May 15, 2023
Prime Roots raises $30M to bring its fungi-based deli meats to deli counters across the US
Prime Roots’ Koji-Ham. Source: Prime Roots

Prime Roots, which makes deli-style plant-based meats from koji mycelium, announced $30 million in Series B funding to bring its first-of-its-kind Koji-Meat to more deli counters and grocery shelves across the U.S.

Prime Roots makes whole cut, plant-based using koji mycelium. At a microscopic level, koji mycelium mimics the texture of meat—and its umami mouthfeel—providing consumers with a nearly perfect replication of the meat-eating experience, even down to ordering and slicing at the local deli counters where other deli meats are served. Consumers are convinced: partners report that Prime Roots’ products consistently sell out before lunch and sales are pacing at 5-10 times higher than other plant-based alternatives.

Prime Roots’ Koji-Meats are made by putting koji through a simple fermentation process, taking the koji in its whole and purest form and mixing it with a few other plant and fungi-derived ingredients to make meats that taste, feel, and look just like the “conventional” animal product. Koji Deli-Meats include Koji-Turkey (Classic Smoked, Cracked Pepper, and Golden Roast) and Koji-Ham (Classic Smoked, Black Forest, and Sugar Shack Maple), and Koji-Bacon.The Koji-Charcuterie line includes pepperoni, salami, pate (harvest and black truffle), and foie gras. All Koji-Meats are non-GMO and free of soy, cholesterol, nitrates, hormones and antibiotics.

The market for deli meats is huge: more than half of Americans eat a deli sandwich at least once a day. Other plant-based deli meats struggle to replicate the taste and texture of animal meat, and often contain unhealthy ingredients, such as soy and nitrates. Animal-based options also contain unhealthy additives like nitrates, hormones, and antibiotics, as well as the burden of animal slaughter and animal agriculture’s massive contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

It only takes two to three days to grow koji, which also produces nearly zero byproducts. In fact, Prime Roots’ end-to-end process from protein to product takes less than a week and is 90% to 99% more efficient and less wasteful than conventional meat in terms of land use, water use, and CO2 emissions, as reported in a Boundless Impact life-cycle assessment of the process.

In a kg to kg comparison of Prime Roots bacon to pork bacon, the assessment found that Prime Roots:
-Avoids 9kg of CO2 emissions per kg, or the equivalent of driving 22 miles in a passenger car
-Uses 92% less water (2 olympic swimming pools worth) than animal meat
-Registers 91% lower land impact than animal meat

“We’re tackling a whole new category that no one in plant-based has gone to,” founder Kimberlie Le told Forbes. “We’re not just taking plant-based proteins off the shelf and mixing them together. We are actually innovating in the deli, which is a very traditional category, but we’re maintaining that tradition in the techniques and flavors.”