To boldly go…? Daring Foods punches above its weight in plant-based chicken with ultra-short ingredients list

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: Daring Foods
Picture: Daring Foods

Related tags plant-based plant-based meat

Daring Foods – a startup seeking to punch above its weight in the plant-based chicken category via a lower calorie product with a shorter, cleaner, ingredients list and bold branding – says it’s enjoying an above average sell-through rate in Sprouts, despite its novelty and premium price tag.

The brainchild of Ross Mackay and Eliott Kessas, who “bonded over a somewhat awful vegan meal in Paris​," Daring Foods is “laser focused on chicken​,” an area it claims is under-developed in the plant-based segment along with seafood.

Daring pieces – which launched direct to consumer via the Daring Foods website​ and in Sprouts (nationwide) in April - contain soy protein concentrate, sunflower oil, and seasonings, with no methyl cellulose, wheat gluten, carrageenan, gums, or starches.

With 90 calories per 70g serving (vs 114 cals for Gardein and 177 cals for Tofurky for the equivalent weight) Daring has less fat; more than double the fiber; and roughly the same level of protein as most rivals, claimed Mackay. (On sodium, Daring compares favorably to Tofurky, but is higher than Gardein or Quorn.)

Manufactured using a high-moisture extrusion process (which helps to explain the premium positioning), Daring pieces retail at around $7.99 to $8.99 (compared with $5.99 for some competitive products), but are more than holding their own on shelf, claimed Mackay, who puts this down in part to the taste, texture and nutritionals.

Ingredients: Water, soy protein concentrate, sunflower oil, salt, natural flavoring, spices (paprika, pepper, ginger, nutmeg, mace, cardamom)

No 'chik'n...'

However, branding has also been key, said Mackay, who says he and Kessas deliberately avoided terms such as ‘chik’n' or ‘chick’n’ and instead took a page out of the Impossible Foods/Beyond Meat playbook by focusing on the brand (‘Daring Pieces’).

“You have to develop something really strong to stand out versus the market leaders, and we have a simple message. Our brand is daring, and this applies to everything from our products to the way we work, our culture, how we hire, our team and our founders, and you’ll see that in our marketing as we roll out more products this summer.”

'We’re unapologetic about being a premium brand'

As for the price tag: “We’re unapologetic about being a premium brand, but in terms of velocity we’re seeing an above average sell-through rate,” ​said Mackay, a Scot who started development work on the brand in the UK in 2018, but decided to shift focus to the US market in 2019 after receiving strong interest from investors in the New York area.

Manufactured by a co-packer using non-GMO soy from Europe and distributed by meat protein specialist Rastelli Foods Group, Daring secured national distribution with US Foods and Chef’s Warehouse early this year with a view to rolling out in the foodservice channel.

When the pandemic hit, however, it quickly pivoted to retail with a direct to consumer launch offering 2-day delivery nationwide, and a rollout in the frozen plant-based aisle at Sprouts in April, with more products to hit the retailer's shelves in July.

Additional retailers are coming on board in September, said Mackay, who raised some money earlier this year with investors including Rastelli, and says the brand will be making additional announcements on funding in the next couple of weeks.   

Daring_Foods founders
Data from DTC sales and consumer feedback suggests the brand is gaining early traction from women in their early thirties, says Daring Foods co-founder Ross Mackay, pictured left with co-founder Eliott Kessas




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