- Plant-based chicken startup Daring has raised $40 million in a Series B funding round led by D1 Capital Partners, according to a press release. The musician Drake also joined the round while existing investors Maveron and Palm Tree Crew doubled down on their investments.
- The funding will be used to triple its employee ranks by the end of this year. The startup currently sells its plant-based chicken in more than 1,000 retail locations including Costco and Kroger. The funding also will be used to expand its retail footprint and invest in future innovation and product development.
- Plant-based protein startups shave been a popular target for venture capitalists in recent years as investors looking for a place to put their money are attracted to the fast-paced growth in the category. Companies focusing on proteins other than beef have become attractive opportunities as consumers show an appetite for more than just plant-based burgers.
With a sizable Series B round, Daring is gearing up to expand its retail footprint as a growing number of plant-based companies compete for limited shelf space. The decision to add a celebrity to the fold could bring the brand additional attention and help it stand out from the growing list of startups offering plant-based chicken products.
The latest funding round comes as investors have shown an appetite for the plant-based manufacturer. Daring made its U.S. debut last year and caught investors’ attention when it received an $8 million investment. The startup also scored a $10 million round in 2019.
Each serving of Daring's chicken has 14 grams of protein and is made from 5 non-GMO ingredients — water, soy, sunflower oil, salt and natural flavoring (paprika, pepper, ginger, nutmeg, mace and cardamom).
With some plant-based foods coming under scrutiny for having lengthy ingredient lists and several additives, Daring may stand out from the pack as a true clean label product. A staggering 91% of consumers say they want food and beverage options with recognizable and healthier ingredients, according to research from Innova Market Insights.
Striking a balance between a clean label ingredients list and making sure the plant-based offering has the same flavor and mouthfeel as its conventional counterpart has been a major challenge for food manufacturers. With a large number of players in the plant-based chicken segment, consumers have a lot of product formulations to compare and contrast. If a shopper isn’t immediately convinced after trying a brand’s plant-based chicken, they may quickly abandon it in favor of a competitor.
Daring has stiff competition from startups and big-name manufacturers who are trying to create the most convincing plant-based chicken alternatives.
Last year, Nuggs (formerly Simulate) received $4 million from big-name investors like Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and former Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb. Singapore-based Next Gen also offers plant-based chicken and announced plans earlier this year to expand globally. Seattle-based Rebellyous announced its own funding round of $6 million last year for its plant-based nuggets. And Upside Foods, which recently changed its name from Memphis Meats, received a $161 million funding round of its own in January 2020.
Established food companies also are in the plant-based chicken segment. Kellogg’s MorningStar Farms’ Incogmeato brand offers plant-based Chick’n Tenders. Beyond Meat has announced plans to relaunch a chicken alternative this summer, while Tyson Foods is dabbling in plant-based nuggets through its Raised & Rooted label. Nestlé's Sweet Earth brand also offers plant-based chicken through its Mindful Chik’n line.
Many companies are working to create chicken meat from cells, which could prove to be a more appealing option to some consumers over plant-based alternatives. Eat Just, which is the first company to receive regulatory approval for a cell-based chicken product, announced $170 million in new funding this week.
With so many options for plant-based chicken either on the way or in the works, the impetus will be on companies like Daring to not only expand their retail footprint but improve upon the taste, texture and mouthfeel of their offerings. A meaningful cash raise will go a long way toward doing just that.