‘The next wave of plant-based alternatives needs to be significantly less processed…’ Daring Foods raises $8m

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Daring Foods co-founder Ross Mackay, pictured left with co-founder Eliott Kessas (picture credit: Daring Foods)
Daring Foods co-founder Ross Mackay, pictured left with co-founder Eliott Kessas (picture credit: Daring Foods)

Related tags: plant-based meat, Daring Foods, plant-based chicken, plant-based

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 – has closed an $8m Series A funding round led by VC firm Maveron, taking its cumulative funding to around $12m.

Additional investors include GoodFriends, Stray Dog Capital, Kygo’s Palm Tree Crew Investments, and private investors including Mike Smith (CFO of Stitch Fix) and Brian Swette (former chairman of Burger King and president at Sweet Earth).

We are in the early innings of the plant-based movement​,” said Dan Levitan, managing partner and co-founder of Maveron​.  

The next wave of plant-based alternatives needs to be significantly less processed with a cleaner ingredient profile to win the hearts, minds and stomachs of consumers. We are confident that daring will emerge as a leader in the space.”

Products that people can feel good about eating every day

Daring pieces – which launched direct to consumer via the Daring Foods website​​ and in the frozen plant-based aisle in Sprouts in April - are heading to Bristol Farms, Fresh Thyme, Gelson’s and restaurant chain Just Salad in October. They 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 co-founder Ross Mackay. (On sodium, Daring compares favorably to Tofurky, but is higher than Gardein or Quorn.)

Maveron is interested in companies making products that touch consumers lives every day, products that you can feel good about eating every day, and some of the ingredients in these​ [plant-based products], consumers are not fully comfortable with​,” claimed 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.

Daring-Breaded
Daring is launching a new product (breaded daring pieces) at daring.com and in select retailers this fall

“When you look at the consumer research, health is driving it​ [interest in plant-based foods] ahead of sustainability and animal welfare concerns.”

While Daring doesn't have the deep pockets or clout of some of the big CPG and meat industry players that have recently piled into the plant-based category, retailers are looking for brands that can bring something new to the set from a nutrition, ingredients or branding perspective, said Mackay.

"They also want to know what's next, and what we're doing to drive customers into the stores, which in the current environment is much more digitally focused, as sampling - which was a huge part of our business plan - is not happening right now."

Building a culture when everyone is working remotely

Daring works with co-packers to manufacture products using a high-moisture extrusion process using non-GMO soy. They are distributed by meat protein specialist Rastelli Foods Group, said Mackay, who said the latest capital injection will be used to build capacity and hire new team members.

“Capacity is one of the biggest issues for many plant-based companies, and we are operating at a fraction of what we can do, which is hugely exciting for us.

"As for the team, it will grow from three to 10 to 20 over the next month or so, which is a lot when you’re trying to build a culture, especially in a fully remote working environment, so it’s my job to make sure we’re all aligned and singing from the same hymn sheet.”

Daring Foods packs

Daring pieces – which launched direct to consumer via the Daring Foods website​​ and in Sprouts (nationwide) in April - are currently merchandised in the plant-based frozen department.

However, the company is also talking to retailers about products that could work in the fresh plant-based meat category, where many are building dedicated sets, he said.

"Our product has a 10-day shelf-life when it's slacked out from frozen to fresh, so it's something we're looking at for the begnning of next year in a new format."

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

Interested in plant-based meat?​

Join Darcey Macken at Planterra Foods (JBS), David Lee at Impossible Foods, Chuck Muth at Beyond Meat, Dr Tyler Huggins at Meati Foods and Dr David Welch at The Good Food Institute at our FREE webinar October 14:​​​ ​​​Plant-based meat in focus​​​​ to explore where the market is going next.

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