Officials from the City of Columbia, MO and the Regional Economic Development Inc. (REDI) Inc. have announced that Savage River Inc. will open a 16,000 square-foot food production facility for its Beyond Meat™ brand in Columbia. The facility, which is scheduled to open this fall, will use technology licensed from the University of Missouri. The company expects to invest $2 million in the plant the first year and employ more than 60 people within five years.
Founded in 2010 by Ethan Brown, Savage River Inc. launched the Beyond Meat brand in 2012. Brown collaborated with researchers at the University of Missouri (MU) and the University of Maryland for several years before starting the company. Brown licensed the technology from MU in 2009. The company has financial backing from The Obvious Corporation (including Twitter co-founders), as well as venture capitalist firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
“Here we have a cutting-edge company that is using local research and innovative technology to establish a local plant that will hire local employees to produce value- added food products for a national audience,” Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid said. “This announcement is an example of leveraging intellectual property from the University to create jobs and awareness that Columbia is an exciting place to do business.”
The Columbia facility for Beyond Meat will produce Chicken-free Strips, a chicken substitute made from soy protein extracted from soy flour, pea powder, carrot fiber, and gluten-free flour. The protein mixture then goes through an extrusion cooking process that uses water, heat, and pressure before it is extruded into strips. The strips contain no saturated or trans fat, no cholesterol, and no gluten.
The method for producing Chicken-free Strips was developed by Fu-hung Hsieh, a professor of biological engineering, and Harold Huff, a senior research associate. Both are from the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.
“As the state’s land-grant and major research university in one, the University of Missouri’s mission is to make discoveries in the laboratory that change people’s lives and improve the state’s and community’s economies,” said Rob Duncan, vice chancellor for research at MU. “The success of Dr. Hsieh’s and Harold Huff’s product, which was developed in the laboratory, has now come full circle with the announcement that Beyond Meat will be opening a plant right here in our community. It is anticipated that more than 60 jobs will be created and millions of dollars will be pumped into Columbia’s and the state’s economy. We are very proud to be able to contribute to the community to which we owe so much!”
“Beyond Meat has been working with the University of Missouri with the goal of driving innovation and progress on meat-free plates around the world,” Brown said. “We expect to be launching our first product, Chicken-free Strips, nationwide in early 2013, and we will look to the Columbia, MO, manufacturing facility to support the anticipated demand.”
Equipment will be moved from a research production line in Maryland and new equipment will be added to meet production demands. A representative from Beyond Meat has been working with REDI officials since early March. The company worked with local realtors Mike Grellner and Paul Land to identify a location that would allow the company to expand as they anticipate growth.
“This announcement is a success for economic development in Columbia,” said REDI President Mike Brooks. “REDI is well aware of the importance of the University of Missouri in job generation and economic collaboration. Beyond Meat demonstrates how intellectual property generated in a lab can be commercialized, and with support from the community, it can result in a positive job announcement.”