Singapore-based Next Gen Foods will bring its plant-based chicken alternative to the United States after raising a $20 million seed extension. Investors included GGV Capital, agriculture and food tech-focused Bits x Bites, food and beverage company Yeo Hiap Seng, entrepreneur and “Blitzscaling” author Chris Yeh and English footballer Dele Alli.
Returning investors include Temasek, which led Next Gen Foods’ original $10 million seed round, announced in February, and K3 Ventures. The first $10 million was already the largest seed funding ever raised by a plant-based food tech company, based on data from Pitchbook, and now the round totals $30 million. Part of the funding will be used to fill 50 roles in the U.S. for its research and development, sales, supply chain and finance and marketing teams.
Next Gen also announced changes to its leadership team. Co-founder Timo Recker is moving from his chief executive officer position to chairman, while Andre Menezes, another founder, will take over the CEO spot. Former Temasek director Rohit Bhattacharya will join the startup as its chief financial officer.
Next Gen’s chicken alternative, called TiNDLE, launched in Asia through partnerships with restaurants and is now served in more than 70 locations in Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau. Over the next 12 months, Next Gen will take a similar approach as it enters the U.S., working with food services in cities to develop TiNDLE dishes for their menus. Eventually it will expand to other distribution channels, like retail, Menezes told TechCrunch.
To replicate chicken meat’s texture, Next Gen uses a proprietary blend of plant-based fats, including sunflower oils, and natural flavors. This allows TiNDLE products to replicate the aroma and browning of chicken when it cooks.
In the U.S., Next Gen faces rivalry from plant-based food companies like Beyond Meat, which launched its Chicken Tenders product at about 400 restaurants earlier this week. Panda Express, a popular food chain, is also piloting Beyond Meat orange chicken.
When asked about the competitive landscape, Menezes said, “We are really glad this sector is gaining traction and we do not see other plant-based companies as our competitors. The only competition we worry about are the companies bringing unsatisfactory products to consumers. Consumers may end up having the wrong impression that plant-based foods compromise in taste and experience even today.”
He added that TiNDLE is GMO and cholesterol-free, and Next Gen has an asset-light business model that will make it easier to scale into new markets.
Before launching Next Gen, Recker founded German-based LikeMeat, while Menezes worked at one of the world’s largest poultry exporters before serving as general manager of Singapore food distributor Country Foods.
In a statement, GGV managing partner Jenny Lee said, “The Next Gen team has one of the strongest founder-market fits in foodtech, having previously developed and successfully launched a plant-based meat product for the European market. The team’s focus on product quality, brand recall and distribution provides a strong foundation for the future growth of the company.”