Startup Spotlight

Blackbird Foods launches crowdfunding campaign, explores plant-based opportunity in school lunches

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Plant-based foods plant-based meat startup spotlight

Plant-based comfort food brand Blackbird Foods launched a crowdfunding campaign on Start Engine to grow its business, including a bigger push into school lunch programs, company CEO Emanuel Storch told FoodNavigator-USA in a Startup Spotlight interview.

Founded in 2020, Blackbird Foods offers a range of New York-style pizzas, including Pepperoni Pizza with Beyond Meat, Buffalo Pizza with Daring chicken, Margherita, Kale-Mushroom, BBQ Pizza and Supreme. Also, the company offers plant-based wings ─ available in Korean BBQ and Classic Buffalo ─ and Seitan in Original, Chili Lime, Rosemary Garlic and Texas BBQ. 

This month, Blackbird Foods launched the crowdfunding campaign, which has raised more than $50,000 as of May 16, to grow its distribution, bolster inventory and support marketing activities, Storch said. 

[Editor’s note: Hear from an investor and other plant-based brands about fundraising in the current environment by tuning in May 29 for FoodNavigator-USA’s free editorial webinar ‘Plant Based 3.0: Emerging from the trough of disillusionment’ – find the details and register HERE​.]

webinar graphic

Blackbird Foods identifies an opportunity in schools

As venture capital funding dried up for many plant-based brands, Blackbird Foods turned to crowdfunding to fuel its business and explore new opportunities, Storch explained. 

“Brands such as ours are looking for other methods to allow ourselves to keep growing and other sources of capital and that is why we have turned to crowdfunding opportunities. And it is not for every brand. It is helpful when you have a larger following when you have established distribution," Storch said.

Recently, Blackbird Foods “developed individual-portion-sized pizzas for schools that are 100% plant-based,” as the brand aims “to grow within the public school and private school network” this year, Storch said. 

“A big passion of mine has been always about school lunch nutrition. And we have been doing a deep dive into what is currently offered around plant-based options [and] ... also all food options to public schools in the US. We have also looked at what is offered in public schools in Europe, and there is really a stark contrast that is quite concerning," he added. 

Beyond the startup funding challenges, the plant-based meat category has struggled amid sluggish sales and weakened consumer demand. Blackbird Foods is circumventing those challenges by making products consumers love to eat, like pizzas and chicken wings, Storch said.

“The core consumer base of plant-based is still growing, and from our perspective, the products that we have developed are ... everyone's favorite comfort foods. It is product categories that consumers are familiar with. Product categories that consumers love, and so it is important to meet consumers where they are. It is always challenging to educate consumers on a totally new concept and products and things like that," he explained.

Tips for startup crowdfunding: ‘Try to do a lot of it yourself’

Startups considering a crowdfunding campaign should focus first on the core existing customers “who are most loyal to your brand” and who can spread the word about the campaign, Storch noted. 

Storch recommended startups deploy a do-it-yourself approach when it comes to marketing the campaign, which will save money over time.

“There will be a lot of services that are contacting you that try to sell their marketing skills and this and that but try to do a lot of it yourself to be more efficient that way. And be really transparent, be honest about your opportunities, your growth, but also your challenges because I think investors really want to see that too," he said.

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