COLUMBIA — It tastes like chicken, but it's actually meat free.
Savage River Inc., a Maryland-based vegan food company, will open a food production facility for its Beyond Meat brand in Columbia this fall. The company expects to invest $5 million in the plant and employ more than 60 people within five years.
Beyond Meat will produce a soy-based chicken substitute the company says is as good as real chicken. The product is said to offer alternative protein while keeping the texture the same, and contains no saturated or trans fat, no cholesterol and no gluten.
Savage River Inc. will open its 16,000-square-foot facility in an existing building on Commerce Court off Vandiver Drive. Some of the equipment for the production line will be moved from the Maryland facility.
The company is considering entering an agreement with MU's campus dining service and then expanding its outlets in local grocery stores, Ethan Brown, the founder of Beyond Meat, said. Products will start selling on campus this fall.
Brown has worked with MU researchers since 2009, and he licensed the technology from MU the same year. The product is developed by MU biological engineering professor Fu-Hung Hsieh, who worked for 20 years developing the concept.
The company will continue to work with the university for further development, Brown said.
Brown said they are looking to launch the product nationwide early next year, and Columbia's facility will support the expanding demand.
Most of the jobs that will be provided by the company are manufacturing jobs for the production line. The company will be looking for job candidates in the local community, Mike Brooks, president of Regional Economic Development Inc., said.
“Beyond Meat demonstrates how intellectual property in a lab can be commercialized and result in a positive job announcement,” Brooks said.
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