Seattle-based food tech firm Rebellyous Foods has secured $9.5 million in fresh funding, earmarked for the deployment of its latest plant-based meat production machinery. Established in 2017 by former Boeing engineer Christie Lagally, Rebellyous specializes in crafting a diverse range of plant-based chicken alternatives, including nuggets, patties, and tenders.
Lagally revealed to GeekWire that the company has been refining its “Mock 2” plant-based meat production apparatus, which is capable of creating the essential dough for its products. This innovation empowers Rebellyous to achieve commercial-scale food production while departing from the use of outdated meat processing equipment, which is ill-suited for plant-based meat production.
Lagally noted that Rebellyous witnessed “remarkable” growth in 2022, particularly among its primary clientele – schools participating in the National School Lunch Program. By year’s end, the company was serving 108 prominent school districts across the United States, with a continual expansion in progress.
“School lunch has proven to be an ideal fit for us due to our commitment to price competitiveness and profitability,” Lagally emphasized. “Quality is paramount when it comes to kids – there’s no room for compromise.”
Rebellyous is a competitor in the alternative meat industry, vying with other industry leaders by offering its products in grocery stores. Although retail constitutes a small portion of Rebellyous’ business, the company managed to penetrate 1,100 stores across the nation by the end of 2022.
The sales of plant-based meat declined in the previous year, partially due to inflation and consumer reluctance to pay a premium for meat alternatives, as reported by Bloomberg in September. Leading companies in the industry, including Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, have also downsized their staff. Furthermore, there are growing concerns about the health benefits of plant-based meat, as highlighted in a recent Bloomberg feature story titled “Fake Meat Was Supposed to Save the World. It Became Just Another Fad.”
In 2021, Impossible Foods introduced its own chicken nuggets and expanded their sales to Canada last year. Rebellyous, having raised approximately $30 million in funding so far, currently employs around 20 individuals and has a few job openings. The company does not have any plans to reduce its workforce.
According to Lagally, “Everyone is crucial to the Mock 2 deployment. We may be small in size, but we are formidable.”
Reflecting on her experience with her former employer and the final 747 jumbo jet rollout, Lagally and her team often ponder that crafting a plant-based chicken nugget to perfection can be more challenging than getting an airplane off the ground.
Lagally stated, “Material processing for non-biological materials is often highly predictable. You can calculate how steel expands and how aluminum behaves, but plant-based meat and raw materials don’t always conform to expectations.”