A malleable blend of texturized soy and wheat protein combined with Next Gen Foods’ vegan chicken-fat emulsion ‘lipi,’ coconut oil, methylcellulose and oat fiber, TiNDLE easily can be shaped into a substitute for a range of chicken dishes, as illustrated by the diversity of options now available at select restaurants along both coasts.
These include plant-based versions of chicken parmesan in San Francisco and Miami, sandwiches in Philadelphia and New York, a TiNDLE & spinach alfredo pasta in Los Angeles, and an Asian fried chicken salad in Napa, just to name a few.
In the coming months, the company plans to expand TiNDLE to additional major US cities, such as Austin, but for those who can’t wait for the plant-based poultry to come to a restaurant near them, they can try it through Chef Chad Rosenthal’s Motel Fried Chicken storefront on Goldbelly – a strategic move that makes the plant-based poultry available nationwide, but without the risk of over-extending Next Gen Foods’ resources as it boots up distribution in the US.
“Chefs are really loving TiNDLE, and huge credit goes to our technical team for developing a product that delivers what chefs and consumers really love,” which is a plant-based product that not only tastes like chicken but offers the same flexibility across culinary styles, Andre Menezes, CEO and co-founder of Next Gen Foods, told FoodNavigator-USA.
US key to Next Gen Foods’ mission to reverse climate change through dietary change
Next Gen Foods’ chef-first approach to introducing TiNDLE and early focus on North America is designed to help the brand reach its core consumer target – meat-eaters who may be skeptical of plant-based alternatives, but who play a pivotal role in the company’s long-term mission to reverse climate change through dietary change, according to Menezes.
He explained that for Next Gen Foods to make a meaningful impact, it needs to win over meat-eaters and show them that eating plant-based does not mean compromising on taste or experience – which is easier to do first with trained chefs who can help drive trial and eventually inspire home cooks.
To this end, he also said that penetrating the US market is fundamental to its mission because it is one of the largest poultry markets, and therefore represents a chance to generate the maximum possible impact in the shortest period.
Along with the US, Next Gen Foods also will build out its footprint in Europe, Brazil and China – which combined with the US contributes to 50% of the global consumption of poultry.
With such a lofty mission riding on a handful of restaurants – at least at first -- the company will reinforce its collaborations with US chefs and further raise awareness for TiNDLE at foodie-focused festivals and celebrations, such as the South Beach Wine & Food Festival later this month and earlier testing at the New York City Wine & Food Festival last fall. It
Once the US business is fully established, Menezes says Next Gen Foods plans to expand its reach in Europe and eventually into retail.
Expanded distribution, new product development on the horizon
Today’s bi-coastal launch of TiNDLE in the US was made possible in part by a massive $100m series A fundraise, which the company notes is a record-breaking amount for plant-based protein company to date.
The new funding will not only support distribution through the six US cities where chefs will feature TiNDLE on their menus, but also nationally through the food redistributor DOT Foods and the online food service marketplace FoodServiceDirect.com. In the San Francisco Bay Area, restaurants can also acquire the product through the ecommerce marketplace Cheetah.
Beyond distribution, the funds will support ongoing research and development, which Menezes says can be divided into three buckets that will carry the business through the next five-plus years.
The first will leverage existing, proven technologies to develop new applications, such as line extensions and single products made with the same technology to create TiNDLE, which should roll out over the next two years.
The second bucket will explore how new technology could enhance fundamental aspects of the company’s products, such as a new extrusion method, for example, to create a better bite or a better performing chicken fat. Menezes sees these delivering in the next two to five years.
The third bucket focuses on “exploratory technologies” and could include anything ranging form new ingredients, different processes or groundbreaking technologies for use in other categories. This bucket could deliver short-term applications or longer ones ranging beyond the five-year mark.
Finally, the funds will further reinforce research and development by allowing the company to hire additional protein scientists and food technologists.
Series A fundraise helps build more than capital
Participating investors in Next Gen Foods’ series A round bring more than capital, they also bring strategic synergies and connections necessary for growing the business.
For example, several new investors are based in the Western world, where the company is looking to expand, which complements previous and ongoing investors based in Asia where the company is based.
Other investors also bring synergies, such as Temasek, which contributed to the company’s seed round and helped it create a state-of-the-art R&D innovation center in Singapore that is slated to open later this year, noted Menezes.
Still others have “relevant voices in different groups” and can help raise brand awareness, such as athletes or public figures that have invested in the company and have generated trust with significance audiences, Menezes says.
In addition, Menezes says, Next Gen Foods’ share its values and understand that a mission of its magnitude and developing breakthrough technology takes time – and so none are looking for a quick pay out.
That said, Next Gen Foods’ rapid growth and strong performance today should provide assurances that it is a strong investment bet. In just under a year, the company has gone from launch to having a product on the menu of more than 200 restaurants in three continents.