(Bloomberg) -- Simulate, a startup that makes faux-chicken nuggets with ambitions to expand into other meat alternatives, raised $50 million in a funding round led by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s venture firm Seven Seven Six.
Other investors include Chris Sacca and Crystal Sacca, Nomo Ventures, McCain Foods, Imaginary Ventures and Day One Ventures, Simulate Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Ben Pasternak said in an interview. The round values Simulate at more than $250 million, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
The fresh funding will be used to accelerate new product development; triple the company’s employee base with the addition of scientists and engineers; scale manufacturing and increase its retail and food-service presence. The New York-based company also plans to expand internationally, first in Canada.
“The use of animals is one of the largest inefficiencies in the food system and not sustainable for the planet, an idea that’s now part of collective consciousness,” said Pasternak, 21.
The Australian-born entrepreneur has a software background and sold his first company, a video-chat based app called Monkey, at 17. He then became interested in sustainable nutrition.
Simulate, known for tag lines such as “Tesla of Chicken” and “Kill You Slower,” uses plant-based foods to make Nuggs and Discs, its chicken nugget and patty alternative. It has ambitions to simulate other animal products and into other types of foods, flavors and textures, and developing a beef alternative is a priority, Pasternak said.
Founded in 2018 and launched in 2019, Simulate expanded beyond direct-to-consumer sales and is now stocked by retailers including Walmart, Target, Whole Foods and Sam’s Club.
Amid changing consumer habits, the faux-meat industry has burgeoned in recent years, led by the likes of Beyond Meat Inc. and Impossible Foods. As a result, companies including Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., Marfrig Global Foods SA, Tyson Foods Inc. and JBS SA have stepped up their bets on alternative proteins.
“Most young Americans’ first taste of meat is a chicken nugget or tender and we thought Nuggs would be a good entry point as we believe all cultural change starts with younger people,” said Pasternak. Nuggs’ largest customer base comprises of so-called “Gen Z” kids and young millennial families.
“The transition to sustainable nutrition is not just a technological shift but also a cultural shift,” said Ohanian, who has joined Simulate’s board.
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