The 50+ companies driving the shift to plant-based chicken

The 50+ companies driving the shift to plant-based chicken

By
Louise Burfitt
July 27, 2021

🐔 What is it?

  • Move over bleeding veggie burgers and vegan hot dogs: animal-free chicken is the next big thing in plant-based. 
  • Well, perhaps that’s not quite right. Plant-based chicken nuggets and sausages, certainly, have been on sale for a long time. But these analogues haven't exactly enjoyed the success of their relatives in the beef and pork substitutes segment. 
  • But thanks to advances in technology and a growing wave of new startups in the sector, things are hotting up. And food tech whizzes are even getting closer to replicating a whole cut chicken… 

🤔 Tell me more…

  • Chickenless chicken isn’t exactly a new trend, but until now, beef and pork have taken the meat-free spotlight as food entrepreneurs focused on replicating the perfect vegan burgers and sausages. 
  • And 2021 has seen a marked uptick in the faux chicken marketplace, with new launches from the big names and a run of impressive funding rounds from several fresh players in the space. 

🤷‍♂️ Why?

  • One of the drivers of the explosion in plant-based chicken options is frequent shortages in the poultry industry. Whether due to animal disease, COVID-19 isolation, labour shortages or lagging international supply chains, customers are finding the shelves empty in supermarkets. And this presents a golden opportunity for plant-based chicken producers to target the meat-eating and/or flexitarian market. 
  • COVID-19 is likely to have played a role, too: the poultry farming industry is under more scrutiny than ever now that the public is hyper-conscious of the dangers of livestock breeding and crossover disease. Previous bird flu epidemics also impacted poultry sales significantly. 
  • Then there’s the fact that the plant-based industry, particularly the big guns, now know how to make and sell their faux beef and pork by this point. By most measures, vegan burgers have been a rip-roaring success. Now producers want to take what they've learned and apply it to a new challenge: poultry. And it’s a challenge that, if done right, should pay off: chicken makes up almost 50% of all meat consumed and new options billed as healthier could convince some flexitarians to make the leap. 
  • As with most plant-based drivers, health, ethics and sustainability are also key considerations - especially among younger generations. 
Beyond Meat Chicken Strips (2012) vs Beyond Meat Chicken Tenders (2021)

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • The field is as wide as the shelves full of real poultry in the supermarket: faux chicken entrepreneurs are making nuggets, patties, chicken sausages, kebabs, strips, slices and more. Some, like NOVAMEAT, rely on 3D printing; others, like meatless farm and Endori, are using pea protein, with others (Karana, Jack & Annie’s) utilising jackfruit in their meat-free chicken range. 
  • Two major jewels in the plant-based meat crown - Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods - both announced new ventures into the plant-based chicken field this year. Impossible will launch their meat-free chicken nuggets this autumn, while Beyond are already selling their ‘chicken’ tenders to 400 restaurants as of this July. 
  • There’s also a wealth of startups with impressive backers in the plant-based chicken race: US brand daring won funding from rapper Drake, among others, in their $40m Series B funding round this spring. Elsewhere, SIMULATE - who make social media favourite NUGGS - just raised $50m in their Series B round, while UK company THIS yielded £11m in Series A funding (a UK plant-based record). 
  • Big brands are also leaping on the bandwagon, recognising the space as a potentially lucrative one: Nestlé have added a meat-free chicken option to their Sweet Earth range, and invited Sundial Foods to join their R&D programme to further develop their patent-pending mechanical process to recreate the fibrous texture of chicken. Meanwhile, Kellogg’s debuted their Incogmeato Chik’n tenders in the US this year. 
  • Many are focusing on nuggets: between May 2020 and 2021, nugget sales grew almost 50% - with plant-based products selling best. Startups may opt for vegan nuggets because a breaded product is easier to replicate than a whole cut, and - as a self-certified junk food - consumers aren’t too fussy about what goes into them. 
  • However, several companies are focusing on a clean and minimal ingredients list - and the associated health benefits - to win over new customers. Nowadays make chicken nuggets with just 7 ingredients, while Planted have whittled their list down to just 4. While chicken has often been seen as the healthier choice compared to beef, even omnivores are now turning to plant-based chicken alternatives in a further quest to improve their health - a shift that’s only accelerated thanks to the pandemic. And brands are taking note
  • Chicken breasts and fillets are harder to crack, but would be a boon for brands that can come up with a viable product. This year Rival Foods announced their plan to develop whole-cut vegan chicken in partnership with LIVEKINDLY Collective. The main aim is to recreate the ‘fibrous’ texture of the real thing, which the firm believes is the answer to convincing even diehard chicken consumers to try a kinder alternative. 
  • Long-standing plant-based brand Quorn is also hoping to crack this segment with new technology, and just awarded French startup Umiami with an innovation award for their extrusion technology that can create fibrous whole cuts without texturing additives. Watch this space...
View 30+ Plant-Based Chicken Companies

