A Boulder startup that produces a meat alternative and earlier this year opened a plant in Thornton laid off 17 people, or about 5% of its 300 employees this week.
Meati Foods said in a statement Thursday that it eliminated the positions after deciding how to best allocate its resources.
“These changes were not made lightly. The individuals leaving our company have been instrumental in contributing to Meati’s success, and we are working to ensure they receive adequate care and assistance as they find new opportunities,” the company said.
Meati Foods started in 2016. Co-founders Tyler Huggins and Justin Whiteley were both doctoral students when they began researching the use of mushroom root as an alternative protein source to boost nutrition and address hunger.
The company uses a fermentation to process the mushroom root, which it cooks, seasons and forms into what it calls cutlets and steaks. Meati’s customers include Sprouts Farmers Market stores and Birdcall fast-food restaurants.
In February, the company opened a 120,000-square-foot building in Thornton. At the time, the company said it expected to cultivate the mushroom roots at an annual rate of tens of millions of pounds.
Sales of plant-based meat alternatives grew in 2020, but declined as inflation rose, according to Gary Nowacki, CEO of TraceGains in Westminster, a supply-chain solutions company that works with food and beverage businesses.
As interest leveled off, JBS USA closed its Colorado-based Planterra Foods and a factory for the plant-based product in Denver in October 2022.
However, Meati officials told The Denver Post in March that they saw an opportunity for growth in the U.S. for companies that can deliver products with similar taste and texture to meat.
“Our products are highly popular and category-leading with consumers and our commercial relationships remain incredibly strong,” the company said following the layoffs. “As we refine our operations, we believe these changes will allow us to better meet our ambitious goals.”
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