The recent disruption of the meat supply chain has resulted in an increase in sales of plant-based meat options, which are traditionally offered as alternatives to animal-meat burgers (eg. Beyond Meat or Impossible Burger). However, a new contender in the plant-based food market is SIMULATE, a rebrand of the single-product line NUGGS, the plant-based chicken nugget. SIMULATE develops consumer foods based on plant-based nutrition combined with technology, operating as a software lab that iterates using an agile customer feedback loop. already over 1M lbs of nuggets have been sold through the company’s online distribution and soon NUGGS will expand into retail stores at approximately 30 Gelson supermarkets in California. In the pipeline for SIMULATE is DOGGS, a plant-based alternative to hotdogs, that will launch in Q4 of this year and plans for TENDERS are in the works.
AlleyWatch caught up with CEO and Founder Ben Pasternak to learn more about SIMULATE is repairing a broken food system, the company’s team expansion, and recent round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We’ve raised $11M for our Series A in total, with $4.1M in new investment coming from Lerer Hippeau (via BN), AgFunder, Alexis Ohanian (cofounder of Reddit), Walter Robb (former CEO of Whole Foods), and Jasmine Tookes (the model and Victoria’s Secret Angel.) Earlier investors include McCain Foods, Rainfall Ventures, Neil Parikh (cofounder of Casper), and Bob Pittman (cofounder of MTV).
Tell us about the product or service that SIMULATE offers.
SIMULATE’s first product, NUGGS, is a chicken nugget simulation made from plant inputs. Since NUGGS launched in the Summer of 2019, NUGGS has evolved into the fastest-growing chicken nugget on the planet. We’re now on version 2.0, our ninth iteration since launch. SIMULATE is currently developing new nutrition technologies, some that will launch later in the year.
What inspired the start of SIMULATE?
SIMULATE was founded on the belief that the current food system is highly inefficient, both from an environmental and nutritional perspective, and that good technology can fix it.
How is SIMULATE different?
We operate like a software company. Leveraging a real-time customer feedback loop and an R&D lab in-house, we are able to rapidly iterate on our products in order to accelerate the development of technologies that can simulate meat using plant inputs which are indistinguishable from animal-based meat.
What market does SIMULATE target and how big is it?
Humans who eat. Nearly 8 billion people. By 2050 food production will need to scale 70% to keep up with global hunger demand. That’s not going to happen unless we lean in heavily to technological optimization of our nutrition systems.
What’s your business model?
Our DTC model allows us to collect customer feedback in real-time and rapidly iterate on our product. Retail, which has a slower cycle time, will allow us to increase brand awareness and provide a cash funnel for developing new technologies to test and optimize through our DTC channel.
How has COVID-19 impacted the business?
COVID-19 has crippled the meat industry as you can read from any one of thousands of headlines. Consumers are more conscious, more skeptical, staying home, and shopping online, all of which has fueled growth for SIMULATE.
What was the funding process like?
Easy, actually. The round was oversubscribed, we can really feel the excitement building.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Honestly, not having enough allocation for everyone interested. Thankfully, a good problem to have.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Our investors have high conviction in our vision.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
Launch into retail. Launch new products.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Build a product that people love, and everything else works itself out.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We plan to SIMULATE other processed “meat” products in the very near future – think DOGGS, TENDERS, all the classics. But that’s just the beginning.
What’s your favorite outdoor dining restaurant in NYC
We’ll hold off on our answer until SIMULATE products are available in Food Service – stay tuned.
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