👀 Who? (50+ companies in this space)

💸 The investors

📈 The figures

  • With Americans spending $110 billion on chicken in 2020 – more than any other meat – the market is ripe for plant-based growth and asking for disruption.
  • Sales of plant-based chicken increased by 18% in 2020 alone, with the market already worth $272 million.
Planted Chicken

🇨🇭 Case study: Planted

  • Planted is a Swiss startup making pea-protein-based plant-based chicken.
  • They started out selling to a small selection of restaurants in 2019, and now also sell directly to consumers via their webshop and in supermarkets across Switzerland, Austria and Germany. 
  • The current product range encompasses ‘chicken’ kebab skewers and faux chicken fillets, which can be substituted in any recipe that uses grilled, stewed or sautéed chicken. 
  • Planted’s chicken uses just 4 ingredients, upping its appeal to health-conscious consumers: these are pea protein, pea fiber, canola oil and water. It’s also supplemented with B12, a vitamin vegans can find hard to get enough of. 
  • Their products are also free from flavouring or preservatives, chemical additives, soy, gluten, lactose or GMO ingredients.
  • One of Planted chicken’s key selling points? How closely it mimics the texture of real chicken. The company uses extrusion techniques to replicate the muscle structures of conventional meat as much as possible. 
  • The ETH Zurich spinoff has already secured total funding to the tune of $25.5m and are rumored to be raising their next round later this year.
  • Earlier this year Planted raised $18m in a Series A funding round, which the brand plans to use to expand its product range and grow an international profile.
Beyond Meat Chicken Tenders

🇺🇸 Case study: Beyond Meat

  • From a startup to a big-name brand: Beyond Meat is the darling of the plant-based meat world, known the world over for its vegan Beyond Burger.
  • But for chicken substitutes? Not so much. 
  • But that’s all set to change: this summer the cult brand launched their vegan chicken tenders.
  • The road to Beyond’s latest plant-based chicken offering has been a bumpy one. The company first released their version of not-chicken way back in 2012, when truly delicious and convincing vegan meats were barely a twinkle in the plant-based industry’s eye. They were discontinued in 2019 as the company focused all its efforts on fulfilling demand for their Beyond Burgers.
  • But having conquered faux beef and pork, Beyond has jumped back into the alt-chicken market with its faux chicken tenders, now available at restaurants across the US. Separately, they’re also creating an exclusive version for KFC.
  • The chicken tenders are miles away from their original chicken strips, with a melt-in-your-mouth consistency reported to rival the real deal, achieved with a faba bean and pea protein blend
  • And, in a move that will appeal to health-conscious younger consumers, Beyond’s breaded tenders are high in protein and boast 40% less saturates than your average real-chicken tender. Oh, and they’re free from GMOs, hormones and cholesterol too! 
  • In a sign of the company’s commitment to making a proper go at plant-based chicken this time round, 200 scientists were employed to develop the product over several years - with the help of advanced tech to help match the texture and taste of real poultry. 

👍 The good

  • The sheer variety of faux chicken options already - or soon to be - on the market is a boon for both shoppers and the segment. Many options mean more potential consumers to target and a wide space for brands to make their mark. 
  • And there’s health, sustainability and/or ethical benefits to many of the analogues on offer - which could persuade flexitarians and people who rely on chicken in their diet as a staple to make the switch at least some of the time.
  • The wealth of companies in this category also means more competition. Brands are having to work harder to stand out - which is accelerating innovation and leading to the creation of better and better substitutes, created with diverse technologies such as extrusion or that continues to advance.
  • Overall, the immense possibilities of this field - both in terms of money and scale - mean plant-based chicken is a thrilling business opportunity that many food tech entrepreneurs just can’t resist.

👎 The bad

  • Real chicken is cheap. Plant-based chicken? Not so much. Plant-based products are still relatively new and many are targeting more moneyed consumers than your average shopper. The hope is that increasing demand will lower prices, as will the appropriate tech becoming more widely available.
  • As with other faux meat, poultry farmers may suffer in the long term, if prices do eventually reach parity with conventional chicken meat. 
  • Whole-cut plant-based chicken producers likely have the trickiest road ahead of them when it comes to convincing consumers. Unlike nuggets, which are simpler to mimic, those making chicken breast or legs will need to perfect the taste, texture and mouthfeel to win over customers. 
  • Lastly, despite claims to the contrary by some, some plant-based chicken products aren’t much healthier than the original. A nugget, you could argue, is a nugget - high in salt, breaded with white flour, though some brands are contradicting this stereotype with ‘clean’ ingredients aimed at health-conscious millennials.

 💡The bottom line

  • Consumers love chicken, the stories and the statistics back it up. And food tech pioneers (and their investors) love it too - the plant-based market for chicken analogues looks set to be the next big thing. 
  • And while challenges remain - particularly when it comes to taste, price and texture - now that brands like Beyond and Impossible Foods have paved the way with their bankable burgers, convincing consumers that fake chicken is a product worth trying out will probably be a little easier

How did you like today's Trends?

