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Umaro Foods' Seaweed-Based Bacon: A Leap Towards Sustainable Plant-Based Alternatives

Courtesy of Umaro Foods
Courtesy of Umaro Foods

Umaro Foods, a Berkeley-based innovator in the plant-based meat sector, has recently secured $3.8 million in seed funding to advance its mission of reducing production costs and bringing its seaweed-based bacon to retail shelves. This capital injection was led by AgFunder, with substantial participation from Alexandria Ventures Investments, Climate Capital Bio, Ponderosa Ventures, and notable support from NBA all-star Chris Paul. This round of financing raises the total investment in Umaro Foods to $6.8 million, following a previous $3 million round also led by AgFunder in 2022​​​​.

The funding aims to boost production, slash costs, and facilitate the transition of Umaro Foods' innovative bacon from the foodservice industry into grocery stores. The startup, founded in 2019 by CEO Beth Zotter and CTO Dr. Amanda Stiles, initially gained attention in 2022 after receiving a $1 million investment for 7% equity from Mark Cuban on Shark Tank. With its products currently available in approximately 250 restaurants and delis across the U.S., Umaro Foods is poised to widen its reach, beginning with a leading food retailer on the West Coast​​.

Umaro Foods distinguishes itself with a patented, seaweed-based formula that captures traditional pork bacon's crispy, fatty texture without the environmental footprint. Their product lineup, which includes bacon strips and bits along with a bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich, utilizes red nori seaweed complemented by ingredients like chickpeas, sunflower and coconut oil, agar, and carrageenan, aiming for a clean label profile​​​​.

The company's innovative approach extends beyond product development to manufacturing, where it plans to transition from batch to continuous production. This strategic move is anticipated to significantly reduce costs, making Umaro Foods' plant-based bacon a cost-competitive alternative to traditional bacon from brands like Hormel and Smithfield. By enhancing manufacturing efficiency and scaling production, Umaro Foods aspires to not only meet but exceed the current production rate of 60,000 lbs of product annually, with a vision of reaching over a million pounds of vegan bacon each year​​​​.

Looking forward, Umaro Foods is exploring expansion into the B2B sector, leveraging its unique seaweed protein for other products, and is investigating the use of seaweed as a source of critical minerals in collaboration with HOPO Therapeutics, backed by a $1.8 million grant from the US Department of Energy.

As Umaro Foods embarks on this exciting growth phase, it stands at the forefront of the plant-based movement, offering a glimpse into the future of sustainable, scalable protein sources from the ocean. With its unique positioning and innovative products, Umaro Foods not only competes in the crowded vegan bacon market but also sets new standards for environmental stewardship and food innovation.


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