These vegan foods, born in a Yellowstone hot spring, are about to launch
Nature’s Fynd, a Back of the Yards-based startup that's growing protein from a microbe, is ready to take its first products to market.
The release—its vegan cream cheese and breakfast patties are available for pre-order on its website, part of a $15 bundle—is a long time coming for the company.
The protein Nature’s Fynd produces is neither plant- nor animal-based. It is made from a microbe in the fungi kingdom found in a Yellowstone National Park hot spring more than a decade ago. The microbe was discovered on a NASA-supported research mission with the initial goal of figuring out what type of extreme environments could foster life on other planets.
The company has drawn big-name investors, including firms backed by Al Gore, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, and raised $158 million in funding. Nature’s Fynd CEO Thomas Jonas told Crain’s late last year that its most recent round of funding would help the company get its products to market.
The protein is called Fy and is grown through a fermentation process. It is a complete protein with all 20 amino acids, has high fiber and other vitamins and minerals, and is sustainable to produce.
Like the dairy-less cream cheese and meatless sausage patties the company will sell directly to consumers, additional products the company plans to release will also be recognizable. The protein will not be sold in blocks like tempeh or tofu. In its test kitchen, Nature’s Fynd has experimented with crafting the protein into meatless chicken nuggets, hot dogs, cheese dips and more.
The company plans to sell its products on store shelves eventually, but online sales offered a chance to quench some consumer excitement, said chief marketing officer Karuna Rawal.
“We’ve been getting lots of questions on how do we try these products,” she said. “We just think this is the time, so we decided to go for it.”
The proliferation of e-commerce sales during the pandemic created an opportunity for the company to take its products directly to consumers, Rawal said. The increase of online sales, which extends into the grocery channel, has given new brands easier access to customers.
The pre-ordered breakfast bundles are expected to ship in eight to 12 weeks, Rawal said.
Experts say that if Nature’s Fynd’s products hit right with consumers, the company could tap into a swell of popularity among meat and dairy alternatives. Sales of plant-based products in the U.S. grew more than 25 percent last year, according to research firm Nielsen.
“We're creating a range of sustainable foods that nourish our bodies and nurture our planet for generations to come,” Jonas said in a news release. “We’ve deeply studied our consumers and we know that Fy’s unique versatility, which delivers great tasting meat and dairy alternatives for every occasion, is highly appealing.”