Daring Foods describes its plant-based chicken as "not an alternative but an upgrade" to the meat substitutes currently available on the market.
The company was founded by two vegans who felt that their animal-free diets may be holding them back from the cultural and social element of food, and the pair decided to develop a plant-based alternative to chicken, and launched Daring Foods in Scotland a few years ago.
"We felt like we were missing out on the experience of food sometimes, because that’s really what food is about -- breaking bread with your friends and your family," Mackay told FoodNavigator-USA.
US launch in foodservice, then retail
This week, Daring Foods' products launched in the US foodservice channel via a nationwide distribution partnership with Pennsylvania-based food service supplier Rastelli Foods Group. A brick-and-mortar retail and direct-to-consumer online launch are planned in February 2020, according to Mackay.
Once in retail stores, Daring Foods' 'Original Daring Pieces' will be packaged as chilled pulled strips of plant-based chicken, which can be cooked in less than eight minutes.
Additionally, "the product does not shrink on application, so you’re getting a real value there," added Mackay.
The company plans to introduce more flavor SKUs in Q1 of next year to offer consumers additional options to cook their favorite kind of chicken at home.
Are meat alternatives stacking up?
On a more macro scale, consumers are looking to improve their diets and many times that means reducing meat consumption.
"Customers right now are looking to eat better, but right now there’s a lot of pushback on meat alternatives not actually being better for you," he said.
A few brands in the meat alternative category have received criticism for being heavily processed and containing a long list of hard-to-pronounce ingredients and equivalent amounts of saturated fat as their animal counterparts.
"If you look at the alternatives right now, where they don’t stack up potentially is on the macro nutrient profile and the ingredient break down," Daring Foods' CEO and co-founder Ross Mackay told FoodNavigator-USA
Daring Foods' plant-based chicken contains a handful of non-GMO ingredients (water, 27% soy protein concentrate, sunflower oil, salt, flavoring, spices) with the nutritional equivalency of conventional chicken. According to the company, a standard 70-80g serving of Daring Foods contains around 14g of protein per serving and less than 2g of fat and carbohydrates with around 4g of dietary fiber.
"It’s really the clean label alternative to the world’s favorite protein, which is chicken," said Mackay.
A like-for-like swap
As the world's most popular and versatile protein, Mackay noted that it was imperative for Daring Foods plant-based chicken to mimic the taste, texture, and consistency of conventional chicken. Consumption of chicken is increasing year-over-yaer. In 2017, Americans consumed 64.1 pounds of chicken per person, according to USDA ERS data.
"At the end of the day, that’s what chicken is really all about, it’s about taste and texture and its versatility. There’s only really so many ways you can cook a beef patty," said Mackay.
It took close to three years of product development for Daring Foods to get the taste and texture right.
"What we believe in is a like-for-like, a simple swap ; it’s chicken out, Daring [Foods] in," said Mackay.
While Mackay didn't get into the specifics of the company's processing methods, he did comment, "If you really look to the plant kingdom, you’ll be able to achieve the same fiber and texture and taste that you get from animals."