Hero Protein: Shanghai Startup Closes US$850K Pre-Seed Round To Scale Plant-Based Meat

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Mainland China plant-based meat brand HERO Protein, which produces chicken, beef & fish analogues, has announced the closing of a US$850K pre-seed funding round that will be used to advance the company’s ongoing R&D efforts, develop and scale production, and expand distribution.

Launched across foodservice channels in China in January, HERO Protein claims to be the first Chinese company to use high moisture extrusion technology, with support from senior food industry leaders and corporates.

The US$850K pre-seed funding round saw participation from global commodities and co-manufacturer Cremer, alternative protein focused Lever China Fund, and various senior executives from restaurant brands. The startup already received pre-seed funding from Lever last year. The VC, a dedicated fund that invests in pioneering early-stage food techs, runs an accelerator in partnership with Brinc.

Based in Shanghai, HERO Protein aims to become the leading brand delivering a tasty and accessible range of plant-based meat products, offering consumers the culinary experience of conventional meat while ensuring food safety and sustainability.

HERO Protein’s product range, which includes plant-based beef, chicken, and fish alternatives, is formulated specifically for the Chinese market by a team of former senior R&D executives from Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, Gardein, Lightlife, and Morningstar, also known as the five largest plant-based meat brands in North America.

In a press release seen by Green Queen, HERO shared that while high moisture extrusion technology is commonly used by Western alternative meat brands and particularly critical for reproducing the juiciness and mouthfeel of meat, has as of yet not been used by domestic plant-based brands in China, giving the young company a clear advantage.

Plant-based meat is a rising and unstoppable trend in China. HERO Protein aims to bring together the advanced food technology used by top international players such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods and the domestic know-how to curate delicious products specifically catered to the Chinese palate, at prices affordable for a broader range of Chinese consumers. We are very pleased to receive support from investors and partners who share our mission

Edward Weng, CEO of HERO Protein
HERO plant-based chicken. Source: HERO Protein

With an experience in selling conventional meat and other food products into leading QSR chains in China including KFC, Starbucks and Burger King, HERO CEO Edward Weng has no doubts about the skyrocketing growth in the sector. “Plant-based meat is a rising and unstoppable trend in China. HERO Protein aims to bring together the advanced food technology used by top international players such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods and the domestic know-how to curate delicious products specifically catered to the Chinese palate, at prices affordable for a broader range of Chinese consumers. We are very pleased to receive support from investors and partners who share our mission.”

COO Ludovic Shum added: “HERO Protein is proud to partner with leading domestic players in the ingredients, logistics, production, food and retail industries. By localizing the production we ensure product quality control and keep pricing affordable, allowing for successful market penetration and growth.

HERO Protein was recently named in the International Future Agrifood 2020 Alternative Protein Top 20 list and was a winner of TechNode Global’s 2020 ORIGIN Innovation Awards in the Food & AgriTech category.

A recent report by OC&C titled “Meat Substitutes: Will you survive or thrive the disruption?”, the authors shared that the Chinese market will be crucial as the country’s plant-based sector will grow massively in the coming years with the Good Food Institute’s (GFI) predicting that it is already growing at an annual rate of 14.3% since 2014 and has already surpassed ¥6.1 billion (approx. US$948 billion) in value.

With China’s plant-based meat industry growing rapidly, other startups have emerged to cater to the specific demands of Chinese consumers. For instance, the plant-based meat startup Hey Maet recently announced a multi-million US dollar pre-Series A that will enable them to accelerate the company’s technological R&D, channel exploration, and brand promotion. 

Other domestic startups in the Chinese market include Beijing-based food tech Zhenmeat who debuted vegan crayfish and pork belly, and Shenzhen-based Starfield who attracted US$10 million to speed up its massive foodservice roll-out strategy


Lead image courtesy of HERO Protein.


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