TiNDLE parent Next Gen Foods has acquired a plant-based gelato startup Mwah! based out of London as part of a wider strategy to expand their brand portfolio.
Next Gen Foods, the parent company of global plant-based chicken brand TiNDLE, announced today that it has acquired a plant-based gelato company based in London. Mwah!, a two-year-old startup co-founded by experienced hospitality veterans Damian Piedrahita and Claudia Comini, makes vegan and lactose-free Italian-style ice cream from plant-based ingredients. Their first product, Madagascan Vanilla Gelato, is made from cashews, coconut oil, vegetable fibers, natural flavors, sugar, salt, and organic Madagascan vanilla.
According to a press release, “through a carefully designed process that combines natural flavorings –along with selected plant-based proteins and lipids – the team can recreate the qualities of pure cream”. Mwah! plans to apply this process to a wider range of plant-based dairy products that will “provide the memorable flavor of dairy.”
Piedrahita and Comini meet while working as consultants for F&B brands. In 2019, they joined forces to create a plant-based ice cream brand that could mirror the creaminess of animal dairy. They closed a $2 million seed round in 2022 led by Next Gen Foods to fund the R&D of their first product, a gelato. Both Piedrahita and Comini will join Next Gen full-time as part of the acquisition.
“We’re thrilled to be joining the Next Gen Foods family. We know they are the right company to help us expand and tap into the rising consumer desire for more innovations in taste and decadence from the dairy category,” says Damian Piedrahita, CEO and Co-Founder at Mwah! “Our plans are to introduce our signature creamy and indulgent products this year – with our unique, best-in-class gelato experience – and looking forward to hearing feedback from dairy lovers everywhere.”
Next Gen will debut the gelato at Natural Products Expo West, North America’s largest trade show for natural and organic brands this week, where they will serve attendees a plant-based rendition of chicken, waffles and ice cream featuring TiNDLE. Next Gen says Mwah! will leverage TiNDLE’s existing F&B relationships to introduce its products in UK restaurants over the next few months.
Mwah! will leverage existing distribution through Next Gen Foods to support the introduction of its products to key markets, including the United Kingdom.
Singapore-headquartered Next Gen, which was named to Fast Company‘s World’s Most Innovative Companies 2023 list last week, has raised over $130 million to date, including a record-breaking Series A for plant-based meat. After debuting in restaurants across North America, Asia and Europe, TiNDLE launched its first line of retail products in over 6,000+ German supermarkets earlier this year and will launch in the US later in 2023 after a limited meal-kit debut created by celebrity chef Chad Rosenthal on the direct-to-consumer marketplace, Goldbelly, this past January. Starting this month, folks in New York City and Miami can find a selection of TiNDLE’s retail products at the lifestyle concept store SHOWFIELDS.
Green Queen spoke to Next Gen CEO Andre Menezes about the acquisition, why they chose ice cream as their second brand category, and what’s coming up for the company.
Green Queen: Will Mwah! be under the Next Gen Foods umbrella, and separate from TiNDLE?
Andre Menezes: We’re welcoming Mwah! to the Next Gen Foods family of brands. TiNDLE will remain focused on plant-based chicken and growth in that category, while Mwah! will develop new and delicious dairy-inspired products.
Green Queen: Can you share more details about the acquisition deal? Was it cash or equity or both?
Andre Menezes: We can’t disclose specifics about the deal terms, but can share that we’ve been involved with the business for a couple of years now. Jean (Madden, Next Gen’s CMO) and I previously sat on the Mwah! board of directors, prior to the acquisition, as Next Gen also was an investor in their two first rounds, which totaled over $2 million. Today, we’re excited to formally welcome Mwah! to the Next Gen team.
Green Queen: How did you first meet the Mwah team?
Andre Menezes: I had the opportunity to meet both Claudia and Damian a couple of years ago in Singapore, while I was working at Singapore’s largest food distributor and selling other plant-based products in 2019. Both of them had established careers in the F&B industry – Damian as a chef and Claudia as a barista and mixologist. Damian also had his own culinary consultancy that helped develop plant-based gastronomy programs for hotels and restaurants, many of which were global luxury brands that had outlets in Singapore. Both of them have also been plant-based for many, many years and were working on some delicious early prototypes of Mwah! products.
We connected in those days (before Next Gen Foods, Mwah!, or TiNDLE even existed) and shared similar outlooks and approaches in developing great consumer food brands – that also just so happened to be plant-based. Like we’ve done with TiNDLE, Mwah! was looking at taste and texture as key drivers of a great consumer experience, and so we kept in touch and supported as mentors and helped incubate Mwah! into what it is today.
Green Queen: Will the team be staying on?
Andre Menezes: Damian and Claudia will remain as co-founders and lead the development of Mwah!. With the acquisition though, we see a lot of synergies and areas of opportunity for the TiNDLE and Mwah! brands to collaborate and share resources.
Green Queen: Ice cream seems quite different from meat as a category. Why not go for plant-based fish or cheese to complement your existing products?
Andre Menezes: When Timo (Recker, co-founder and Chairman) and I started Next Gen in 2020, we didn’t intend to only develop one core product and stick with it. We wanted to offer a diverse range of global food brands and products that were not only great-tasting and high-quality, but also could make an impact on the planet. We started with chicken first, of course, but we’re always looking to enter other categories (including other meats, seafood, and dairy) after successfully launching TiNDLE. We always start with consumers and the emotional connection they have to food, and both delicious chicken dishes and ice cream share indulgence when it comes to that emotional experience.
We also see immense growth in the plant-based dairy market, which is expected to reach over USD 31.5 Billion by 2028. Right now, many plant-based dairy products are focused on the source (i.e. oat milk from oats, soy milk from soy, etc.) and not necessarily on experience and flavor. What we found impressive about Mwah! is that they aren’t limiting themselves to a dairy alternative source (e.g. cashews, dates, oats, etc.), but instead are focused on the right source for the right consistency and creaminess of the product being developed.
Gelato is a tough consistency and experience to perfect (if not one of the toughest for dairy products), but we found that in tasting Mwah! that they were able to emulate that unique flavor and creaminess of dairy. So far, we’ve seen that they’re one of the first to do this for the plant-based dairy category that rivals some of the world’s greatest ice cream and cheese makers.