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🐔 What is it?

  • Move over bleeding veggie burgers and vegan hot dogs: animal-free chicken is the next big thing in plant-based. 
  • Well, perhaps that’s not quite right. Plant-based chicken nuggets and sausages, certainly, have been on sale for a long time. But these analogues haven't exactly enjoyed the success of their relatives in the beef and pork substitutes segment. 
  • But thanks to advances in technology and a growing wave of new startups in the sector, things are hotting up. And food tech whizzes are even getting closer to replicating a whole cut chicken… 

🤔 Tell me more…

  • Chickenless chicken isn’t exactly a new trend, but until now, beef and pork have taken the meat-free spotlight as food entrepreneurs focused on replicating the perfect vegan burgers and sausages. 
  • And 2021 has seen a marked uptick in the faux chicken marketplace, with new launches from the big names and a run of impressive funding rounds from several fresh players in the space. 

🤷‍♂️ Why?

  • One of the drivers of the explosion in plant-based chicken options is frequent shortages in the poultry industry. Whether due to animal disease, COVID-19 isolation, labour shortages or lagging international supply chains, customers are finding the shelves empty in supermarkets. And this presents a golden opportunity for plant-based chicken producers to target the meat-eating and/or flexitarian market. 
  • COVID-19 is likely to have played a role, too: the poultry farming industry is under more scrutiny than ever now that the public is hyper-conscious of the dangers of livestock breeding and crossover disease. Previous bird flu epidemics also impacted poultry sales significantly. 
  • Then there’s the fact that the plant-based industry, particularly the big guns, now know how to make and sell their faux beef and pork by this point. By most measures, vegan burgers have been a rip-roaring success. Now producers want to take what they've learned and apply it to a new challenge: poultry. And it’s a challenge that, if done right, should pay off: chicken makes up almost 50% of all meat consumed and new options billed as healthier could convince some flexitarians to make the leap. 
  • As with most plant-based drivers, health, ethics and sustainability are also key considerations - especially among younger generations. 
Beyond Meat Chicken Strips (2012) vs Beyond Meat Chicken Tenders (2021)

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • The field is as wide as the shelves full of real poultry in the supermarket: faux chicken entrepreneurs are making nuggets, patties, chicken sausages, kebabs, strips, slices and more. Some, like NOVAMEAT, rely on 3D printing; others, like meatless farm and Endori, are using pea protein, with others (Karana, Jack & Annie’s) utilising jackfruit in their meat-free chicken range. 
  • Two major jewels in the plant-based meat crown - Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods - both announced new ventures into the plant-based chicken field this year. Impossible will launch their meat-free chicken nuggets this autumn, while Beyond are already selling their ‘chicken’ tenders to 400 restaurants as of this July. 
  • There’s also a wealth of startups with impressive backers in the plant-based chicken race: US brand daring won funding from rapper Drake, among others, in their $40m Series B funding round this spring. Elsewhere, SIMULATE - who make social media favourite NUGGS - just raised $50m in their Series B round, while UK company THIS yielded £11m in Series A funding (a UK plant-based record). 
  • Big brands are also leaping on the bandwagon, recognising the space as a potentially lucrative one: Nestlé have added a meat-free chicken option to their Sweet Earth range, and invited Sundial Foods to join their R&D programme to further develop their patent-pending mechanical process to recreate the fibrous texture of chicken. Meanwhile, Kellogg’s debuted their Incogmeato Chik’n tenders in the US this year. 
  • Many are focusing on nuggets: between May 2020 and 2021, nugget sales grew almost 50% - with plant-based products selling best. Startups may opt for vegan nuggets because a breaded product is easier to replicate than a whole cut, and - as a self-certified junk food - consumers aren’t too fussy about what goes into them. 
  • However, several companies are focusing on a clean and minimal ingredients list - and the associated health benefits - to win over new customers. Nowadays make chicken nuggets with just 7 ingredients, while Planted have whittled their list down to just 4. While chicken has often been seen as the healthier choice compared to beef, even omnivores are now turning to plant-based chicken alternatives in a further quest to improve their health - a shift that’s only accelerated thanks to the pandemic. And brands are taking note
  • Chicken breasts and fillets are harder to crack, but would be a boon for brands that can come up with a viable product. This year Rival Foods announced their plan to develop whole-cut vegan chicken in partnership with LIVEKINDLY Collective. The main aim is to recreate the ‘fibrous’ texture of the real thing, which the firm believes is the answer to convincing even diehard chicken consumers to try a kinder alternative. 
  • Long-standing plant-based brand Quorn is also hoping to crack this segment with new technology, and just awarded French startup Umiami with an innovation award for their extrusion technology that can create fibrous whole cuts without texturing additives. Watch this space...
View 30+ Plant-Based Chicken Companies

👀 Who? (50+ companies in this space)

