market.
It’s very difficult to scale, and to become a bigger food company you need to start working on things like packaging, labelling, regulation, safety, cleaning and all of the other less interesting things that start-ups usually don’t do.
We have hired more people from established food companies and we work much more with the regulatory agencies in Israel. The growth from 40 people to 80 people was mostly people helping us to become a food company.
What does the go-to-market roadmap look like in the next few months?
The most important thing is we’re launching our range products to the foodservice market in Israel in the coming month. And from that we’re only going to increase the pace. We don’t have huge capacity yet, we are increasing the production capacity b if we launched via retail in Israel, we wouldn’t have enough product to meet the demand.
Reaching consumers via foodservice is a better way to get feedback because our products are being prepared in the best way possible. Plus, it’s easier to go from foodservice to retail than retail to foodservice.
We have some plans that we cannot share yet on how we’re going to conduct our global expansion and how we can accelerate our growth, but today we are mostly focused on the quality of our products. Our growth in 2022 to 2025 will be more global and very fast and we are even looking at going into Latin America after Europe and the US.