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Hormel Foods partnering with CA startup on plant-based protein

The startup makes meat-like protein products out of a fungi fermentation process.

AUSTIN, Minn. — The home of SPAM, as we all know, is right here in Austin, Minnesota.

But what if we told you the company behind Sizzle. Pork. And Mmm. is looking to bring out new products that don't involve pork at all?

"Food culture is changing at a rapid pace and people are showing an increasing curiosity to trying great tasting alternatives to protein," Bryan Kreske said. Kreske is the manager of cultivated foods at Hormel Foods.

Hormel said on Wednesday, it is diving into plant-based protein. It is partnering with a California based start up called Better Meat Co. to come up with something that looks like meat, tastes like meat, but isn't.

"We're excited about all the options," Kreske said. "I know we've got our R&D thinking of a lot of great ideas, of how we can use this new technology to develop the next generation of these alternative protein products and plant based products."

Paul Schapiro, the CEO of Better Meat Co. said his company's portfolio is quite large.

"With the Better Meat Co's Rhiza Mycoprotein, we can make animal-free steaks, burgers, crab cakes, chicken nuggets, and more," Schapiro said. 

And if you're wondering what Rhiza Mycoprotein is...

"What we do is take essentially little tiny microscopic fungi and we feed them potatoes, and within hours, that fermentation process creates a product that really has the natural texture of animal based meat," Schapiro explained.

So the big meaty question is why? Meat isn't broken. However, Schapiro said the process of getting it, is.

"Humanity's footprint on the planet is getting bigger but the planet itself isn't getting any bigger," Schapiro said. "Primarily reducing that footprint is reducing our food print especially in the amount of meat that we eat. What we at the Better Meat Co. are trying to do, is allow humanity to satiate its meat tooth so to speak, but without relying so much on the need to raise animals for food."

In terms of what's in it for Hormel, Fred Halvin, the vice president of corporate development said they're trying to find their footing in the plant-based protein market.

"We are looking to identify what are the categories and spaces Hormel deserves to win in," Halvin said. "What are the types of products that we can develop with this technology that will enable the Hormel resources to create the best in class? We're not going to be everything to everyone, but what we will do is identify how do we become best in the markets and categories we elect to compete in."