💸 The investors

📈 The figures

  • With Americans spending $110 billion on chicken in 2020 – more than any other meat – the market is ripe for plant-based growth and asking for disruption.
  • Sales of plant-based chicken increased by 18% in 2020 alone, with the market already worth $272 million.
Planted Chicken

🇨🇭 Case study: Planted

  • Planted is a Swiss startup making pea-protein-based plant-based chicken.
  • They started out selling to a small selection of restaurants in 2019, and now also sell directly to consumers via their webshop and in supermarkets across Switzerland, Austria and Germany. 
  • The current product range encompasses ‘chicken’ kebab skewers and faux chicken fillets, which can be substituted in any recipe that uses grilled, stewed or sautéed chicken. 
  • Planted’s chicken uses just 4 ingredients, upping its appeal to health-conscious consumers: these are pea protein, pea fiber, canola oil and water. It’s also supplemented with B12, a vitamin vegans can find hard to get enough of. 
  • Their products are also free from flavouring or preservatives, chemical additives, soy, gluten, lactose or GMO ingredients.
  • One of Planted chicken’s key selling points? How closely it mimics the texture of real chicken. The company uses extrusion techniques to replicate the muscle structures of conventional meat as much as possible. 
  • The ETH Zurich spinoff has already secured total funding to the tune of $25.5m and are rumored to be raising their next round later this year.
  • Earlier this year Planted raised $18m in a Series A funding round, which the brand plans to use to expand its product range and grow an international profile.
Beyond Meat Chicken Tenders

🇺🇸 Case study: Beyond Meat

  • From a startup to a big-name brand: Beyond Meat is the darling of the plant-based meat world, known the world over for its vegan Beyond Burger.
  • But for chicken substitutes? Not so much. 
  • But that’s all set to change: this summer the cult brand launched their vegan chicken tenders.
  • The road to Beyond’s latest plant-based chicken offering has been a bumpy one. The company first released their version of not-chicken way back in 2012, when truly delicious and convincing vegan meats were barely a twinkle in the plant-based industry’s eye. They were discontinued in 2019 as the company focused all its efforts on fulfilling demand for their Beyond Burgers.
  • But having conquered faux beef and pork, Beyond has jumped back into the alt-chicken market with its faux chicken tenders, now available at restaurants across the US. Separately, they’re also creating an exclusive version for KFC.
  • The chicken tenders are miles away from their original chicken strips, with a melt-in-your-mouth consistency reported to rival the real deal, achieved with a faba bean and pea protein blend
  • And, in a move that will appeal to health-conscious younger consumers, Beyond’s breaded tenders are high in protein and boast 40% less saturates than your average real-chicken tender. Oh, and they’re free from GMOs, hormones and cholesterol too! 
  • In a sign of the company’s commitment to making a proper go at plant-based chicken this time round, 200 scientists were employed to develop the product over several years - with the help of advanced tech to help match the texture and taste of real poultry. 

👍 The good

  • The sheer variety of faux chicken options already - or soon to be - on the market is a boon for both shoppers and the segment. Many options mean more potential consumers to target and a wide space for brands to make their mark. 
  • And there’s health, sustainability and/or ethical benefits to many of the analogues on offer - which could persuade flexitarians and people who rely on chicken in their diet as a staple to make the switch at least some of the time.
  • The wealth of companies in this category also means more competition. Brands are having to work harder to stand out - which is accelerating innovation and leading to the creation of better and better substitutes, created with diverse technologies such as extrusion or that continues to advance.
  • Overall, the immense possibilities of this field - both in terms of money and scale - mean plant-based chicken is a thrilling business opportunity that many food tech entrepreneurs just can’t resist.

👎 The bad

  • Real chicken is cheap. Plant-based chicken? Not so much. Plant-based products are still relatively new and many are targeting more moneyed consumers than your average shopper. The hope is that increasing demand will lower prices, as will the appropriate tech becoming more widely available.
  • As with other faux meat, poultry farmers may suffer in the long term, if prices do eventually reach parity with conventional chicken meat. 
  • Whole-cut plant-based chicken producers likely have the trickiest road ahead of them when it comes to convincing consumers. Unlike nuggets, which are simpler to mimic, those making chicken breast or legs will need to perfect the taste, texture and mouthfeel to win over customers. 
  • Lastly, despite claims to the contrary by some, some plant-based chicken products aren’t much healthier than the original. A nugget, you could argue, is a nugget - high in salt, breaded with white flour, though some brands are contradicting this stereotype with ‘clean’ ingredients aimed at health-conscious millennials.

 💡The bottom line

  • Consumers love chicken, the stories and the statistics back it up. And food tech pioneers (and their investors) love it too - the plant-based market for chicken analogues looks set to be the next big thing. 
  • And while challenges remain - particularly when it comes to taste, price and texture - now that brands like Beyond and Impossible Foods have paved the way with their bankable burgers, convincing consumers that fake chicken is a product worth trying out will probably be a little easier

How did you like today's Trends?

