Berkeley, California-based Umaro Foods has raised $3 million in a seed round led by AgFunder. Other investors include Alexandria, Alexis Ohanian, Ponderosa Ventures. The company, led by co-founders Beth Zotter and Amanda Stiles, makes plant-based meat alternatives using red seaweed — with a superior taste, texture and nutritional profile. Their first product is a seaweed-based alternative bacon.
AgFunder chose to back Umaro because they felt their bacon product was “…a delicious and exceptional product. The best plant-based bacon we’ve tried.” Other factors attracting their investment included their clean label, which makes it more appealing to a large customer base that is attracted to plant-based products but put off by the heavy processing and long ingredient lists. AgFunder also liked that they are a “scrappy team” that has built a strong potential moat around seaweed production and use in plant-based meat alternatives.
Umaro Foods was cofounded in 2019 in Berkeley, California by CEO, Beth Zotter, and CTO, Dr. Amanda Stiles. “Bacon is the holy grail of plant-based food, and our innovative formula is a game changer in the category,” said Ms. Zotter.
Under the company’s previous name, Trophic, Ms. Zotter and Dr. Stiles won $6 million in science and technology research awards, including from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the Good Food Institute, and the Activate Fellowship.
The company’s bacon benefits from two proprietary innovations. The first is the company’s own protein, UMARO™, which it extracts from ocean-farmed red seaweeds and that serves as a functional replacement for heme, the red protein molecule that makes plant-based meat “bleed.” The second is the use of seaweed-based ingredients to encapsulate plant-based oils into a fat that crisps and crunches just like animal fat.
Bacon is one of the most sought-after and enjoyed foods in America, in large part due to its crispy, salty and smoky umami flavor. Umaro considers it the ideal food to showcase the potential of seaweed protein in the future of plant-based meat.
“Seaweed offers the most sustainable, lowest-impact way to source protein, and the ocean is our biggest protein bioreactor. It requires no land, no freshwater, and no synthetic fertilizers. In the future, seaweed will supply the majority of our protein needs,” said Ms. Zotter.
“Consumers can get excited about eating something that tastes, smells, and performs just like bacon, and we have the first plant-based product with the ability to take market share from animal bacon,” she said.
Umaro Foods will launch its plant-based bacon in select restaurants in mid 2022.
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