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by Hannah Green / via The Business Journals

Just over a year after launching, food technology startup Tender Food has raised a seed funding round to bring its products to market.

Tender, which goes by the legal name of Boston Meats Inc., is planting its flag in the crowded plant-based meat market. Its new products replicate the structures and textures of whole muscle cuts from animals.

The Somerville-based startup announced a $12 million seed round this week led by Chris Sacca’s Lowercarbon Capital. Other investors include Rhapsody Venture Partners, actress and animal-rights activist Natalie Portman, Safar Partners, Bread and Butter Ventures, MCJ Collective and Unovis.

CEO and co-founder Christophe Chantre is confident Tender’s products will stand out.

“Our goal is to create products that are indistinguishable from animal-based meat,” Chantre said. “And be able to price them at a cost that’s competitive, and at some point, hopefully soon, cheaper than animal-based meat.”

Tender launched in 2020 with materials and protein fiber manufacturing technologies that were conceived by Kevin Kit Parker in his Harvard lab, where Chantre was a postdoctoral research fellow studying wound healing and heart tissue regeneration.

The company raised a $1.5 million pre-seed round led by Rhapsody Venture Partners to get out of the lab and has since been preparing products for its first commercial launch later this year.

Chantre declined to share which products the company will launch this year, but said Tender is exploring plant-based chicken breasts, pork, steaks and seafood. He said the products will likely be available in restaurants before looking at how to distribute them more widely.

These plant-based muscle cuts are meant to replicate the texture and taste of real meat, allowing more people to have an environmentally conscious diet.

“The roughly 6 billion carnivorous humans that eat meat drive about 15% of total carbon emissions,” Sacca, who appears as a guest investor on Shark Tank, said in a statement. “Cheers to the vegans, but to win over everybody else you need steaks and chops made from plants that are just as tasty off the grill as what gets cleaved off a carcass.”

Earlier this year, Tender also underwent a rebrand to prepare for its product launch. Chantre said the company’s previous name, Boston Meats, made consumers think it was a local butcher shop.

Tender employs 16 people at its Greentown Labs space in Somerville. Last December, the company had 13 employees and Chantre said the startup plans to bring on 10 more people this year. With that growth may come a move to a new local office space, Chantre said.

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