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It looks like chicken, it's flavored like chicken, it even smells like chicken. But Daring Foods calls their soy invention flavored with spices "pieces."
In Los Angeles, where food tech startups race to invent the latest replica burgers and bacon, Daring Foods sets its sights on plant-based chicken.
And pop star Drake — who told the world he cut meat from his diet in 2018 — thinks the company is onto something. On Wednesday, he joined D1 Capital Partners in a $40 million Series B funding round to help Daring triple its team and scale up retail and foodservice sales.
"I was immediately drawn to the Daring team's mission to transform how we eat and I am excited to invest in and support a product I enjoy," Drake said in an announcement.
The round comes about seven months after Daring's $8 million Series A, which kicked off retail expansions into Costco, Wegmans and delivery service Imperfect Foods.
The fake meat market continues to grow with the global market and is expected to hit $430 billion by 2040, according to a report from the consulting firm Kearney.
Daring's bagged faux chicken comes breaded or seasoned with names like Cajun Pieces and Lemon & Herb Pieces. On the company's website, a shipment of four 8-oz pouches of the original shreds sells for $29.99. They were already being sold in Sprouts, Erewhon, Gelson's and Bristol Farms, among other national chains.
"This is so much more than an investment in Daring, it's an investment in the future of food," Daring's CEO and co-founder Ross Mackay said in a statement.
Companies like Impossible Foods and El Segundo-based Beyond Meat, which sells its faux burgers at Carl's Jr, Del Taco and other fast food chains, have become dominant players with their plant-based meat. But the market for fake chicken and seafood hasn't taken hold in the same way.
In San Diego, cell-culture company BlueNalu is experimenting with replica seafood. Silicon Valley is also home to a long roster of food tech startups concocting animal product replacements, from Impossible Foods to JUST Egg.
Stephanie Dorsey, founding partner of E²JDJ, a VC fund for plant-based startups, said last year $3.1 billion in venture funding was sunk into alternative protein companies.
"This is just the beginning," said Dorsey, who last year plunged funding into seafood alternative brand Good Catch and Eat Virgin, a Los Angeles plant-based frozen comfort food startup.
"People are waking up to the fact that meat production is unsustainable and consumers are increasingly concerned about health, wellness, climate change, ecosystem degradation, biodiversity loss and the future of the food system," she said.
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