Longtime Nuggs CEO Ben Pasternak, who left school as a teenager to become an entrepreneur and later started the faux chicken-nugget company and its parent, Simulate, is out. It’s the latest shakeup in an industry that started with high hopes and generous funding and is now foundering.
Pasternak’s cofounder, Sam Terris, who has served as Simulate’s chief operating officer for four years, is now CEO. Terris takes the reins at a time when the faux chicken nugget maker is navigating lackluster sales in a once-hot sector that has contracted double digits this year. Nuggs, along with the rest of the struggling industry, now has to survive amid pressure from investors as dozens of startups have blown through billions in capital and are now pivoting away from their fake-meat product lines or shutting down entirely.
“This was a decision Ben and I made together over many months, and we ultimately aligned that this would be best for Simulate as we scale up our new technology,” Sam Terris said over email. “He remains on the board as Chairman, and will continue to support the company from that position.”
Pasternak, a Silicon Valley darling and regular subject of venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian’s tweets, made Forbes’ 30 Under 30 2021 list, just two years after founding the social media savvy Nuggs. By that point, Nuggs had $8 million in annual revenue, mostly from online sales.
“Chicken nuggets are already integrated into internet and meme culture,” Pasternak told Forbes at the time. “It’s easy to create a fun brand around it.”
New York-based Simulate has raised $57 million in all, according to Pitchbook, from high-profile Silicon Valley venture capitalists like Ohanian and firms including Imaginary Ventures and Greylock. As of the last round in May 2023, Simulate’s valuation was not disclosed.
-Alex Konrad contributed to this report.