Plants not pigs! Hooray Foods raises $2.7m to expand its plant-based bacon operation, makes first move into Canada

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

‘If a chain has a plant based burger or breakfast sandwich... we say, how about adding plant-based bacon into your menu?’ Image credit: Hooray Foods
‘If a chain has a plant based burger or breakfast sandwich... we say, how about adding plant-based bacon into your menu?’ Image credit: Hooray Foods

Related tags: Hooray Foods, plant-based bacon, plant-based meat, plant-based

Hooray Foods – which is hoping to make a splash in the plant-based meat category with allergy-friendly vegan bacon (no soy or wheat) – has raised $2.7m in a seed extension round backed by investors including former Dunkin' CEO David Hoffmann, Lyra Growth Partners, Evolution VC Partners, Gaingels, and Sand Hill Angels.

The San Francisco-based startup – which made its retail debut in seven regions of Whole Foods in November 2020 and is about to roll out to all regions – has just secured listings in 180 Sobeys stores in Canada under various banners, and is also performing well on online platform Imperfect Foods, claimed founder Sri Artham.

‘We're pretty close to launching what we call bacon 2.0’

Unlike most competitor products, which typically use a base of vital wheat gluten or soy, Hooray Foods​uses coconut oil, rice flour, tapioca starch, and seasonings for its bacon, which is manufactured by a co-packer in the Midwest.

The result is a product that looks and tastes distinct in the market, claimed Artham, who came up with his own recipes after watching YouTube University videos, signing up for a course on making plant-based meat from the Good Food Institute​, and a lot of trial and error.

Hooray Foods bacon has no protein and more fat than some other plant-based bacon products, which creates a different eating experience, although it still has a lot less fat than the animal-based version, said Artham, who uses a combination of liquid smoke, shiitake mushrooms, salt, mushroom extract, and maple syrup to create the complex sweet and savory flavors bacon lovers expect.

“We're pretty close to launching what we call bacon 2.0, hopefully early next year, although we don't have a firm date just yet, but the flavor is a lot more like real animal bacon. The challenge is that the flavor has to hold up to your manufacturing process and then when you cook up the bacon at home you want the aroma, and then it still has to taste like bacon after you’ve cooked it, so the flavor has to be really durable.

“We're also looking for more colors for bacon 2.0 to find something that looks even more realistic than the beet juice concentrate we’re currently using. The color has a big impact on flavor perception as well.”

Close Up BLT_credit Hooray Foods

Ingredients:​ Coconut oil, rice flour, tapioca starch, liquid smoke, umami seasoning (shiitake mushrooms, salt, mushroom extract, calcium carbonate), maple syrup, salt, beet juice concentrate.

Image credit: Hooray Foods

Merchandising plant-based bacon

As for learnings from its work with Whole Foods, not surprisingly, Hooray bacon performs better when it’s presented in its bright orange case pack, said Artham, who now has 14 people on his team.

When it’s vertically slotted in the bright orange case pack, it looks really good, and it’s very clear to the consumer. Sometimes it's not merchandised in the box and is just flat, which makes it a lot harder to notice for a casual consumer, which makes a difference to our sales for sure.”

Hooray bacon is typically merchandised alongside other plant-based bacon brands such as Lightlife or Sweet Earth in retailers’ refrigerated plant-based segment, added Artham. “However, we launched into Sobeys in Canada a few weeks ago and in some cases, they have started merchandising us next to animal products, so it will be interesting to see how that impacts sales.”

‘I haven't seen any waning enthusiasm from retailers, restaurants, or distributors’

Asked about the recent conversation in the media over whether plant-based meat has been over-hyped, he said that just because Beyond Meat’s share price has dropped doesn’t mean we should throw the baby out with the bathwater, merely that the growth curve for this market is on a slightly different, but still exciting, trajectory.

“I still remain really optimistic, I think ​[social media posts about the bubble bursting on plant-based meat] simply reflect more of a mismatch between hype and reality. I haven't seen any waning enthusiasm from retailers, restaurants, or distributors.   

“Another exciting thing is that we will actually be able to start demoing early in the New Year, we’re talking to several other grocers about expanding, and we’re also relaunching in food service, which was kind of put on pause during the pandemic as we focused on retail."

‘Ifa chain has a plant-based burger or breakfast sandwich, with, say, a Beyond Sausage or Just Egg, we say, hey, you know, how about adding plant-based bacon into your menu?’

While plant-based still only accounts for a fraction of the overall meat market, attitudes have changed significantly in recent years, argued Artham, in part thanks to the impact of high-profile brands such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat in major foodservice as well as retail chains.

“They’ve done the groundwork. So if a chain has a plant-based burger on their menu or a plant based breakfast sandwich, with, say, a Beyond Sausage or Just Egg, we reach out to and say, hey, you know, how about adding plant-based bacon into your menu?”

Supply chain challenges: coconut oil, tapioca, rice flour, salt

Asked about supply chain challenges, he said: “The one that surprised me most was a time when we couldn’t get salt. We’ve also had an issue withrice flour, which we get from California, and because of the drought, there's been a shortage. We get our coconut oil from the Philippines, and we've had some challenges getting that reliably as well.

“There was even a massive tapioca shortage for a little while, so we've certainly been caught up a little bit with that. But in all these cases, we've been able to work through it.”

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