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While many plant-based meat alternatives on the market are made with soy, wheat or pea protein, this startup is doing something different. Their secret sauce to make the perfect vegan fried chicken? Peanuts. Based in Shanghai and recently accepted into ProVeg Incubator’s latest cohort of groundbreaking women-led food techs, HaoFood has plans to bring its peanut protein-based alternative to a hundred restaurants across China in the coming year.
Founded this year, HaoFood is among the world’s first startups to develop plant-based chicken and other meat alternatives with peanut protein as its primary ingredient. Their first product will be an Asian fried chicken alternative that is specifically designed for classic dishes found across the region, from Chinese-style street food fried chicken to Japanese chicken katsu and ayam geprek, a specialty in Indonesia.
“We started with the aspiration of helping foodies reduce their meat consumption without losing the pleasure of eating the familiar dishes that they love. That’s why we are developing a plant-based chicken that is specifically designed to be cooked as Asian fried chicken,” said Astrid Prajogo, who co-founded HaoFood with Jenny Zhu, Kasih Chen and Professor Shaowei Liu who were all recently interviewed by ProVeg.
The startup has since not only caught the eye of the incubator but also landed a spot as a finalist on VWS Pathfinder, the world’s first plant-based female founder pitch competition organised by the Vegan Women Summit.
We started with the aspiration of helping foodies reduce their meat consumption without losing the pleasure of eating the familiar dishes that they love.Astrid Prajogo, Co-Founder, HaoFood
HaoFood’s team came together when they all encountered the “never-ending dilemma” of loving the taste of meat – especially meaty comfort foods – but being aware of the dangers of traditional animal agriculture, from both a health and environmental standpoint.
Together, they bring in different experiences and skills to build a brand that would appeal to the masses. While Chen boasts nearly two decades of experience in plant-based food marketing, nutrition and healthcare, Professor Liu has worked for years in food tech, especially in extrusion technology and food safety and Zhu has a wealth of knowledge in finance and accounting.
“The core skills that each one of us brings to the table also complement one another. This makes us the right team to bring our company and our mission to life,” explained Prajogo.
Having already developed their first prototypes of fried chicken using peanut protein as its base, plus other ingredients like coconut oil, potato, algae, quinoa and corn, the startup is now focused on continuing to refine its product before commercialising and setting up its production and distribution infrastructure in China.
We’d like HaoFood products to be present in 100 restaurants in China and to be generating US$350,000 in revenue from those products in a year’s time.Professor Shaowei Liu, Co-Founder, HaoFood
“We plan to submit three patents on our product and we’ll also be running market testing, where we are aiming for five-star feedback from our customers,” Professor Liu told ProVeg.
“We’d like HaoFood products to be present in 100 restaurants in China and to be generating US$350,000 in revenue from those products in a year’s time. Finally, we’ll be looking at raising funding, in two rounds, and we want to be in a position to head up our own R&D facility,” he added.
Though still among the few startups leveraging new, more diversified range of crops, HaoFood is not alone when it comes to an emerging group of plant-based food techs using quite surprising ingredients. Chilean food tech NotCo, armed with its artificial intelligence technology, has developed a range of vegan milks made from chicory, cabbage, pineapple, while French startup Update Foods’ plant-based dairy is developed from faba bean protein and algae oil.
Lead image courtesy of HaoFood.