Why a fourth-generation meat company is investing in vegan chicken

The nowadays vegan meat startup is taking off after closing an oversubscribed $7 million seed investment. The round was led by Stray Dog Capital with participation from Standard Meat Company, a fourth-generation meat processing and packaging company in business since 1935. The startup plans to use the funding to accelerate the commercialization of its first product: avant-garde vegan chicken nuggets. manufactured using its proprietary whole-cut technology platform.

“At Standard Meat, we are constantly looking to the future, bringing innovation to all aspects of our business. Today, that means investing in and supporting Today and their plant-based meats that will provide the nutritional benefits that flexitarians need,” Standard Meat CEO and Co-Chairman Ben Rosenthal said in a statement. “We know consumers want a variety of quality protein choices, and we look forward to leveraging our operational expertise and culinary credibility as Today expands manufacturing and launches new products.”

Nowadays, the vegan chicken nuggets are currently available to order through its website and will launch on Whole Foods Markets later this year. The brand also produces gluten-free vegan nuggets that are on the menu of select restaurants in Los Angeles and New York, which it also plans to offer widely to consumers this year.

Erin Scott

Today’s Innovative Vegan Chicken

Today was founded as a Public Benefit Corporation in San Francisco in 2020 with a mission to improve human and planetary health and its flagship product furthers its mission.

“Most consumers eat nuggets despite what they are – not because of what they are – and that makes nuggets a category ripe for disruption,” Today CEO Max Elder told VegNews. “Just ask everyday parents if they’re proud to give their kids nuggets for dinner and you’ll see there’s plenty of room for healthier options in the category.”

These days, vegan chicken nuggets are made with seven ingredients, including non-GMO yellow pea protein, whole wheat for its crunchy breading, cold-pressed sunflower oil for its golden hue, and maple fiber for its texture. The brand uses yeast and mushroom extracts to impart that umami flavor found in chicken but without the need to exploit the birds. The startup’s nuggets are also made using its proprietary technology that creates whole cuts of plant-based meat without the use of binders.

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In addition to nuggets, the brand will use the new funding to develop new products such as vegan chicken cutlets, which are slated to release this summer on its website. As Today grows, the company will be able to scale its low-cost production technology, allowing its vegan meats to plug directly into existing production lines. Eventually, Today hopes its plant-based chicken products will achieve cost parity with its animal-based counterparts. With the financial and strategic backing of a meat industry veteran like Standard Meat, the outlook is bright.

“Our mission at Today is to lower the cost of plant-based meat so that delicious, nutritious plant-based products can reach mainstream consumers and have impact at scale,” Elder said. “Standard Meat has been producing meat its customers love, across all distribution channels, for nearly a century. Their investment demonstrates that Today is uniquely capable of scaling plant-based meats to meet market demands and that their culinary credibility and operational excellence will give Today an unfair advantage in breaking into the mainstream.

Poultry giants invest in vegan chicken

Standard Meat’s investment in Today is not unusual as other traditional meat companies seek to diversify into plant-based chicken as more consumers begin to realize the environmental and ethical costs of production of live birds for consumption.

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A big company looking to stake its stake in the plant-based industry is Nestlé, which has been developing its own lines of vegan products in international markets for several years. In 2021, the Swiss company announced that it had led a $4 million fundraiser for Sundial Foods to support the development and commercialization of its innovative vegan chicken wings. This California-based company makes vegan wings that mimic animal chicken wings, including skin and bones, from ingredients like chickpeas and sunflower oil. Nestlé’s investment in Sundial came after the two companies successfully launched a trial launch of vegan chicken under its Garden Gourmet brand in more than 40 outlets across Switzerland.

And as modern methods of chicken meat production continue to emerge – methods that eliminate the threat of zoonotic disease and environmental destruction – traditional poultry companies are also seeing the value in supporting the growth of the cellular agriculture industry. As such, PHW Group, one of Europe’s largest poultry producers, was an early investor in SuperMeat, one of Israel’s leading producers of cultured chicken made from a small amount of animal cells. Last year, PHW and SuperMeat signed a memorandum of understanding to gain European Union regulatory approval for the company’s farmed chicken.

For more on vegan chicken, read:
Why the World’s Largest Beef Company is Launching Vegan Chicken
Impossible Foods Just Launched Vegan Chicken Nuggets
This new vegan chicken is made to rival Popeyes

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