Starfield collage cropped
Image credit: Starfield website

Chinese plant protein startup clinches funding from Beyond Meat backer

March 13, 2020

 

Starfield Food & Science Technology, a Chinese developer of plant-based proteins, has received an undisclosed amount of funding from US VC New Crop Capital (NCC), its local partner Dao Foods International, and Matrix Partners China.

China’s Joy Capital – an investor in on-demand coffee chain Luckin Coffee – also joined the angel round, according to a statement from NCC and Dao Foods.

While the announcement didn’t disclose the amount of funding, Chinese tech news site 36kr reported the deal to be worth “tens of millions in RMB” (over $1.43 million).

Starfield has developed a plant-based ground meat product that has already had trial runs with several restaurant chains in China. It has turned up on a Papa John’s ‘Future Meatball Pizza,’ as well as in satay, burgers, and fried rice at other outlets.

It has also co-developed mooncakes – a Chinese bakery item traditionally served during Mid-Autumn Festival – stuffed with bean-based artificial meat in partnership with the Beijing Technology & Business University. The bean-based protein is designed to imitate not only the taste, color, smell, and texture of animal-derived meat but even the crackling sound emitted when it’s stir-fried or deep-fried.


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In addition to protein derived from beans, the Shenzhen-based startup claims to have been granted an invention patent covering “a method for extracting glycophilic proteins from seaweed,” and it has applied for another patent on “other aspects of its base technology.” 

Starfield co-founder Kiki Wu said that the new funding will be used for market expansion, product development, and supply chain management, according to 36kr.

Alternative protein-focused NCC invested in Beyond Meat – which raised $240 million through its Nasdaq IPO last May – in 2016. Other portfolio companies include Memphis Meats, Good Catch, and Alpha Foods.

NCC helped set up Dao Foods last year in collaboration with the Good Food Institute and Dao co-founders Tao Zhang and Albert Tseng, with the objective of making impact investments in China’s alternative protein space.

“Through our partners at Dao Foods, we are tracking this sector in China very carefully,” said Chris Kerr, chief investment officer at NCC. “We believe there is great potential to accelerate the adoption of plant-based meats throughout the region.”

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