Deliciou-s bite: Shark Tank alumni sets sights on China with first shelf-stable plant-based meats after cross-country supermarket success

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Australia-based Deliciou has its eye on China and other Asian markets with its market-first shelf-stable plant-based meat products. ©Deliciou
Australia-based Deliciou has its eye on China and other Asian markets with its market-first shelf-stable plant-based meat products. ©Deliciou

Related tags plant-based Ambient plant-based meat

Australia-based Deliciou has its eye on China and other Asian markets with its market-first shelf-stable plant-based meat products after successful launches in both Australia’s Coles and Woolworths and US’ Whole Foods supermarkets.

Delicious first came into the public eye in 2017 when CEO Kjetil Hansen went on reality television show Shark Tank Australia and emerged with a successful A$300,000 (US$227,201) deal for his bacon-flavoured seasoning to ‘make anything taste like bacon’.

Four years on, Deliciou has a total of 13 seasonings, five of which are bacon-based and 10 others from cheese to chipotle, all of which are doing well and being ranged in major supermarkets in both Australia and the United States.

“Whole Foods is our most recent supermarket entry and we’re in over 400 stores, and in Australia we’re in both Coles and Woolworths nationwide so I expect we now cover about 70% of the market in terms of supermarket presence,”​ Hansen told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

In addition to the seasonings though is Deliciou’s most recent offering which is a plant-based meat range, which has also been ranged by Whole Foods, Coles and Woolworths nationwide.

“This is the first shelf-stable product of its kind on the market and I dare say the cleanest too as our focus has been on no added salt or preservatives, which is often not the case for most frozen plant-based meats which require a lot of salt and preservatives to improve shelf life,”​ he added.

“We also wanted to focus on versatility and ease of use – this product is not sold in the form of patties, it is not pre-shaped, but comes as a dry plant mix where water and oil is added to create a versatile mince product which can be used in any recipe where meat is used.”

Deliciou has set its sights on China as its next market for expansion, and has already dispatched a team to be on-the-ground in preparation for its launch later this year.

“Both the plant-based meats and the seasonings will be represented and we are looking at launching both in stores and online in China later in 2021,”​ said Hansen.

“Other markets in Asia we are looking at will be more online first, such as Hong Kong, Indonesia, Vietnam and Japan, and there are more Asian countries in the pipeline too.”

Deliciou’s plant-based meats come as chicken, pork and beef variants and each 140g pack retails in the US for US$10 per pack, and in Australia for A$10 (US$7.58).

Localising for China

When moving into China, Hansen emphasized that the firm will be localising various aspects of the product to suit local tastes from package sizes to utility.

“For instance, Chinese families tend to be smaller so we know smaller pack sizes are preferred, and the cooking appliances used in Chinese kitchens also tend to be different from in the west so we will tailor the products and instructions accordingly,”​ he said.

“There’s also the challenge of taste preferences, where Chinese consumers want different spices and flavours in their plant-based meats as well as different levels of salt. But whatever market we enter, the aim will be to tailor the products to the local tastes in order to gain mass market appeal.”

Shark Tank and more

When Hansen first appeared on Shark Tank, he had just established Deliciou and had approached the ‘sharks’ with a daring valuation of A$1.2mn (US$909,186) for the company and a confident prediction of A$25mn (US$18.9mn) in sales the following year, despite making just A$60,000 (US$45,459) in sales the year before.

His confidence was deemed ‘fanciful’, and his IP and ownership of the products were brought into question – and even though one of the sharks agreed to a A$300,000 investment in return for a 44% share of the firm, that did not take place after the show.

“That was many years ago when Deliciou had just started and the business was very different. The show happens in a very limited time, and actually a lot of deals made on the show do not happen after that,”​ Hansen told us.

“That was what happened for us as over time the deal did not happen but it was overall still a good experience and I got some good advice there – as for the IP and product ownership, again, there was no time to explore this in 100% detail on the show, but we do own the IP and have control and ownership over the product.”

Deliciou’s latest valuation in 2021 recently came in at A$65mn (US$49.2mn) – a significant increase from the initial A$1.2mn, and with this and increasing global presence, the sharks must now be wondering why they did not make that initial bite.

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