‘As meaty as meat’: Plant-based meat company Sunfed raises US$6.9mn as it eyes Australian market
Sunfed’s products are made from pea protein, claim to be soy-free, gluten-free and GMO-free, as well as boast the ‘cleanest most minimalist ingredient deck on the global market’.
The company’s flagship product is Sunfed Chicken Free Chicken, currently available in New Zealand’s Woolworths and Foodstuffs supermarkets, and its next upcoming launch is Sunfed Bull Free Beef.
According to Sunfed founder and CEO Shama Sukul Lee: “Our products not only have to be as meaty and delicious as meat, but they also have to be clean and healthy. To achieve this, we had to engineer our own hardware. It took us over 3 years and a lot of Kiwi ingenuity to build.”
“Sunfed products have strong health ratings, double the protein of chicken, and triple the iron of beef,” the company added via its official release.
Sunfed also claims to be the only company in the world that can make plant-based products that are not patties, slabs, or reconstitutions.
“While others in the space have made patties, soy slabs or reconstituted products, Sunfed is the only company in the world that can make hunky toothy whole chunks of big meaty pieces with long succulent fibres and a realistic meaty texture,” it said.
Lee said to Stuff that the process used to produce Sunfed products is water-based, ‘by which pea protein cooks, feels and tastes exactly like chicken’.
She added that: "There's a stigma about meat alternatives, and we are the only ones with this amount of taste and texture. We have a 4.5 health star rating, double the protein of chicken, triple the iron in beef. It's very versatile, we don't hide behind flavours or sauces."
The pea protein used is sourced from yellow peas imported from Canada.
The investment fund obtained from this Series A capital raising will be channelled foreign expansion as well as scaling up production.
According to the company: “Sunfed’s first overseas market will be Australia where it is in discussions to launch in a major supermarket and selected cafes and restaurants.”
“Part of the funds will be used to grow the team, in particular, to hire Australian-based customer representatives, engineers in the Auckland head office and operations executives.”
The investment round was led by Australian venture capital firm Blackbird Ventures.
Sunfed’s bid to enter the Australian market comes at a controversial time for plant-based product labels.
Earlier this month, FoodNavigator-Asia reported that manufacturers in Australia may soon have to re-label all plant-based products that contain the terms ‘meat’ or ‘milk’ in them.
Australian Regional Services Minister Bridget McKenzie said: “I want consumers to have confidence that when they buy […] buy meat, it's beef from an animal and when they buy milk, it is actually produced by a dairy cow."
Vegan foods in Australia
According to Roy Morgan research, over two million Australians identified as vegan or vegetarian in 2016.
The Mintel Global New Products Database saw a 92% increase in vegan-labelled food products in the country, and an 8% increase in vegetarian ones.
“Although Australia is still one of the largest meat eating populations globally, health and environmental concerns, along with cost have changed Australians’ attitudes when it comes to meat consumption,” said Laura Jones, Trend and Innovation Consultant at Mintel.
“Australians have become more mindful in recent years of the amount of meat and the frequency of which they eat meat.”