Simulate, an American nutrition technology company known for its plant-based chicken product called NUGGS, raised $50 million in a Series B funding round led by Seven Seven Six in partnership with Chris & Crystal Sacca, NOMO Ventures, McCain Foods, Imaginary Ventures and Day One Ventures. To date, they have raised a total of $61 million.
In 2019, the company introduced NUGGS, a pea-protein-based nugget that removes the chicken from the nugget. Ben Pasternak is the company’s founder and CEO, and his goal was to make nuggets go viral by shifting away from animal-based foods and offering those fans a plant-based product and the perfect rival to meat.
In 2019, NUGGS received $7 million in funding from McCain Foods and gained popularity due to its online advertising and a massive push to retail. It was initially available to consumers in the summer of 2019 through their direct-to-consumer online ordering.
“During the height of the pandemic, people really wanted frozen food shipped directly to their door,” Pasternak told TechCrunch. “At the time, we were DTC only, so we saw a lot of growth there prior to our pivot to retail.”
In July of 2020, Simulate launched their second product, the Doggs faux hot dogs, and are now expanding their line of plant-based chicken to include Spicy NUGGS and Discs, which are plant-based chicken patties.
NUGGS is available in more than 5,000 retail locations and will add another 10,000 locations by the end of 2021.
Its products have more protein than animal-based products and have less fat than animal-based food; it is also 100 percent cholesterol-free and entirely plant-based.
“The use of animals is one of the largest inefficiencies in the food system and not sustainable for the planet, an idea that’s now part of collective consciousness,” said Pasternak.
The funds gathered from this round will be used to triple Simulate’s internal team and accelerate the development of new plant-based products and technologies. The company would also like to scale the manufacturing to increase its availability at retail stores and foodservice providers as it continues to grow and expand, ultimately reaching international markets. According to Bloomberg, Simulate was valued at more than $250 million.
If you were to look at its product design and website, the company is very “techy.” Pasternak is an entrepreneur with a software background, who sold his first company, called Monkey, at the age of 17. He later became interested in sustainable nutrition when he launched Simulate, which has common taglines defining the company as the “Tesla of Chicken.”
“Most young Americans’ first taste of meat is a chicken nugget or tender and we thought NUGGS would be a good entry point as we believe all cultural change starts with younger people,” said Pasternak.
NUGGS’ most targeted consumer base are “Gen Zers” and young millennial families who are happy to switch to sustainable nutrition alternatives and look for companies that make a change. This change is not a technological shift but a cultural shift in the minds and missions of consumers, as Gen Z’s and Millennials become the primary consumer market.