Next Gen Foods, the company behind alt-chicken brand Tindle, has raised $100 million in the plant-based protein segment’s largest Series A round to date, according to AgFunder data [disclosure: AgFunder is AFN‘s parent company.]
The funding came from new investors including Indonesian VC Alpha JWC Ventures, Singapore government-linked EDBI, and UK-based MPL Ventures – a firm owned by ex-Beatle, and renowned vegetarian and animal rights advocate, Paul McCartney.
Also joining the round were existing backers including Temasek — which invested through its recently-launched Asia Sustainable Foods Platform — Bits x Bites, GGV Capital, and K3 Ventures.
The Series A injection takes Next Gen Foods’ total funding to date to over $130 million.
There are two main thrusts for how the capital will be used, according to the Singapore-based startup’s chief financial officer Rohit Bhattacharya.
“We raised about $30 million last year, and the trigger for this round [was] to bring in other investors that are mission-aligned and can help us expand – in particular, in the US,” he tells AFN.
The second part is using the funding to support the company’s innovation capabilities – including the opening of its R&D hub in Singapore, in partnership with its shareholder Asia Sustainable Foods Platform.
‘Number-one focus market’
Starting this month, Next Gen’s flagship product — its chicken thigh analog, Tindle Thy — is being rolled out across all 50 states of the US.
Initially, it’ll be going on the menu at restaurants in Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. It’ll also be available for distributors and restaurants to order through B2B vendors Cheetah, Dot Foods, and FoodServiceDirect.com.
“We will use a very similar strategy to what we have used in Asia Pacific: starting from a handful of restaurants, working with chefs,” Bhattacharya says.
“The product was originally developed with chefs, for chefs.” That’s because Next Gen wants consumers “to have their first couple of experiences [of Tindle] to be great; to realize that eating delicious food doesn’t necessarily involve animal farming.”
San Francisco plant-based Italian restaurant Baia is among those that’ll be serving up Tindle to its patrons.
“As a non-vegan chef, I can definitely vouch that this product is very close to mimicking the flavor and texture of chicken,” Baia executive chef shared Joshua Yap said in a statement. “Tindle opens up a large window for chefs, vegan or not, to play with and create new recipes in their kitchens.”
US celebrity cooks who are endorsing the product include reality TV chef Rocco DiSpirito — who joined Next Gen as a culinary advisor and consultant last October — and barbecue specialist Chad Rosenthal.
Bhattacharya describes the US as Next Gen’s “number-one focus market” for the immediate future. Co-founder and CEO Andre Menezes has relocated to the country, where the company has also retained the strategic nous of former Impossible Foods chief communications officer Rachel Konrad, who has joined as an independent board member.
Product pipeline plans
On the product front, Next Gen will focus on offering more Tindle formats in the near-term – such as nuggets, patties, and tenders.
At the moment, the product — which is made from nine non-GMO ingredients including soy, wheat, coconut, and oat — is sold to chefs in ‘shapeless’ form so that they can mould and prepare it as they wish.
“Right now, we’ve gone through the channel of foodservice. Going from there, Tindle patties and nuggets [will] make it more accessible” – for quick service restaurants, for example, Bhattacharya says.
“We’d also like to expand in other channels; ultimately, maximum impact will only come with omnichannel.”
Over the longer term, the startup will explore other potential product lines, such as analogs of other meats and dairy; but for now, “the goal is to really make Tindle a global brand,” he says.
Part of that equation is the establishment of Next Gen’s new global R&D hub in Singapore, which was announced last November and will be supported with some of the company’s Series A funding.
The hub will be located in the new Food Tech Innovation Center set up by Asia Sustainable Foods Platform and A*STAR — the city-state’s national research institute — and will use its shared facilities to conduct R&D around novel protein products and ingredients.
Beyond price parity, CEA must focus more on consumer demand to truly scale