Just when yet another entry into the relentlessly ferocious chicken sandwich wars didn’t seem possible, enter SIMULATE, a plant-based meat company that’s getting attention from younger consumers — thanks in part to the power of social media.
Originally founded in 2018 and rebranded as SIMULATE shortly thereafter, the company originally debuted as direct-to-consumer only. Original and spicy versions of NUGGS are available online for $44.99 (for 100 nuggets), and recently, the retail giants like Walmart (WMT), Sam’s Club, Target (TGT) and Whole Foods (AMZN) have started carrying them, with more launches on the way.
According to SIMULATE co-founder and CEO Ben Pasternak, the company is “getting ready to scale” its chicken nugget and tender inventory, in preparation for “quite a lot of deals” it has in the works as alternative food products soar in popularity.
On Tuesday the company, behind plant-based chicken NUGGS and the recently launched plant-based chicken patty DISCS, secured a $50 million dollar Series B funding round, led by well-known tech entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian’s fund, Seven Seven Six.
Pasternak told Yahoo Finance he intends to use the latest funding round to hire top talent including food, material and flavor scientists and engineers ahead of scaling beyond direct-to-consumer and retail.
Pasternak says the company’s original mission was to make the product better “as quickly as possible,” but at a certain point, it aims to make it “super accessible” to all consumers, with a “really cheap” price tag and “lots of points of distribution.”
Boosted by a ‘cultural change’
As of January, consumer interest in plant-based meats saw a 45 percent spike compared to year ago, according to data intelligence platform Tastewise. However, SIMULATE has seen one key audience flock to its newest creations: Gen Z, a hotly coveted marketing demographic.
Founded “on the basis that all cultural change starts with younger people,” the company is using social media like Facebook and Instagram as fuel to connect with this age group, but really saw “a lot of success” on TikTok. This is similar to other well-known brands like Dunkin’ and Arby’s, which both saw a spike in user engagement on viral video platform last year.
On Nuggs Instagram, the company even poked fun at the recent meme stock phenomenon sparked by users on Reddit, which was founded by Ohanian. The company posted a meme in itself that says “Get Alexis Ohanian to lead a $50M investment in your nuggets when your main marketing mechanism is memes.”
Pasternak told Yahoo Finance that “younger folks are much more open minded to trying these new products…you’re kind of seeing that as a pattern.”