Reddit Cofounder Alexis Ohanian Leads $50 Million Series B Funding In Plant-Based Meat Startup SIMULATE
Reddit’s cofounder Alexis Ohanian has led the $50 million series B funding in SIMULATE, the nutrition technology startup behind plant-based chicken nuggets brand NUGGS, through his venture capital firm Seven Seven Six, and joined the company’s board of directors as part of the round.
This funding also includes additional participations from Chris and Crystal Sacca, NOMO Ventures, McCain Foods that helps NUGGS produce and distribute in Canada, Imaginary Ventures, and Day One Ventures.
NUGGS was initially launched by serial tech entrepreneur and Forbes 30 Under 30 alum Ben Pasternak in the summer of 2019, and has quickly become of the one of the fastest-growing vegan chicken nugget brands on the market to reach more than 5,000 U.S. retail locations, including Walmart WMT, Target TGT, Whole Foods WFM, and Sam’s Club.
The company is also backed by Hollywood actor and model Patrick Schwarzenegger, who believes it will continue to challenge the status quo and deliver delicious alternatives in the ever-growing plant-based category.
“Ben has built an exceptional unique brand, and I look forward to continuing to help him grow,” Schwarzenegger recently told me.
SIMULATE utilizes a finely-engineered nugget technology and an advanced soy protein to produce a cholesterol-free product that contains 25% more protein and 40% less fat than traditional chicken nuggets.
The Intersection Of Nutrition And Technology
Pasternak expects the newly raised capital to help SIMULATE accelerate its development of new products and technologies, triple its internal team, boost manufacturing capabilities, as well as expand the company’s footprint to foodservice, especially fast food chains, such as McDonald’s MCD, where nuggets are mostly served.
“The largest use of the fund is to really ensure that we consistently deliver the best products, and hire the best food scientists — continuing to iterate the product is our core intent,” he recently said.
Pasternak added how Ohanian was also an angel investor of SIMULATE when it first launched, and how Seven Seven Six shares similar vision with his business, which is finding opportunities at the intersection of nutrition and technologies.
“We’re pumped to work with them on a much larger capacity, since [Ohanian] helped bring Reddit to become one of the biggest websites on the internet,” he said. “They are going to be really valuable for us in terms of getting a lot of business deals.”
‘So Much Room To Run’ For Plant-Based Meat
In an exclusive interview recently, Ohanian told me how SIMULATE’s storytelling and marketing strategies are second to none compared to some of the larger meat alternative players, and Seven Seven Six has built an operating system for the company to scale further.
“No one is running into a Whole Foods store normally, and getting to the frozen sector to take a selfie, but with NUGGS, they are,” Ohanian said, stressing how quality remains the most formidable factor for CPG brands in the digital era.
He also argued that traditional celebrity endorsements don’t necessarily move the needle for a brand since consumers nowadays have infinite choices online, and that’s why building brand loyalty through social media is pivotal.
Ohanian, who has also invested in Impossible Foods and Eclipse Foods previously, believes plant-based meat has “so much room to run” in the coming years, alongside the overall meat alternatives category.
“Cultured meat is also going to be part of [that growth],” Ohanian said. “At the end of the day, we want a more sustainable food system.”
This article was written by Douglas Yu for Forbes.