Not just hummus: Israel announces first-in-world chickpea meat

MTE combines protein and data science with food engineering. Using all-natural products and processing, the company is working to re-invent alternative protein ingredients

 Chickpea meat burger (photo credit: RUTI AMANO)
Chickpea meat burger
(photo credit: RUTI AMANO)

An Israeli company announced Thursday that it had developed a meat analog out of chickpea protein - the first in the world.

Meat. The End (MTE), a meat alternative company based in Tel Aviv, creates technological solutions that enhance the texture properties of alternative protein products. Its latest innovation “behaves exactly like meat,” according to company founder and CEO Dr. Yishai Mishor. 

“The ‘meat’ is frozen. You take it out of the freezer, put it on a pan, in the oven or even on the grill, and it cooks just like meat,” Mishor said. “The fat kind of trickles down. It takes about the same time to cook. And, in the end, when you eat it, what you are putting in your mouth is something that has the same texture as meat - the juiciness, the firmness you would expect to have when you bite into a real meat burger.”

MTE combines protein and data science with food engineering. Using all-natural products and processing, the company is working to re-invent alternative protein ingredients that achieve the textures they should have. The company already makes soy and pea burgers, sausages and chicken nuggets. 

Several companies worldwide, including in Israel, are also working on innovative ways to extract and use chickpea protein. In general, there are more than 100 Israeli companies in the alternative protein industry - including those developing meat alternatives from crickets and black soldier flies. However, most protein sources come as powders, isolates and concentrates. 

Meat.The End (MTE) founder and CEO Dr. Yishai Mishor.  (credit: Ruti Amnu)Meat.The End (MTE) founder and CEO Dr. Yishai Mishor. (credit: Ruti Amnu)

“Turning this into alternative meat is a huge deal, and as we see it, no one is playing in that field,” Mishor said. 

The meat alternative industry has been growing for more than a decade. Initially, it was centered around soy. More recently, the introduction of pea protein was a game changer. But with consumers eager for innovation and diversity, companies are looking beyond, Mishor explained. 

Introducing texturized chickpea protein as a meat alternative application is a first-of-its-kind breakthrough. But, if pea protein is a precedent, chickpeas can potentially make a billion-dollar impact. 

“If you think about climate change and how it affects our crops - because there is serious instability in the climate, this leads to unstable crop production and supply chains,” Mishor added. “When you think about the food industry, we have to consider this and have a much wider variety of alternative proteins than we are using."

He said his company would tackle fava beans next.

 Meat. The End

MTE was founded in 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic. The team consists of several well-known technologists from across the food industry, including David Bensal, a former chief technologist at Strauss Coffee Israel; Moshe Juki Nesher, a former chief technologist for Nestle-Israel; and many others. 

Mishor said the team combines academic research and very traditional food industry experience with one goal: “to provide the world with the best meat alternative so we can accelerate the transition away from meat, which is one of the most important things we can do to tackle climate change.”

The company recently closed a SEED round of about $3 million. Six months ago, it signed a contract and started selling its soy products at Burger King Israel branches. It just received the green light from Burger King International to sell them to other franchises worldwide. MTE is only one of three companies approved to provide a plant-based whopper. The other two are American companies - Impossible Foods and Unilever.

“Unlike many start-ups that I respect in this industry with 3D printing and cultured meat, their solutions will take at least 10 years before they are practical and widespread,” Mishor concluded. “Our solution is the opposite: We are moving fast so we can handle the climate crisis as quickly and effectively as possible.”