7 Thrilling Startups Proving Chicago is the Subsequent Main Hub of Alt Protein


Whereas California is commonly thought of the middle of the alt protein universe, the place many prime firms are headquartered and numerous startups emerge, new hubs of daring meals innovation are taking maintain in numerous cities and areas throughout America. Vegconomist will highlight these rising facilities of animal-free meals tech, starting with the third most populous US metropolis, Chicago.

Positioned in America’s Midwest, Chicago is famously often called the historic heart of the nation’s meatpacking business. It’s extremely becoming, subsequently, that a number of alt-protein manufacturers and startups have chosen Chicago as their dwelling, as they endeavor to reinvent the animal protein that lengthy outlined the town with new substances and twenty first century expertise. Listed here are a number of the most fun names altering the world from the Windy Metropolis: 

1. Aqua Cultured Meals

The feminine-founded Aqua Cultured Meals is pioneering whole-cut seafood options utilizing novel fungi fermentation expertise. Its merchandise, which embody sushi-grade shrimp, calamari, scallops, tuna, and whitefish, are stated to be unprocessed and don’t require using isolates or starches. The corporate not too long ago raised $5.5M in seed funding and broke floor on a new facility in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, the place it’s going to start scaling manufacturing. 

“This transfer is the ultimate step on the street to commercialization of our alt-seafood, and it’s what we and our supporters have been ready for,” stated Anne Palermo, CEO of Aqua Cultured Meals. “Because the new location already meets all the important thing rules for meals manufacturing, we are able to scale manufacturing shortly, and product introductions with our go-to-market companions will observe.”

Aqua Cultured Foods closed a $5.5 million seed Round to launch its seafood alternatives
© Aqua Cultured Meals

2. Intelligent Carnivore 

Cultivated meat startup Intelligent Carnivore first introduced itself in September 2022, when the corporate raised $2.1M in pre-seed funding to open new headquarters and a lab in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. The firm stated it might use the funds to supply high-quality cultivated beef, pork and rooster, with the primary prototype anticipated by the tip of 2023. Finally, the startup goals to beat standard meat in value. 

“Now we have what quantities to at this level a $10 burger, and as we proceed to scale, we’ll deliver that price down significantly,” stated CEO Virginia Rangos, Ph.D. “We’re hoping to ultimately get — and we expect that is fairly a sensible — to a $1 burger, primarily.”

Clever Carnivore
©Intelligent Carnivore

3. Nature’s Fynd

Based in 2012, Nature’s Fynd makes use of Fy – a protein originating from microbes residing in geothermal springs – to create extra sustainable meat and dairy. In 2021, the corporate achieved Unicorn standing after it raised an enormous $350M in Sequence C funding, bringing its complete funding to $500M. Shortly after, it introduced development on a 200,000 sq ft manufacturing facility on Chicago’s South Aspect, a transfer applauded by the mayor and metropolis officers. Nature Fynd’s cream cheese and sausage patties launched into Entire Meals in 2022. 

“We all know shoppers right this moment anticipate nice tasting meat and dairy options with out compromising on well being or sustainability,” stated Thomas Jonas, CEO of Nature’s Fynd. “And Fy – our pure, full vegan protein delivers on all fronts: superb style and texture whereas being more healthy for folks and gentler on the planet than conventional proteins.”

Nature's Fynd Sausage + Cream Cheese
©Nature’s Fynd


In 2022, Subsequent Gen Meals, the maker of in style plant-based rooster model TiNDLE, named Chicago as the brand new website for its US headquarters, and selected The Hatchery Chicago as its first US-based R&D and innovation heart. Subsequent Gen has raised $130M in funding, together with $100M in Sequence A from traders corresponding to Sir Paul McCartney.

