The ‘world’s first’ premium whole cut meat alternative from Juicy Marbles went on sale on the start-up’s website today. The limited direct-to-consumer release will make 1000 packs of plant-based filet mignon available to consumers for the first time.
“It’s more a test and learning exercise than building buzz or hype,” co-founder Vladimir Mićković told FoodNavigator. “One year ago, we had a prototype machine the size of a football and a prototype steak, for which we did a round of testing. Now the machine is the size of a room, and one year of R&D went into perfecting the steaks. E-commerce gives us the opportunity to get a lot of feedback before we launch in retail and food service. We could say, we are conducting a buzz-generating human trial.”
The launch is an important milestone: It sees Juicy Marbles become the first company to commercially release plant-based filet mignon, opening up a ‘whole new category’ in whole cut meat analogues. The company says the ‘speed’ products sold underlines the potential for a large-scale offering from the ‘climate-friendly’ plant-based meat producer.
Environmental messaging is a core part of the business’s identity. Juicy Marbles says its ‘mission’ is to ‘reduce our reliance on animal agriculture’, which uses 83% of agricultural land globally but produces 18% of the food supply. For every steak sold on its website, Juicy Marbles will plant a tree in partnership with eco search engine Ecosia.
However, the start-up believes that today’s plant-based products are falling short and failing to persuade consumers to switch from traditional meaty options. By pioneering alternatives to whole cuts, Juicy Marbles believes it can help halve meat consumption by as soon as 2030.
Fat marbling: What ‘makes or breaks’ a good steak
Juicy Marbles has developed a proprietary protein texturizing technology that, it says, can replicate the complex texture and intricate fat systems that make up a beef steak.
“What makes our filet mignon unique is a combination of texture and marbling. Texture and marbling were the hardest things to recreate using nothing but plant-based ingredients. The texture of the steak, with fibres organized parallel to each other, is something you can’t find on other plant-based meat analogues. Thanks to our patent-pending process and technology we are able to mass-produce such a texture,” Mićković explained.
“Marbling, of course, is an ecosystem of its own,” the food tech innovator continued. “It is what makes or breaks a good steak. Being able to control all the sensory parameters, we are able to make a filet mignon that has marbling akin to the most premium cuts out there and sell it at a fraction of the cost.”
These properties make the plant-based steak ‘super versatile’ and mean that it can be cooked in a wide variety of ways, Juicy Marbles’ co-founder claimed. “We have tried out everything, from the most basic salt and pepper routine to cooking it for hours to make “beef bourguignon”, sous-vide, beef wellington, and cutting into chunks or slices. It can be used for bowls, broths, and sandwiches. It’s super versatile and may be included in a diverse, wholesome diet.”
What technology developments are secret to Juicy Marbles success? Mićković plays his hand close to his chest.
“Unfortunately, at this stage, we can’t give any more information about the technology we use, but we can say it is not 3D-printed nor lab-grown,” the food entrepreneur responded.
What we do know is that the group’s patent-pending 3D assembly technology enables it to create a whole cut with ‘full control’ over the shape, texture, marbling, flavours, aromas and nutrition. “We developed our own patent-pending machine and process, which is very scalable, and perhaps even more importantly does not damage the macro and micronutrients in the process, ensuring we always get a highly nutritious steak,” Mićković added.
Good for you, good for planet
Juicy Marbles’ approach means that the product has secured the ‘highest possible’ Nutri-Score rating of A, we were told.
“It’s quite a simple product, nutritionally. We use European-sourced soya which is GMO-free and sunflower oil for the main ingredients… The fibre content within our steak is not present in conventional meat. But when it comes to what the microbes our gut likes the most, well, it does not get better than fibre,” Mićković commented.
Independent research suggests soy protein is a ‘high-quality protein’ with a protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score of 1.00, which is ‘close’ to some of the proteins from animal sources, such as meat and dairy. Soy proteins contain ‘well-balanced’ essential amino acids, except for sulfur-containing ones like methionine. These nutritional credentials, coupled with the functional performance of soy-based proteins in food formulations, make it one of the most popular sources of plant-based protein in the alternative meat space.
Describing soy as nutritionally the ‘most similar’ plant-based protein to animal protein, the founder also believes that increasing soy consumption is an important lever as we reduce our reliance on animal agriculture. “It’s a very important crop in the transition to a more plant-based society. Around 80% of soy produced worldwide is fed to livestock, so as we cut our dependency on animal protein there will already be a new revenue stream for soy farmers to divert their supply. It is also a very resilient plant, that can grow almost in any climate, and that even replenishes the soil when growing, instead of depleting it.”
Launching ‘this year’
Juicy Marbles is now gearing up for an international rollout. The company intends to release a similar number of filet mignon packs D2C in the US shortly before launching in supermarkets and artisan grocers later this year.
“We’re going to launch our Juicy Marbles steaks into retail and restaurants this year. We can’t give any more details away right now, but we’re looking to ramp up operational capacity in the next quarter,” Mićković told FoodNavigator.
“We want to ensure more people can try one of our tasty steaks and open them up to a new world of flavour that doesn’t come from animal products and can help tackle global issues including food insecurity and the climate crisis.”