Last year in August, Hey Maet, the plant-based meat startup had announced a seed round investment along with a partnership with Shuangta Food, a pea protein company that supplies Beyond Meat. The company is making headlines again, this time with the announcement of a multi-million US dollar pre-Series that will enable them to ramp up Hey Maet’s technological R&D, channel exploration, and brand promotion.
Four months ago, the company raised a seed round of RMB 10 million (US$ 1.54 million) from a group of investors including Shuangta Food, UpHonest Capital (Silicon Valley, USA), and Tiantu Investment. With this second round, Hey Maet welcomes domestic funds like Junsheng Investment and Welight Capital amidst its backers. While the exact total is undisclosed, which Hey Maet founder Chichi Hong told Green Queen is common practice in her home country, saying that “the disclosure of specific amount is not required in mainland China”, the round runs in the “multi millions US$”.
In addition to the new funding, Hey Maet has also introduced an experienced Chinese professor and his team in the plant-based protein field to its R&D practice. They claim the team is the first inventor and practitioner of plant protein high-moisture extrusion technology in China.
High-moisture extrusion processing can be used to create plant-based meat and during extrusion, proteins undergo thermal and mechanical stresses caused by heating of the barrel and shearing of the screws.
The expert team brought in is has entered into an in-depth cooperation to develop high-moisture extrusion plant-based meat to overcome the difficulties of juice, structure, colour, and taste in the field of plant-based meat. This method aims to produce plant-based meat that is similar to real meat standards in multiple aspects including cooking experience.
It takes good conscience to make quality food. I have visited many plant-based food companies in the United States and other countries. They invest massive time developing the products before garnering funding and spending marketing expenses on worthy ones. This market has never been short of money for marketing. What is missing are great products worthy of marketing expenditureChichi Hong, Founder of Hey Maet
Incubated by OnePiece Work, an international innovation acceleration platform founded in Silicon Valley, Hey Maet was launched in 2020 by a Silicon Valley trained team with in-depth knowledge in the food-tech space.
The Shanghai-based food tech is China’s first plant-based meat company with an independent R&D laboratory, which is developing a range of meat alternatives catering to mainland Chinese consumers. According to third-party testing data shared by the company, Hey Maet protein-based meat has a 45% reduction in fat content, 40% reduction in calories, and a 50% increase in protein content when compared to ordinary pork.
Presently, Hey Maet has launched plant-based beef products like beef burger patties, beef balls; pork products: minced meat, sausages, small crispy pork, and pork floss; chicken products: chicken nuggets, chicken fillets, etc.
In a conversation with Green Queen, a spokesperson for Hey Maet mentioned that early last year, the company debuted its first product, a plant-based meat zongzi at the Tuen Ng Festival, famously known as Dragon Boat Festival.
According to Caixing Global, the company has launched a variety of Chinese and Western-style best-selling products such as burgers, Xiao Long Bao (steamed bun), wontons in first-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.
We are very optimistic about the potential and room for the development of plant-based meat as an alternative protein. Entrepreneurship of plant-based meat requires the founding team to truly believe in this cause and treat it as a long-term business rather than a short-term hype. It needs continuous R&D investment, the unremitting pursuit of product quality, sustainable and orderly channel expansion ideas, and supporting executive abilities.Li Hao, Executive Partner of Junsheng Investment
Hey Maet was founded by Hong, a plant-based meat enthusiast who is well versed in the difference in tastes and requirements of the alternative protein industry in mainland China as compared to the rest of the world. Its team of food scientists include Professor David Drubin of UC Berkeley and a number of experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and University of Helsinki in Finland.
Regarding the second round of financing, Hong said, “It takes good conscience to make quality food. I have visited many plant-based food companies in the United States and other countries. They invest massive time developing the products before garnering funding and spending marketing expenses on worthy ones. This market has never been short of money for marketing. What is missing are great products worthy of marketing expenditure.”
In conversation with Green Queen, Hong emphasised that the company, with its health and environmentally-conscious approach, is only going to keep expanding as the country’s plant-based market continues to expand amid the meat crisis as a result of the pandemic. “Plant-based meat industry is socially significant and holds great market promise. We use good quality pea, soy and rice protein to make plant-based beef and pork. As a plant-based diet adopter for over 10 years, we have [a] strong passion for making nutritious and healthy products.”
Rachel Li, a partner at Welight Capital, commented on their backing of the young startup: “Chichi’s healthy life and environmental protection concepts are very moving. As a senior vegetarian (sic), she strives for excellence in products and Hey Maet has conquered my unswerving appetite for Chinese food with its amazing taste and texture. I would love to share such healthy and delicious food with more people.”
Li Hao, the Executive Partner at Junsheng Investment, a well known mainland China VC with coming on two decades of experience added: “We are very optimistic about the potential and room for the development of plant-based meat as an alternative protein. Entrepreneurship of plant-based meat requires the founding team to truly believe in this cause and treat it as a long-term business rather than a short-term hype. It needs continuous R&D investment, the unremitting pursuit of product quality, sustainable and orderly channel expansion ideas, and supporting executive abilities.”
According to Hong, this round of financing will help to further expand production, distribution and improve their technology, with the goal of making Hey Maet one of the leading brands of plant-based meat in China.
All images are courtesy of Hey Maet