Love it 😁 Meh 😐 Hate it 🙁

🐔 What is it?

  • Move over bleeding veggie burgers and vegan hot dogs: animal-free chicken is the next big thing in plant-based. 
  • Well, perhaps that’s not quite right. Plant-based chicken nuggets and sausages, certainly, have been on sale for a long time. But these analogues haven't exactly enjoyed the success of their relatives in the beef and pork substitutes segment. 
  • But thanks to advances in technology and a growing wave of new startups in the sector, things are hotting up. And food tech whizzes are even getting closer to replicating a whole cut chicken… 

🤔 Tell me more…

  • Chickenless chicken isn’t exactly a new trend, but until now, beef and pork have taken the meat-free spotlight as food entrepreneurs focused on replicating the perfect vegan burgers and sausages. 
  • And 2021 has seen a marked uptick in the faux chicken marketplace, with new launches from the big names and a run of impressive funding rounds from several fresh players in the space. 

🤷‍♂️ Why?

  • One of the drivers of the explosion in plant-based chicken options is frequent shortages in the poultry industry. Whether due to animal disease, COVID-19 isolation, labour shortages or lagging international supply chains, customers are finding the shelves empty in supermarkets. And this presents a golden opportunity for plant-based chicken producers to target the meat-eating and/or flexitarian market. 
  • COVID-19 is likely to have played a role, too: the poultry farming industry is under more scrutiny than ever now that the public is hyper-conscious of the dangers of livestock breeding and crossover disease. Previous bird flu epidemics also impacted poultry sales significantly. 
  • Then there’s the fact that the plant-based industry, particularly the big guns, now know how to make and sell their faux beef and pork by this point. By most measures, vegan burgers have been a rip-roaring success. Now producers want to take what they've learned and apply it to a new challenge: poultry. And it’s a challenge that, if done right, should pay off: chicken makes up almost 50% of all meat consumed and new options billed as healthier could convince some flexitarians to make the leap. 
  • As with most plant-based drivers, health, ethics and sustainability are also key considerations - especially among younger generations. 
Beyond Meat Chicken Strips (2012) vs Beyond Meat Chicken Tenders (2021)

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • The field is as wide as the shelves full of real poultry in the supermarket: faux chicken entrepreneurs are making nuggets, patties, chicken sausages, kebabs, strips, slices and more. Some, like NOVAMEAT, rely on 3D printing; others, like meatless farm and Endori, are using pea protein, with others (Karana, Jack & Annie’s) utilising jackfruit in their meat-free chicken range. 
  • Two major jewels in the plant-based meat crown - Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods - both announced new ventures into the plant-based chicken field this year. Impossible will launch their meat-free chicken nuggets this autumn, while Beyond are already selling their ‘chicken’ tenders to 400 restaurants as of this July. 
  • There’s also a wealth of startups with impressive backers in the plant-based chicken race: US brand daring won funding from rapper Drake, among others, in their $40m Series B funding round this spring. Elsewhere, SIMULATE - who make social media favourite NUGGS - just raised $50m in their Series B round, while UK company THIS yielded £11m in Series A funding (a UK plant-based record). 
  • Big brands are also leaping on the bandwagon, recognising the space as a potentially lucrative one: Nestlé have added a meat-free chicken option to their Sweet Earth range, and invited Sundial Foods to join their R&D programme to further develop their patent-pending mechanical process to recreate the fibrous texture of chicken. Meanwhile, Kellogg’s debuted their Incogmeato Chik’n tenders in the US this year. 
  • Many are focusing on nuggets: between May 2020 and 2021, nugget sales grew almost 50% - with plant-based products selling best. Startups may opt for vegan nuggets because a breaded product is easier to replicate than a whole cut, and - as a self-certified junk food - consumers aren’t too fussy about what goes into them. 
  • However, several companies are focusing on a clean and minimal ingredients list - and the associated health benefits - to win over new customers. Nowadays make chicken nuggets with just 7 ingredients, while Planted have whittled their list down to just 4. While chicken has often been seen as the healthier choice compared to beef, even omnivores are now turning to plant-based chicken alternatives in a further quest to improve their health - a shift that’s only accelerated thanks to the pandemic. And brands are taking note
  • Chicken breasts and fillets are harder to crack, but would be a boon for brands that can come up with a viable product. This year Rival Foods announced their plan to develop whole-cut vegan chicken in partnership with LIVEKINDLY Collective. The main aim is to recreate the ‘fibrous’ texture of the real thing, which the firm believes is the answer to convincing even diehard chicken consumers to try a kinder alternative. 
  • Long-standing plant-based brand Quorn is also hoping to crack this segment with new technology, and just awarded French startup Umiami with an innovation award for their extrusion technology that can create fibrous whole cuts without texturing additives. Watch this space...
View 30+ Plant-Based Chicken Companies

👀 Who? (50+ companies in this space)

