- New York-based Daring Foods announced its plant-based chicken will be available to U.S. retailers and restaurants and direct to consumers online beginning in February. Distribution will come through a strategic partnership with Rastelli Foods Group of New Jersey, which TechCrunch reported is investing $10 million in cash, infrastructure, sales and distribution support. The company moved from the U.K. to New York in early November, according to a company spokesperson.
- Ray Rastelli Jr., president of Rastelli Foods Group, noted in a release his family-run firm is a protein company and not just a meat company. "The moment I tasted Daring chicken, I immediately knew this was something unique. Daring fulfills all our requirements for clean, responsibly sourced products," he said.
- The product is made from 5 non-GMO ingredients — water, soy, sunflower oil, salt and natural flavoring (paprika, pepper, ginger, nutmeg, mace and cardamom). Co-Founder and CEO Ross Mackay said in the release Daring is focused on replacing "a beloved staple in our diet with an alternative that you can cook with, tastes great and is good for you." Mackay, who is vegan, called it a healthier "second generation" plant-based meat product that could become a larger player in daily diets.
This may be a significant development in the plant-based meat category since Rastelli, a U.S. butcher and foodservice supplier, has committed a lot of money and assistance to back Daring's debut in this country.
According to TechCrunch, the first version of the plant-based chicken product — known as Daring Pieces — was introduced earlier this year in the U.K., and a big U.S. push is coming now. That is lightning speed in the food business, so the product must have made a significant impression in a relatively short time.
Plant-based alternatives are up against some serious heft from the poultry industry. According to Christie Lagally, founder and CEO of plant-based poultry startup Rebellyous Foods of Seattle, the industry is "almost too big to fathom." She said big chicken processors slaughter 9 billion birds annually, and there are nearly three times as many chickens as humans on the planet.
Despite these numbers, plant-based alternatives are growing in popularity, and the segment is projected to jump from $4.6 billion in 2018 to $85 billion in 2030, according to UBS. The investment firm said in July that estimate could be a conservative one if innovation and public awareness drive more consumption.
For Daring, the financial picture could be bright if this distribution deal with Rastelli pans out as planned. Some other plant-based meat alternatives have been introduced either through restaurants and foodservice. The Impossible Burger first came to restaurants in 2016 and debuted this year on grocery shelves. Its biggest competitor, the Beyond Burger, hit the retail market in 2012. It later made its move to restaurants. It is now available at chains including TGI Friday's, Del Taco and Dunkin', and is piloting at McDonald's outlets in Canada.
It isn't likely to be smooth sailing for Daring, though. Since the Beyond Burger's parent company, Beyond Meat, has plans to enter the plant-based poultry space next year, Daring could encounter strong competition. Beyond has plenty of resources to work with following its stellar Wall Street debut this past May. But there are other major players in the space. Rebellyous recently scaled its manufacturing facilities as well, while Tyson's plant-based Raised & Rooted nuggets are on the market and McCain Foods will be manufacturing pea protein-based Nuggs.
Daring now boasts some assets of its own. Rastelli has been in the conventional meat business since 1976 and has a network of retail markets, hotels, restaurants and institutions to approach with Daring's faux chicken product. That will undoubtedly be a major advantage, since the manufacturer recently relocated to New York. And with chicken being a go-to protein source for many U.S. consumers, it's likely this partnership will find some traction in the plant-based market next year.
Correction: A previous version of the article misidentified the headquarters for Daring. It is now based in New York.