“We’re assured that TiNDLE is the one plant-based rooster that’s versatile sufficient for use throughout a large number of cuisines and dishes,” stated Andre Menezes, CEO and co-founder of Subsequent Gen Meals. “Moreover, TiNDLE is comprised of solely 9 easy non-GMO, non-novel substances – made solely from vegetation and has no ‘nasties’ that sometimes include rooster from birds like ldl cholesterol or hormones. We’re assured of with the ability to stand out from the present manufacturers within the US.”

TiNDLE Next Gen Foods
TiNDLE © Subsequent Gen Meals

5. Inexperienced Boy Group

Plant-based protein provider Inexperienced Boy Group not too long ago opened a brand new Chicago workplace led by meals business veteran Thomas Smit. Inexperienced Boy focuses on useful plant proteins corresponding to Plant Dairy Protein™, which it says can be utilized to create non-dairy cheese, yogurt, ice cream, butter, mayonnaise, and even eggs. It additionally sells a retail line of protein powders comprised of mung bean, chickpea, yellow pea and fava beans. 

 “We couldn’t have hoped for a greater technique to begin the brand new yr than being lastly capable of announce the opening of our Chicago workplace,” stated Peter van Dijken, Co-Founding father of Inexperienced Boy. “Particularly since Chicago is a metropolis so expensive to our hearts and a serious pure meals hub within the US. Since a variety of our prospects are situated within the Midwest it was a logical subsequent step. Now we’ll be capable of even higher serve their wants.”

Green Boy New Managing Director
© Inexperienced Boy Group

6. Cheeze & Thank You

As a plant-based cheesemaker, Cheeze & Thank You produces a variety of “artisanal, funky, and fascinating” non-dairy cheeses and spreads – together with sauces, dips, blocks and wheels – comprised of a wide range of bases, corresponding to soy, nuts, or seeds. Based by Megan Schmitt, who initially offered the cheeses as a part of a Chicago vegan cooperative, the merchandise at the moment are accessible in Entire Meals shops throughout the town. 

“I’d love Cheeze and Thank You to be accessible in any respect main grocery shops in addition to independently owned retailers,” Schmitt advised VegNews. “I simply want to determine logistics from a distribution aspect.”

Cheeze & Thank You hard cheese
©Cheeze & Thank You

7. Upton’s Naturals

Based in 2006, Upton’s has lengthy been a fixture in Chicago’s pure meals scene. In March, the corporate revealed its seitan ranked because the nation’s top-selling seitan throughout all channels, and reported 600% gross sales development from 2013 to 2022.

Final summer season, Upton’s partnered with The Buona Corporations, maker of iconic sliced beef sandwiches, to launch vegan Italian Beef at Buona eating places. The brand new sandwich debuted to “overwhelming demand” and offered out inside 24 hours, main Buona to make it a everlasting menu merchandise and launching a vegan retail sandwich at Midwest Entire Meals shops.

Candice Jordan, Buona’s director of promoting, shared, “Our plan was to see if folks liked the Plant-Primarily based Italian ‘Beef’ as a lot as we did – and the excellent news is that they liked it much more than we may have imagined.”

Buona Vegan Beef Sandwiches
©The Buona Corporations

Upton’s Founder Daniel Staackmann states: “After we began this firm, the choices for handy meat options had been slim to none. Now, when the other is true, we’re discovering that merchandise like ours, comprised of actual, easy substances, are nonetheless a favourite amongst shoppers.”

Sweets and extra

Along with startups and producers, Chicago can also be dwelling to a 6,000 sq ft all-vegan grocery retailer, XMarket Uptown, in addition to Chicago Vegan Meals, creators of the globally in style Dandies vegan marshmallows.

“We began this firm to make plant-based meals that everybody may take pleasure in whereas utilizing it as a springboard to teach,” shared Dan Ziegler, Chicago Vegan Meals Co-Founder. “We by no means thought our mission would take us this far. It’s humbling to listen to from prospects about how we’ve modified their lives with one thing so simple as a marshmallow or ice cream, giving them a possibility to re-experience household reminiscences and to make new ones, with a friendlier improve.”

Chicago Vegan Foods dandies marshmallows
© Chicago Vegan Meals



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