💸 The investors

📈 The figures

  • With Americans spending $110 billion on chicken in 2020 – more than any other meat – the market is ripe for plant-based growth and asking for disruption.
  • Sales of plant-based chicken increased by 18% in 2020 alone, with the market already worth $272 million.
Planted Chicken

🇨🇭 Case study: Planted

  • Planted is a Swiss startup making pea-protein-based plant-based chicken.
  • They started out selling to a small selection of restaurants in 2019, and now also sell directly to consumers via their webshop and in supermarkets across Switzerland, Austria and Germany. 
  • The current product range encompasses ‘chicken’ kebab skewers and faux chicken fillets, which can be substituted in any recipe that uses grilled, stewed or sautéed chicken. 
  • Planted’s chicken uses just 4 ingredients, upping its appeal to health-conscious consumers: these are pea protein, pea fiber, canola oil and water. It’s also supplemented with B12, a vitamin vegans can find hard to get enough of. 
  • Their products are also free from flavouring or preservatives, chemical additives, soy, gluten, lactose or GMO ingredients.
  • One of Planted chicken’s key selling points? How closely it mimics the texture of real chicken. The company uses extrusion techniques to replicate the muscle structures of conventional meat as much as possible. 
  • The ETH Zurich spinoff has already secured total funding to the tune of $25.5m and are rumored to be raising their next round later this year.
  • Earlier this year Planted raised $18m in a Series A funding round, which the brand plans to use to expand its product range and grow an international profile.
Beyond Meat Chicken Tenders

🇺🇸 Case study: Beyond Meat

  • From a startup to a big-name brand: Beyond Meat is the darling of the plant-based meat world, known the world over for its vegan Beyond Burger.
  • But for chicken substitutes? Not so much. 
  • But that’s all set to change: this summer the cult brand launched their vegan chicken tenders.
  • The road to Beyond’s latest plant-based chicken offering has been a bumpy one. The company first released their version of not-chicken way back in 2012, when truly delicious and convincing vegan meats were barely a twinkle in the plant-based industry’s eye. They were discontinued in 2019 as the company focused all its efforts on fulfilling demand for their Beyond Burgers.
  • But having conquered faux beef and pork, Beyond has jumped back into the alt-chicken market with its faux chicken tenders, now available at restaurants across the US. Separately, they’re also creating an exclusive version for KFC.
  • The chicken tenders are miles away from their original chicken strips, with a melt-in-your-mouth consistency reported to rival the real deal, achieved with a faba bean and pea protein blend
  • And, in a move that will appeal to health-conscious younger consumers, Beyond’s breaded tenders are high in protein and boast 40% less saturates than your average real-chicken tender. Oh, and they’re free from GMOs, hormones and cholesterol too! 
  • In a sign of the company’s commitment to making a proper go at plant-based chicken this time round, 200 scientists were employed to develop the product over several years - with the help of advanced tech to help match the texture and taste of real poultry. 

👍 The good

  • The sheer variety of faux chicken options already - or soon to be - on the market is a boon for both shoppers and the segment. Many options mean more potential consumers to target and a wide space for brands to make their mark. 
  • And there’s health, sustainability and/or ethical benefits to many of the analogues on offer - which could persuade flexitarians and people who rely on chicken in their diet as a staple to make the switch at least some of the time.
  • The wealth of companies in this category also means more competition. Brands are having to work harder to stand out - which is accelerating innovation and leading to the creation of better and better substitutes, created with diverse technologies such as extrusion or that continues to advance.
  • Overall, the immense possibilities of this field - both in terms of money and scale - mean plant-based chicken is a thrilling business opportunity that many food tech entrepreneurs just can’t resist.

👎 The bad

  • Real chicken is cheap. Plant-based chicken? Not so much. Plant-based products are still relatively new and many are targeting more moneyed consumers than your average shopper. The hope is that increasing demand will lower prices, as will the appropriate tech becoming more widely available.
  • As with other faux meat, poultry farmers may suffer in the long term, if prices do eventually reach parity with conventional chicken meat. 
  • Whole-cut plant-based chicken producers likely have the trickiest road ahead of them when it comes to convincing consumers. Unlike nuggets, which are simpler to mimic, those making chicken breast or legs will need to perfect the taste, texture and mouthfeel to win over customers. 
  • Lastly, despite claims to the contrary by some, some plant-based chicken products aren’t much healthier than the original. A nugget, you could argue, is a nugget - high in salt, breaded with white flour, though some brands are contradicting this stereotype with ‘clean’ ingredients aimed at health-conscious millennials.

 💡The bottom line

  • Consumers love chicken, the stories and the statistics back it up. And food tech pioneers (and their investors) love it too - the plant-based market for chicken analogues looks set to be the next big thing. 
  • And while challenges remain - particularly when it comes to taste, price and texture - now that brands like Beyond and Impossible Foods have paved the way with their bankable burgers, convincing consumers that fake chicken is a product worth trying out will probably be a little easier

How did you like today's Trends?

