In a world where humanity acknowledged that its addiction to meat was the single largest human contribution to global climate change, we would want alternatives and they would taste good. It turns out that somebody is thinking ahead, and that guy’s name is George Vou, founder and CEO of Mighty Meat. We had a chat with George when he came on our radar as one of the participants in this year’s ClimateLaunchpad Global Grand Final.
Mighty Meat isn’t your average meat substitute. The company is just over 7 months old and was born out of an opportunity George identified with plant-based proteins. As a serial entrepreneur and a conscious consumer, George knew that he, “wanted to do something in the space but I didn’t know where to start.” Because he knew he wanted to work in the space, he first started looking for the right team.
“I spent 2-3 months trying to find a good co-founder for it,” before he found the right partner to take the leap with. George needed someone that would complement his skills along with a food science background. “I believe massively in team, there’s no one-man show,” George shared with us.
Once he had the start of his team, the next step was to narrow down the type of plant-based protein they would be creating. After talking over the idea with his family and friends, Gyros continued to surface as an experience that he and some of his non meat-eating friends and family friends missed. It was difficult texture and flavor to come up with a replacement for, but it was as good a place to start as any, so they got to work.
Curiously, George initially thought that the product should have a texture exactly like meat, but after testing out several recipes on the unsuspecting public, he found that they actually liked the texture of their original formula. “It’s got great bite and mouthfeel to it,” George shared.
Building on that stable base, they started developing flavors that reminded them of some of their favorite foods, and gyros made the short list. “The gyro flavor is based on that, but it’s not trying to replace the gyro completely,” George said. It’s almost as if plant-based proteins like Mighty Meats aren’t trying to replace meat, but instead, working to create a new category of foods that will open up its own set of new possibilities. George is definitely on that track, noting that, “we’re not trying to replicate meat exactly…we’re trying to make it better.”
Digging into the ingredients for Mighty Meat’s products will reveal that the core ingredients are a few types of legumes and mushrooms. From a protein standpoint, it is comparable with chicken and ranks positively on every single nutritional marker against any meat. George also shared how the product has a complete amino acid profile and contains no artificial preservatives.
The current thinking for the product is that it will live in the fresh refrigerated section of supermarkets with a shelf life of 3 months.
Initially, Mighty Meat products will be available in the UK in physical stores/supermarkets with online marketplace distribution coming online down the road. “The goal is to be wherever is easy for our consumers to find us,” George shared. This is in line with a broader vision they have for their products.
What’s exciting about Mighty Meat is that the company isn’t just cooking up a replacement for meats for all the vegetarians out there craving some veggie bacon or a faux-meat steak. It’s quite the opposite, actually. “The goal is mainstream,” George shared. They are creating products that will taste great on their own and that they hope will find a place in the diets of meat eaters and vegetarians alike.
This is great for vegetarians that are in relationships with non-vegetarians, like me. Having a high protein alternative at the heart of the meal makes it easier to make meals that meat the needs of both sides of the table without having to compromise on flavor. “We see a lot of willingness from the partner to go along with them for some meals, especially when they’re eating in,” George shared.
Heading into any new challenge or accelerator program is a new adventure, and taking the leap and jumping into ClimateLaunchpad’s (CLP) program was no exception. “The guys over here who run ClimateLaunchpad in Cyprus and Greece have some really good trainers,” he shared. That has made a huge difference in his ability to bring the company from zero to being just a few months out from launching its first products in less than a year.
Having built many pitch decks for past companies, George was surprised that CLP had a different standard structure for the pitch deck, but rolled with it. “Because of the way they had their structure, it made me almost have to reevaluate each step,” in the pitch deck, George shared.
Through the process, he came to a new understanding of his potential customers and has made adjustments in the company as a result.
In addition to his resources at ClimateLaunchpad, George’s early networking when considering starting a plant-based food product company paid off with a few key resources that have stuck with him through the process. Their valuable insights and monthly doses of wisdom have helped him avoid some of the pitfalls that inevitably befall entrepreneurs moving into a new category, as George is with his first food industry startup.
Finding people who have already been in the trenches or through a similar journey can cut down on the learning curve and that can make or break a young company in the early months and years.
Looking ahead, the team has already secured access to a much more capable kitchen space, thanks to support from the Pro-veg Incubator in Berlin. They are looking to use that space to put the finishing touches on their product over the next few months, with a focus on fine tuning the product.
“I’m a big believer in focus and right now our focus is to get the product right and getting out onto shelves,” George said. It is all too easy to get excited about the numerous ideas flowing out from his entrepreneurial side, but he’s been down startup road before and knows that nothing beats a good product. It all starts and ends there.
Looking a few steps down the road, after a successful product launch next year, George shared that, “we are seriously thinking about franchisable stores,” down the line, that could offer vegan takeaway food and fresh Mighty Meat. He realizes that if Mighy Meat is to go mainstream and truly disrupt the food system, they are going to have to deliver the product at scale, in formats that are meaningful and easy for consumers to blend into their lifestyles.
George and the team at Mighty Meat are working hard to bring their products to market in early 2019, with the ClimateLaunchpad Global Grand Final next month in Edinburgh, Scotland. You can keep an eye on what the Mighty Meat team is up to by heading over to their website or just stay tuned here as we plan to meet up with them next month. In related news, these photos look so good that I’m going to have to go find some food to eat now and I know it’s not going to be as good as what’s shown in these pictures.