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Plant-Based Food Start-Up Eat Just Receives $200 Million Investment Led by Qatar

Eat Just
  • Eat Just, a company best known for creating plant-based food products, has raised a $200 million fundraising round led by the sovereign wealth fund of the State of Qatar.
  • Last December, regulators in Singapore issued Eat Just the world's first approval for its cultured meat, chicken replacement product "GOOD Meat," which has since debuted in a restaurant.
  • Its most-popular product is the JUST Egg, which to date, Eat Just says has sold the plant-based equivalent of 100 million chicken eggs.

Eat Just, a company best known for creating plant-based food products, announced Tuesday that it has raised a $200 million fundraising round led by the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the sovereign wealth fund of the State of Qatar.

Last December, regulators in Singapore issued Eat Just the world's first approval for its cultured meat product "GOOD Meat," which the company started developing in 2016. Eat Just's chicken replacement made its historic debut at restaurant 1880 in Singapore.

Cultured meat is made by putting stem cells from the fat or muscle of an animal into a culture medium that feeds the cells, allowing them to grow. The medium is then put into a bioreactor to support the cells' growth. By 2030, the cell-based meat market is projected to reach $140 billion, according to forecasting compiled by impact investing firm Blue Horizon Corp.

Eat Just, formerly known as Hampton Creek, first rose to prominence with the the backing of Bill Gates, Marc Benioff and a board that included former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. But a series of scandals plagued the company and its co-founder and CEO Josh Tetrick, including concerns about the safety of its products and an alleged scheme to buy back jars of its JUST Mayo to inflate sales. (The company worked with the FDA to resolve the concerns, and Tetrick said the repurchasing was done for quality control.) In 2017 the entire board, including Sebelius, resigned amid disagreements with Tetrick.

But Tetrick kept his job, and with the latest funding, the San Francisco-based company has raised nearly $800 million to date and was last valued, before the recent round, at $1.2 billion, according to PitchBook. Additional investors in the new round include Charlesbank Capital Partners and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's Vulcan Capital.

Tetrick told CNBC via email that Eat Just will use the capital to scale the company's manufacturing operations and expand into additional markets where regulatory approval is still needed.

"The capital will [also] be used to build up our manufacturing capacity so that we can hit 3 billion plant-based eggs sold, and more," said Tetrick. JUST Egg, the company's landmark product, is a liquid egg product that is made from mung beans, a protein-rich legume. Tetrick added that the company plans to further invest in technology that helps produce JUST Egg at a lower cost.

To date, Eat Just claims to have sold the plant-based equivalent of 100 million chicken eggs. The product is sold in Whole Foods, Fairway and other grocery-store chains across the country, as well as on Amazon Fresh, Instacart, and Walmart.com.

"We can live in a world in the not-too-distant future where your egg breakfast or chicken sandwich don't require a single animal to be harmed or a single tree to be cut down," Tetrick told CNBC.

The company ranked No. 21 on last year's CNBC Disruptor 50 list.

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