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🐔 What is it?

  • Move over bleeding veggie burgers and vegan hot dogs: animal-free chicken is the next big thing in plant-based. 
  • Well, perhaps that’s not quite right. Plant-based chicken nuggets and sausages, certainly, have been on sale for a long time. But these analogues haven't exactly enjoyed the success of their relatives in the beef and pork substitutes segment. 
  • But thanks to advances in technology and a growing wave of new startups in the sector, things are hotting up. And food tech whizzes are even getting closer to replicating a whole cut chicken… 

🤔 Tell me more…

  • Chickenless chicken isn’t exactly a new trend, but until now, beef and pork have taken the meat-free spotlight as food entrepreneurs focused on replicating the perfect vegan burgers and sausages. 
  • And 2021 has seen a marked uptick in the faux chicken marketplace, with new launches from the big names and a run of impressive funding rounds from several fresh players in the space. 

🤷‍♂️ Why?

  • One of the drivers of the explosion in plant-based chicken options is frequent shortages in the poultry industry. Whether due to animal disease, COVID-19 isolation, labour shortages or lagging international supply chains, customers are finding the shelves empty in supermarkets. And this presents a golden opportunity for plant-based chicken producers to target the meat-eating and/or flexitarian market. 
  • COVID-19 is likely to have played a role, too: the poultry farming industry is under more scrutiny than ever now that the public is hyper-conscious of the dangers of livestock breeding and crossover disease. Previous bird flu epidemics also impacted poultry sales significantly. 
  • Then there’s the fact that the plant-based industry, particularly the big guns, now know how to make and sell their faux beef and pork by this point. By most measures, vegan burgers have been a rip-roaring success. Now producers want to take what they've learned and apply it to a new challenge: poultry. And it’s a challenge that, if done right, should pay off: chicken makes up almost 50% of all meat consumed and new options billed as healthier could convince some flexitarians to make the leap. 
  • As with most plant-based drivers, health, ethics and sustainability are also key considerations - especially among younger generations. 
Beyond Meat Chicken Strips (2012) vs Beyond Meat Chicken Tenders (2021)

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • The field is as wide as the shelves full of real poultry in the supermarket: faux chicken entrepreneurs are making nuggets, patties, chicken sausages, kebabs, strips, slices and more. Some, like NOVAMEAT, rely on 3D printing; others, like meatless farm and Endori, are using pea protein, with others (Karana, Jack & Annie’s) utilising jackfruit in their meat-free chicken range. 
  • Two major jewels in the plant-based meat crown - Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods - both announced new ventures into the plant-based chicken field this year. Impossible will launch their meat-free chicken nuggets this autumn, while Beyond are already selling their ‘chicken’ tenders to 400 restaurants as of this July. 
  • There’s also a wealth of startups with impressive backers in the plant-based chicken race: US brand daring won funding from rapper Drake, among others, in their $40m Series B funding round this spring. Elsewhere, SIMULATE - who make social media favourite NUGGS - just raised $50m in their Series B round, while UK company THIS yielded £11m in Series A funding (a UK plant-based record). 
  • Big brands are also leaping on the bandwagon, recognising the space as a potentially lucrative one: Nestlé have added a meat-free chicken option to their Sweet Earth range, and invited Sundial Foods to join their R&D programme to further develop their patent-pending mechanical process to recreate the fibrous texture of chicken. Meanwhile, Kellogg’s debuted their Incogmeato Chik’n tenders in the US this year. 
  • Many are focusing on nuggets: between May 2020 and 2021, nugget sales grew almost 50% - with plant-based products selling best. Startups may opt for vegan nuggets because a breaded product is easier to replicate than a whole cut, and - as a self-certified junk food - consumers aren’t too fussy about what goes into them. 
  • However, several companies are focusing on a clean and minimal ingredients list - and the associated health benefits - to win over new customers. Nowadays make chicken nuggets with just 7 ingredients, while Planted have whittled their list down to just 4. While chicken has often been seen as the healthier choice compared to beef, even omnivores are now turning to plant-based chicken alternatives in a further quest to improve their health - a shift that’s only accelerated thanks to the pandemic. And brands are taking note
  • Chicken breasts and fillets are harder to crack, but would be a boon for brands that can come up with a viable product. This year Rival Foods announced their plan to develop whole-cut vegan chicken in partnership with LIVEKINDLY Collective. The main aim is to recreate the ‘fibrous’ texture of the real thing, which the firm believes is the answer to convincing even diehard chicken consumers to try a kinder alternative. 
  • Long-standing plant-based brand Quorn is also hoping to crack this segment with new technology, and just awarded French startup Umiami with an innovation award for their extrusion technology that can create fibrous whole cuts without texturing additives. Watch this space...
View 30+ Plant-Based Chicken Companies

👀 Who? (50+ companies in this space)

