Eat Just Inc., a closely held maker of cultivated chicken and plant-based eggs, secured new funding to help the company out of a tight financial situation.
(Bloomberg) — Eat Just Inc., a closely held maker of cultivated chicken and plant-based eggs, secured new funding to help the company out of a tight financial situation.
Ahimsa Foundation, a nonprofit, provided $16 million in new capital to help Eat Just grow and become sustainable, said Satish Karandikar, a principal at Ahimsa and VegInvest Trust. Both organizations have been significant investors in Eat Just and share the company’s goal of working toward a more humane food system, he said.
“They needed this short-term boost to realize those opportunities,” Karandikar said in an interview. The Just Egg “product is very good,” he said, “just need to work on cost and logistics to make it profitable.”
Neither side of Eat Just’s business makes money. The company has been unable to pay bills from some of its business partners, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing the company’s internal business. In February, Eat Just laid off about 18% of employees.
“We are grateful to have long-term strategic and financial support from major investors around the world,” Chief Executive Officer Josh Tetrick told Bloomberg. “This work is not easy and not certain, but it’s what is required.”
Eat Just’s financial struggles underscore how difficult it is to make money in the alternative-protein business. Its plant-based “egg” products — made from mung beans and designed to look, taste and scramble like chicken eggs — are available in the US and abroad in supermarkets and restaurants, and sales are growing. Good Meat, the company’s cultivated meat subsidiary, won US approval for commercial sale of its chicken product in June and has a dish on the menu at celebrity chef José Andrés’ China Chilcano restaurant in Washington. It’s one of only two companies to have secured the necessary clearances to sell its product in the US.
The Alameda, California-based company had previously raised about a billion dollars in funding, according to PitchBook. That included a $170 million round in May 2021 with money from UBS O’Connor, a hedge fund manager within UBS Asset Management, Graphene Ventures, K3 Ventures and others.
Eat Just began with vegan egg products and then expanded into cultivated meat, which has been even more expensive than the company initially anticipated, Tetrick said in an interview. He hopes to bring those costs down to compete with commodity meat prices, but that will take time and scale.
Companies and their supporters say the US government should help fund efforts to reduce reliance on animal agriculture, a major source of greenhouse gases, but critics say the environmental benefits of cultivated meat are unproven.
Eat Just is also facing a lawsuit from a major cultured meat partner. ABEC, a Pennsylvania-based company that built bioreactors for Good Meat plants in California and Singapore, is seeking more than $100 million for unpaid work and associated costs, according to an amended complaint filed earlier this month.
Tetrick declined to comment on active litigation.
–With assistance from Gillian Tan.
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