Haofood, a start-up in China that launched chicken made from peanut protein last summer, has secured seed funding to expand into new sales channels and geographies.

The Shanghai-based alternative-chicken manufacturer, set up in mid-2020, has raised US$3.5m to develop its R&D facility and add new products, “grow the domestic business and expand to Asia and beyond”.

Haofood said it launched an Asian fried chicken alternative, with peanuts the primary ingredient, to Chinese consumers last July. The company says it has “more than 50 brands under its portfolio” with its products sold in “more than 200 outlets” in China.

Rich Products, the privately-owned US bakery and desserts business, has joined the seed round in Haofood via its funding arm Rich Product Ventures (RPV). It is the fund’s first direct investment in the Asia Pacific. The parent company, however, has had a presence in China for more than three decades.

Henry Soesanto, the CEO of Monde Nissin, the Philippines-based food and beverage firm and owner of the Quorn vegan company in the UK, also took part. Big Idea Ventures, the alternative-protein venture fund and accelerator, contributed as well.

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By GlobalData

Jay Lin, RPV’s vice president for strategic investments in the Asia Pacific, said: “Haofood’s robust R&D and proprietary technology gives it a competitive advantage, winning over discerning Asian consumers with its great-tasting and sustainable chicken-alternative products. This is our first direct strategic investment in the Asia-Pacific region and we look forward to working closely with the team to scale the business in China and beyond.”

RPV backed Dao Foods’ venture fund in China last year seeking out opportunities in alternative-protein start-ups. Previous investments feature cell-based meat firm Future Meat in Israel, US-based cell-cultured seafood firm BlueNalu and mushroom ingredients supplier MycoTechnology in Colorado.

Haofood was founded by entrepreneurs Astrid Prajogo (CEO), Dr Shaowei Liu (CSO), Jenny Zhu (CFO) and Kasih Chen (CTO). The company uses its Innotein proprietary technology to create “plant-based chicken from peanuts and other plant protein that has a distinctive texture and umami taste profile”.

Astrid said in a statement: “We are honoured to have received backing from investors who share our passion for creating plant-based chicken alternatives that are not only sustainable, but that people enjoy. With this round of funding we will be able to innovate further and make excellent quality alternative-protein products more accessible for consumers in China and across Asia.”

Big Idea Ventures was launched in 2019 with backing from Swiss ingredients business Bühler, US meat giant Tyson Foods and Temasek, Singapore’s state investment arm. It has invested in a range of businesses such as Grounded Foods, a US-based firm specialising in plant-based cheese, Shiok Meats, a Singapore cell-cultured food start-up, and Zhenmeat, a Chinese company marketing alternatives to pork and crayfish.

Monde Nissin joined Big Idea Ventures last year in a seed funding round in Philippines’ alternative-meat business WTH Foods. Soesanto has also invested in Shiok Meats and Future Meat.

“The consumers today demand healthier and more sustainable foods. The creative use of peanuts gives Haofood’s chicken its great taste but it also has even more benefits to the environment in terms of reduced water usage. It stood out to me for its clever use of food technology,” Soesanto said.