Plant-based chicken maker Next Gen Foods expands into non-dairy with Mwah! acquisition

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Next Gen Foods
Source: Next Gen Foods

Related tags plant-based plant-based meat Dairy alternatives

Up and coming plant-based chicken manufacturer Next Gen Foods is expanding into the non-dairy segment with today’s announced acquisition of Mwah! – a startup it says is leveraging a “cutting-edge methodology” to create “creamy and delicious dairy-inspired products.”

The deal, for an undisclosed amount, gives Next Gen Foods a toehold into the highly fragmented and quickly evolving non-dairy and premium ice cream categories while also expanding its position in the overall fast-growing plant-based segment, the company told FoodNavigator-USA in an email.

“Today, more than half of Americans 24 to 39 years old are identifying themselves as flexitarians and 48% of US restaurants now offer plant-based options. This mean that plant-based options are becoming a normal part of people’s plate, rather than a demonstration or commitment to a new lifestyle, as it once was.

“For plant-based companies like Next Gen Foods that means a continued focus to diversify the products offered to meet consumer desire, while still delivering on great taste, texture and experience,”​ the company explained.

Tapping into plant-based dairy’s projected $31.5b market

He added Next Gen Foods decided to center its first acquisition, for an undisclosed amount, on Mwah! because the plant-based dairy and premium ice cream segments in which it is focused are growing quickly.

“The plant-based dairy based market is expected to reach over $31.5b by 2028,”​ and the premium ice cream market is growing as well as consumer say they are willing to pay more for a premium ice cream experience and as health-conscious shoppers are drawn to higher quality ingredients and lower amounts of aeration compared to regular ice cream, Next Gen Foods said.

It added that Next Gen Foods zeroed in on Mwah! because it offered a “unique approach to creating great-tasting dairy-inspired products – which aligned well with the company’s mission to make saving the planet easy, enjoyable and delicious.”

Cracking the code on creamy to create plant-based gelato

Next Gen Foods explained that Mwah!’s co-founders Damian Piedrahita and Claudia Comini cracked the code for developing creamy, indulgent dairy-inspired products without animals “through a carefully designed process that combines natural flavorings – along with selected plant-based proteins and lipids – [to] recreate the culinary qualities of pure cream, which can then be applied to their complete portfolio of products (cheese and milk included.”

Rather than limit its products to a single dairy alternative source, such as oats, dates or almonds, Mwah! “focuses on the right source for the right consistency and creaminess of the product being developed,” Next Gen Foods said.

For its first product, Mwah! is using a cashew nut base combined with coconut oil, vegetable fibers, natural flavors, sugar, salt and organic Madagascan vanilla to create its plant-based Madagascan Vanilla Gelato.

The gelato’s rollout will follow the same path as TiNDLE – focusing first on foodservice through a limited distribution at Floozie Cookies in London later this month before expanding to additional restaurants and grocery stores in the future, Next Gen Foods said.

Attendees at Natural Products Expo West can get a first taste of the gelato alongside TiNDLE in a “sweet tribute to the classic chicken and waffle dish” at TiNDLE’s booth #1105 in Hall A, Next Gen Foods said in a release.

At the booth, Next Gen Foods also will sample a range of plant-based chicken products that showcase the diversity of TiNDLE’s malleable blend of texturized soy and wheat protein​ combined with Next Gen Foods’ vegan chicken fat emulsion ‘lipi,’ made from coconut oil, methylcellulose and oat fiber.  

An evolving partnership

The union of the two companies is a natural evolution of their existing partnership.

Next Gen Foods led Mwah!’s seed fundraise of more than $2m that closed in early 2022 to fund development of what would become the startups “signature gelato.”

Company co-founder Andre Menezes and Next Gen Foods CMO Jean Madden also previously served as directors on the board at Mwah! and are “now introducing Piedrahita and Comini as full-time members of the Next Gen Foods team as part of the acquisition.”

TiNDLE will come to US grocery stores later this year

Even as Next Gen Foods looks to take Mwah! to the next level, it continues to scale and expand distribution of its flagship plant-based chicken TiNDLE.

Currently available through its Goldbelly storefront, Motel Fried Chicken, and through a curated displace at the lifestyle concept store Showfields in New York City and Miami, TiNDLE will enter US grocery stores with its full product range later this year.

 [Editor’s Note: Interested in learning more about the future of plant-based meat and how the category can overcome slipping sales for long-term success? Join FoodNavigator-USA and a panel of experts for a FREE 1-hour webinar March 22 at 11 CT. Register today for Plant-Based Meat: Beyond The Honeymoon Period​.] 


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