Israeli food tech startup Meat. The End (MTE) on Thursday announced the debut of what it calls the world’s first texturized plant-based burger made solely of chickpea protein, which it says mimics the taste, smell and bite of the real thing.
Founded in 2020, MTE develops protein ingredients for the meat alternative market with a focus on improving the texture. The launch of the burger made from texturized chickpea protein comes after the startup last year inked a deal to develop plant-based Whoppers for Burger King Israel based on texturized soy protein.
MTE uses 100% chickpea protein concentrate in powder or granular form, which is undergoing an advanced extrusion process to transform the texture of plants into the texture of meat. The startup’s chickpea protein products are readied for commercial use in 2023.
“Climate change and its impact on agriculture and crops, the ongoing rise in beef prices, and most recently other crises such as the war in Ukraine put enormous pressure on the global food supply chain and the need to rethink and seek diverse protein sources,” MTE founder and CEO Dr. Yishai Mishor told The Times of Israel. “As result of our unique scientific and technological work, we present a texturized chickpea protein burger which once in your mouth mimics the texture, firmness and juiciness of a ‘real’ meat burger, without any competition as far as we know.”
Mishor noted that over the past 10 years, the plant-based meat alternative industry has been mainly focusing on soy protein and more recently on pea protein as sources. Chickpea is a rich source of protein, is non-GMO, and is allergenic free.
“What we are introducing is a new source of protein ingredient, texturized chickpea protein, which was not known in the meat alternative industry,” Mishor said.
As the alternative protein market has been growing rapidly, a number of food tech companies in Israel and elsewhere, have been focusing on the production of chickpea protein concentrate or powder. Israeli startup ChickP has developed chickpea isolate – a powder that has a 90% protein content, and can be used in a wide range of vegan products like puddings, ice cream and vegan mayonnaise to improve their protein content.
InnovoPro is another Israeli food tech startup which has developed a 70% chickpea protein concentrate using a proprietary extraction process, while chickpeas naturally contain some 20% protein.
“We use advanced extrusion technology to turn 100% chickpea protein flake into alternative meat that has the structure, bite and juice that you would expect from meat to be released,” Mishor said.
While other alternative food tech companies such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat invest in the taste factor, MTE believes that texture is key to the “satisfaction” of consumers craving to eat something closer to meat.
MTE uses existing extrusion technology, the process of making a shaped object like a burger patty, and infuses it with proprietary steps deploying artificial intelligence and data-driven machine learning technology throughout the production line to produce a texturized protein ingredient or textured vegetable protein, the buildings blocks of plant-based burgers.
Extrusion, a common technology used in the commercial production of cereals, puffed snacks, bars, and pastas, requires fewer resources such as energy and water, and therefore has a lower cost compared to other production processes, according to MTE.
To date, the startup has nabbed about $4 million from seed investors, and is hoping to raise $10 million from series A round funding in the coming weeks as it expects to score commercial deals in Europe and Asia.
In December, MTE announced a €1.5 million ($1.6 million) deal with a European machinery company to enhance R&D operations and ramp up the production capacity of plant-based meat alternatives.
“In the summer months, we expect to establish the only extrusion pilot plant in Israel at an investment of over €3 millon to develop an industrial line of texturized protein ingredients using extrusion-based technology,” said Mishor. “We hope we can turn Israel into a capital not just for the development of protein ingredients but also for their production.”
In 2022, Israel ranked second after the US in alternative protein investments, with local startups in the field raising some $454 million in capital, according to an annual report by the Good Food Institute Israel, a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote research and innovation in food tech. In the plant-based alternative proteins sector, Israeli startups attracted $200 million in capital or 16% of investments globally.