- Nuggs, a new pea protein chicken nugget company, announced its launch as well as $7 million in funding, led by frozen potato giant McCain Foods — which will also manufacture the product — according to a company statement. Other investors include firms Rainfall Ventures, Greylock Discovery Fund, Maven Ventures; NOMO Ventures, M Ventures and ACME Capital. Individual investors include MTV founder and iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman, Casper founder and COO Neil Parikh, and former Tumblr President John Maloney.
- The nuggets, which the company says have fewer calories and more protein than animal-based counterparts, will be constantly reformulated based on consumer feedback.
- Currently, Nuggs are only sold online. The company plans to expand into retail and food service.
Plant-based meat alternatives are the future and the future is now. Impossible Foods and Beyond Burger have cornered the burger market, and now the next childhood meat staple is up to bat: chicken nuggets.
An easy, widely-pleasing choice served in cafeterias, hospitals and restaurants around the country, a plant-based product that can break into this market stands to reap the rewards.
Nuggs is not the first to try. The company joins a long list of manufacturers jumping into the plant-based meat alternatives sector this year. Seattle-based Rebellyous focuses on plant-based chicken tenders. Beyond Meat developed an unsuccessful line of plant-based chicken strips, which are currently off the market. And Perdue Foods is launching a blended plant-and-meat chicken nugget in an effort to target flexitarians.
Nuggs uses an advanced texturized pea protein technology, a popular ingredient because it is not a major food allergen. Nuggs contain no eggs, wheat, dairy or soy. But reliance on pea protein could cause trouble down the road. While it is a popular base for plant-based food in general, some industry observers have pointed out there is a limited supply of pea protein — and potential rising costs amid market demand.
Production of these products is a pricey undertaking. Rebellyous told Food Navigator it is working to reduce price so it is in more direct competition with conventional chicken nuggets. Perdue opted to blend meat with plant protein, allowing the company to keep consumer costs at $6.99 for 22 ounces. Nuggs are much pricier, at $24 for 16 ounces.
By partnering with McCain, Nuggs costs may go down. McCain is a global frozen potato products and snacks manufacturer with large supply and distribution chains that Nuggs could readily take advantage of to reach a wider market. The company's expertise could help scale production.
On the flip side, the startup's approach to iterative formula development could keep things more expensive. This relatively new approach to product development spells a new era for food companies — and may even increase the likelihood of success. Similar to the way tech startups respond in real-time to program bugs or user feedback, Nuggs is offering to do the same by altering its recipes to meet consumer tastes and demand.