New York-based food tech Blackbird Foods has raised US$1.5 million in a seed funding round, which will go towards expanding the distribution of its wheat protein plant-based meat alternatives known as seitan, and vegan hand-tossed frozen pizzas. It comes ahead of the startup’s plans to double down its retail footprint in the U.S. nationwide in 2021.
Long Island City-headquartered startup Blackbird Foods has announced the closing of a US$1.5 million seed financing round, led by U.S. and Asia-based alternative protein venture capital fund Lever VC, with participation from food tech rolling fund Sustainable Food Ventures. The funding will go towards the startup’s expansion into more retail chains and scaling up its operations, and comes shortly after multiple successful launches at popular restaurant chains, including Motorino Pizzeria, who uses Blackbird’s plant-based sausage as a pizza topping across all its locations.
Before the pandemic, our core business was selling to restaurants. I quickly realised that we had to pivot in order to meet the demands of consumers.Emanuel Storch, CEO, Blackbird
With the coronavirus continuing to take a toll on the foodservice industry, a big part of Blackbird Foods’ future strategy is to double down its retail distribution, especially amid the surging demand for plant-based meat alternatives, driven by consumer health, food safety, sustainability and provenance concerns.
“Before the pandemic, our core business was selling to restaurants. I quickly realised that we had to pivot in order to meet the demands of consumers. I built an e-commerce site overnight on Squarespace and partnered with grocery distributors in New York to bring our products to more shelves,” said Emanuel Storch, CEO of Blackbird.
The startup, whose product portfolio includes a range of 100% plant-based meat alternatives made from wheat protein, known as seitan, as well as several flavours of frozen vegan pizzas made with Violife’s plant-based cheese, are also available to consumers through in-store retailers such as Erewhon Market, Mom’s Organic Market and independent shops around New York.
Armed with seed funding, the company plans to grow its retail distribution significantly, rolling out at major grocery chains nationwide in 2021 after having quadrupled the output of its retail products throughout 2020. Among some of the big name retailers that Blackbird has revealed it will launch at in the coming months includes Whole Foods, Harmons and Metropolitan Markets.
The face of protein is changing. Sales of plant-based meat and dairy products are soaring.Emanuel Storch, CEO, Blackbird
Commenting on the seed round, Storch said that the investment is testament to the mass consumer shift towards healthier, sustainable proteins.
“The face of protein is changing. Sales of plant-based meat and dairy products are soaring,” said Storch. “We are excited to bring these investors onboard at Blackbird, as the company demonstrably shows how plant-based foods can be even better than their animal-based counterparts with no sacrifice on flavour, texture, or even nutrition.”
All images courtesy of Blackbird Foods.