💸 The investors

📈 The figures

  • With Americans spending $110 billion on chicken in 2020 – more than any other meat – the market is ripe for plant-based growth and asking for disruption.
  • Sales of plant-based chicken increased by 18% in 2020 alone, with the market already worth $272 million.
Planted Chicken

🇨🇭 Case study: Planted

  • Planted is a Swiss startup making pea-protein-based plant-based chicken.
  • They started out selling to a small selection of restaurants in 2019, and now also sell directly to consumers via their webshop and in supermarkets across Switzerland, Austria and Germany. 
  • The current product range encompasses ‘chicken’ kebab skewers and faux chicken fillets, which can be substituted in any recipe that uses grilled, stewed or sautéed chicken. 
  • Planted’s chicken uses just 4 ingredients, upping its appeal to health-conscious consumers: these are pea protein, pea fiber, canola oil and water. It’s also supplemented with B12, a vitamin vegans can find hard to get enough of. 
  • Their products are also free from flavouring or preservatives, chemical additives, soy, gluten, lactose or GMO ingredients.
  • One of Planted chicken’s key selling points? How closely it mimics the texture of real chicken. The company uses extrusion techniques to replicate the muscle structures of conventional meat as much as possible. 
  • The ETH Zurich spinoff has already secured total funding to the tune of $25.5m and are rumored to be raising their next round later this year.
  • Earlier this year Planted raised $18m in a Series A funding round, which the brand plans to use to expand its product range and grow an international profile.
Beyond Meat Chicken Tenders

🇺🇸 Case study: Beyond Meat

  • From a startup to a big-name brand: Beyond Meat is the darling of the plant-based meat world, known the world over for its vegan Beyond Burger.
  • But for chicken substitutes? Not so much. 
  • But that’s all set to change: this summer the cult brand launched their vegan chicken tenders.
  • The road to Beyond’s latest plant-based chicken offering has been a bumpy one. The company first released their version of not-chicken way back in 2012, when truly delicious and convincing vegan meats were barely a twinkle in the plant-based industry’s eye. They were discontinued in 2019 as the company focused all its efforts on fulfilling demand for their Beyond Burgers.
  • But having conquered faux beef and pork, Beyond has jumped back into the alt-chicken market with its faux chicken tenders, now available at restaurants across the US. Separately, they’re also creating an exclusive version for KFC.
  • The chicken tenders are miles away from their original chicken strips, with a melt-in-your-mouth consistency reported to rival the real deal, achieved with a faba bean and pea protein blend
  • And, in a move that will appeal to health-conscious younger consumers, Beyond’s breaded tenders are high in protein and boast 40% less saturates than your average real-chicken tender. Oh, and they’re free from GMOs, hormones and cholesterol too! 
  • In a sign of the company’s commitment to making a proper go at plant-based chicken this time round, 200 scientists were employed to develop the product over several years - with the help of advanced tech to help match the texture and taste of real poultry. 

👍 The good

  • The sheer variety of faux chicken options already - or soon to be - on the market is a boon for both shoppers and the segment. Many options mean more potential consumers to target and a wide space for brands to make their mark. 
  • And there’s health, sustainability and/or ethical benefits to many of the analogues on offer - which could persuade flexitarians and people who rely on chicken in their diet as a staple to make the switch at least some of the time.
  • The wealth of companies in this category also means more competition. Brands are having to work harder to stand out - which is accelerating innovation and leading to the creation of better and better substitutes, created with diverse technologies such as extrusion or that continues to advance.
  • Overall, the immense possibilities of this field - both in terms of money and scale - mean plant-based chicken is a thrilling business opportunity that many food tech entrepreneurs just can’t resist.

👎 The bad

  • Real chicken is cheap. Plant-based chicken? Not so much. Plant-based products are still relatively new and many are targeting more moneyed consumers than your average shopper. The hope is that increasing demand will lower prices, as will the appropriate tech becoming more widely available.
  • As with other faux meat, poultry farmers may suffer in the long term, if prices do eventually reach parity with conventional chicken meat. 
  • Whole-cut plant-based chicken producers likely have the trickiest road ahead of them when it comes to convincing consumers. Unlike nuggets, which are simpler to mimic, those making chicken breast or legs will need to perfect the taste, texture and mouthfeel to win over customers. 
  • Lastly, despite claims to the contrary by some, some plant-based chicken products aren’t much healthier than the original. A nugget, you could argue, is a nugget - high in salt, breaded with white flour, though some brands are contradicting this stereotype with ‘clean’ ingredients aimed at health-conscious millennials.

 💡The bottom line

  • Consumers love chicken, the stories and the statistics back it up. And food tech pioneers (and their investors) love it too - the plant-based market for chicken analogues looks set to be the next big thing. 
  • And while challenges remain - particularly when it comes to taste, price and texture - now that brands like Beyond and Impossible Foods have paved the way with their bankable burgers, convincing consumers that fake chicken is a product worth trying out will probably be a little easier

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