Alternative protein startups have attracted a lot of investor attention over the past couple of years and the trend looks set to continue. The latest startup with funding news is Next Gen Foods, the creator of plant-based chicken alternative TiNDLE. The company announced today it has raised a $100 million Series A that will be used to expand quickly in the United States and on its Singapore research and development center, which is currently under construction.
Next Gen Foods says this is the largest Series A ever raised by a plant-based meat company, based on data from Pitchbook. TechCrunch first covered Next Gen Foods when it raised a $10 million seed round in February 2021, and then a $20 million extension just five months later.
The company’s Series A, which brings its total funding so far to $130 million, includes new investors Alpha JWC, EDBI and MPL Ventures, as well as returning investors like Temasek (through its wholly-owned Asia Sustainable Food Platform), GGV Capital, K3 Ventures and Bits X Bites. The new capital will be used to fuel TiNDLE’s distribution in all 50 states.
Like other alternative protein brands, including Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, Next Gen Foods is building brand recognition through partnerships with chefs who create and serve dishes in their restaurants, before moving to other distribution channels like grocery stores. It is currently available at restaurants in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Napa, New York and Philadelphia, with more planned, including Miami and Austin.
Starting today, U.S. distributors can also order TiNDLE through DOT Foods, one of the U.S.’s largest food re-distributors. It is also available through FoodServiceDirect.com and Cheetah for restaurants located in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Co-founder and CEO Andre Menezes says TiNDLE, made with a proprietary blend of plant-based ingredients, like sunflower oil, has already proven its ability to work in diverse cuisines through launches in Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Abu Dhabi, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai and Amsterdam.
Next Gen Foods’ rapid international expansion was enabled by its asset-light model, Menezes said. Instead of building its own production facilities, Next Gen Foods will work with production partners in each of its markets, including the U.S., in a relationship Menezes compares to Apple and Foxconn.
“If we were building our own factory and doing everything ourselves, we would probably still be building it right now and hiring the talent to start our first expansion, and we would have probably invested all the capital that shareholders invested in us into building that facility,” he said. “For us, that’s not quick or scalable enough for our business model and we believe there are people around the world who can do that extremely well.”
Next Gen Foods develops components, ingredients and recipes and then enters into manufacturing contracts with partners, sharing quality assurance procedures to ensure that each one uses the same processes to maintain consistency.
TiNDLE is Next Gen Foods’ first brand and it plans to increase product roster, including different categories of TiNDLE (like pre-prepared nuggets or tenders). Menezes said it eventually plans to introduce alternatives to other animal proteins besides chicken, but that probably won’t happen within the next two years because its priority is to expand TiNDLE’s presence in the U.S. and other big markets, like Brazil or China, first.
Next Gen Foods’ R&D center is being developed in partnership with the Food Tech Innovation Center, which was established by Temasek’s Asia Sustainable Foods Platform. The company plans to hire protein scientists and food technologists in Singapore (which has become a major hub for alternative meat development and production), Europe and the United States.
In a prepared statement, GGV Capital managing partner Jenny Lee said, “Next Gen Foods’ growth in less than a year has been remarkable, as is their ongoing commitment to being part of the solution for how global food production will play a significant role in addressing the impact of climate change. We look forward to their next phase of expansion into the U.S. and beyond.”