While the plant-based meat category is not short of startups promising to fix the broken food system, this is not the first rodeo for Andre Menezes and Timo Recker, who founded Next Gen Foods in April 2020 and have already launched products in multiple countries.
German native Recker, whose family business made schnitzel for three generations, had previously founded a successful meat alternatives business called LikeMeat in Germany (which he sold early last year), while Menezes – an engineer who hails from Brazil – was running Country Foods, one of the biggest food importers, distributors and processors in Singapore, when the two met in Singapore and hit it off.
Lipi… tastes like chicken
Although it’s not quite as crowded as the plant-based beef market, the US plant-based chicken market is heating up rapidly, with legacy brands from Lightlife to Tofurky and Quorn now jostling for space with food tech brands such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods; CPG giants such as Nestlé, Conagra, Kellogg and Kraft Heinz; and a flurry of startups such as Nowadays, Rebellyous, Daring Foods, and SIMULATE.
However, there’s still room for new players with a differentiated product and a scalable supply chain, insists Menezes, who is giving US chefs a sneak peek of the firm’s TiNDLE plant-based chicken this week at The Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine & Food Festival.
Made with texturized soy and wheat protein, Next Gen Foods’ flagship ingredient ‘lipi’ (an emulsion of sunflower oil and natural flavors boasting a distinct chicken-fatty-taste), coconut oil, methylcellulose, and oat fiber, TiNDLE is manufactured in the Netherlands, supplied frozen, and can work in a variety of dishes from butter chicken to nuggets, chicken sandwiches and tacos, Menezes told FoodNavigator-USA.
“Chefs love it. It comes in 2lb bags in portions, and they can shape it to make anything from kebabs to dumplings to a deep-fried chicken sandwich.”
'It's malleable when it's being handled, and it's firm when it's cooked, and chefs love that versatility'
The ‘lipi’ vegan chicken-fat emulsion “goes through the fibers, and it’s super-juicy,” he said, noting that “extrusion is a mixture of art and science, and we’re very lucky because our CTO John Seegers [who worked at LikeMeat with Decker] has been doing that for over 20 years and has done thousands of iterations.
“Everything impacts the outcome, from the ingredients, to the ratio of ingredients, to the temperature, to the speed of the flow, to the pressure, and then we have elements like oat fiber to give that extra texture, so all of it was designed so that it's malleable when it's being handled, but it's firm when it's cooked, and chefs love that versatility. They don’t want another chicken nugget.”
Not the first rodeo…
“As you can imagine, April 1st, 2020, was not a fantastic date to start a company,” observed Menezes, who has raised $30m of seed funding from investors including Temasek and GGV Capital, which sounds like a lot of money for a startup, but reflects the speed with which Next Gen Foods has gone from a chance meeting in Singapore to a business with 30 people, and products already on the market in multiple regions.
“At the beginning [thanks to a certain global pandemic], we couldn't even leave our apartments, we couldn’t go visit factories in Europe,” he said. “We couldn't visit people in the markets where we wanted to launch, so it forced us to be highly innovative in every single thing we do, and to design a business model whereby we’re basically a tech company with IP.
“We don't run manufacturing, we don’t have assets, we don't run trucks, but because of our backgrounds, we understand the supply chain, and we’ve made all the mistakes [that startups tend to make] in our previous lives. We understand where to source, how to source, what technology to use, which markets to target, how to do labeling, documents, distribution.”
For the US market, which Next Gen Foods plans to enter next year, beginning with restaurants and later via retail, the company is actively recruiting, said Menezes, who has recently hired former Givaudan exec Alex Ward as COO, former Temasek director Rohit Bhattacharya as CFO, former Johnson & Johnson marketer Charlotte Teo as global marketing director, and former head of communications at Impossible Foods, Rachel Konrad, as an independent director.
Any restaurateur or chef who would like to try TiNDLE is encouraged to reach out to the firm at email@example.com, said Menezes.
Interested in plant-based meat, dairy, and seafood alternatives?
Checkout FoodNavigator-USA's FREE 'Disrupting the Meat and Dairy Case' 3-part series:
Oct 13 (10am PT/1pm ET): Where next for meat alternatives? From plant-based burgers to fungi-fueled bacon - featuring Kroger, Atlast Food Co, Nature's Fynd, Nowadays, Oterra, and Roquette [NOW AVAILABLE ON DEMAND IF YOU REGISTER HERE].
Oct 20(10am PT/1pm ET): Where next for dairy alternatives? From oatmilk to ‘real’ cheese (minus the cows) - featuring Danone, NotCo, BioMilk, Change Foods, RSSL, and CP Kelco
Oct 27(10am PT/1pm ET): Where next for seafood alternatives? From tuna to shrimp - featuring the Good Food Institute, Good Catch, Ocean Hugger, New Wave Foods, and Aqua Cultured Foods.