Sunfed has become a rooster in the meat-free meat market. Its Chicken Free Chicken – launched in 2017 – has consistently sold out across supermarkets nationwide, is claimed to be the best-selling dish at local bakeries, and has been given the nod by Nigel Latta and Carolyn Robinson. Now, the Auckland-based meat-free meat company is set to fly across the world. It recently completed a $10 million Series A capital raise to take its plant-based meat global. The round was led by Australian venture capital fund Blackbird Ventures with participation from prominent New Zealand entrepreneur and investor Stephen Tindall’s K1W1, Quadrant Private Equity founder Chris Hadley, and the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund, NZVIF.
When previously speaking to Idealog, Sunfed’s founder and CEO Shama Lee said, “The purpose of Sunfed Meats when I started thinking about it four years ago was to move humanity into being fully solar powered. To do that, if you are to look at the largest market in the world, which is food - we have to move from an animal based economy into a plant based economy.”
Unlike other outfits in the alternative meat market, such as the widely recognised U.S based Impossible Burger who has gained notable success from its bleeding patties, Sunfed produces chunky meaty pieces with long, succulent fibres.
Its product is made from pea protein, which is soy free, gluten free, and GMO-free and claims it boasts the most minimalist ingredient deck on the global market. Moreover, it has strong nutritional value of double the protein of chicken and triple the iron of beef.
“We are a product-led engineering company,” says 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 three years and a lot of Kiwi ingenuity to build.”
It’s now reaping the benefits as it plans to unleash its Sunfed Bull Free Beef in the near future and is set for overseas expansion.
Lee says in the three-plus years of engineering, it has managed be versatile as to what it can produce.
"We have worked on how to take plant proteins and make meat out of them. To then make chicken or beef or pork, it’s not much of a stretch, once you have the product texture right, then you have a good foundation to work from.”
Funds raised in Sunfed’s Series A capital raising will go towards scaling up production and expansion into overseas markets.
Sunfed’s first overseas market will be Australia where it is in discussions to launch in a major supermarket and selected cafes and restaurants. Furthermore, according to Sunfed, 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.
Samantha Wong, partner at Blackbird Ventures who led the Series A says, the team are delighted to be "backing Shama and the Sunfed team on their mission to bring about a more environmentally sustainable, healthy and delicious alternative to traditional animal-derived protein."
“We have been studying the future of food for some time and it is a theme we are extremely excited to be investing in. We found Shama’s mission-driven approach and relentless focus on the customer has resulted in a product that even the most committed carnivores would enjoy. We look forward to more people around the world being able to enjoy Sunfed.”
Sir Stephen Tindall, owner of investment firm K1W1 also shares optimism about the future.
“As eating habits change and as desire increases for greater choice when selecting sources of food, we see alternative proteins like Sunfed playing a large part in consumers’ lives. We are very excited to be able to play a part in the Sunfed journey”.
While the alternative protein market is still a bit wet behind the ears, it has managed to gain strong support in a local market renowned for its loyalty to animal meat products. While some see this as a risk to our behemoth meat industry, Sunfed Meat simply provides consumers with a choice. Further, it hopes to diversify our exports and provide a clean sustainable food that can help to feed a bustling world population.