New Four-Way Food Industry Collaboration Formed In The US To Revolutionise Plant-Based Protein Availability
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A new four-way industry collaboration has debuted a vegan chicken brand. Skinny Butcher, Golden West Food Group, Valor Siren Ventures, and Wow Bao are working together to make vegan chicken easier to buy than ever. The project involves launching Skinny Butcher’s ‘Crazy Crispy Chick’n’ line across retail and virtual kitchen platforms simultaneously, for maximum exposure and availability. Valor Siren Ventures onboarded with a $10 million investment into Skinny Butcher, through its early-stage food, food technology, retail and retail technology fund.
The ‘coalition’ of food industry big hitters will allow for lighthearted branding, streamlined manufacturing and widespread access to products. Each company has an individual role to play in the collective success of Skinny Butcher, which aims to take on conventional chicken with a pea protein alternative.
Cogs in the machine
Skinny Butcher was created by the Detroit-based team behind Garden Fresh Gourmet, now owned by Campbell’s Soup Company. The first external partner to be approached when looking to develop a line of crispy chicken analogues was Los Angeles-based Golden West Food Group. As a manufacturer, it produces recognisable branded products including Cinnabon, American BBQ Company, and Jack Daniels BBQ. It was brought on board to guarantee fast market entry of products, on a national scale. In addition to an exclusive manufacturing agreement, Golden West is an equity stakeholder in Skinny Butcher.
Founded in Chicago by Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Wow Bao has led the development of a virtual kitchen platform for Skinny Butcher. The chain boasts 650 of its own delivery-only kitchen spaces, with Skinny Butcher being added to multiple locations, via a specially developed menu. A range of sandwiches and sliders, all powered by Crazy Crispy Chick’n are being rolled out. An off-shoot partnership, through Wow Bao, with REEF Kitchens, will allow food deliveries to begin.
Leveraging the necessary organisational muscle to bring together four separate enterprises into one has not cooled ardour for the project. “Our mission is to go to market with a line that wins on branding and on flavor profile,” Dave Zilko, CEO of Skinny Butcher said in a statement.
“No other plant-based program possesses the brand personality of Skinny Butcher; he endears himself to the consumer at the point of sale and that relationship continues through consumption. Skinny Butcher does not take himself or our Crazy Crispy line of Chick’n Nuggets, Tenders, Patties, Sliders or Breasts too seriously. This kind of food should be fun, while also being sustainable.”
Chicken, without the birds
Skinny Butcher’s chicken alternative is centered around pea protein, seasoned with a proprietary blend of spices. The company claims that this combination makes it all but impossible to tell apart from regular animal meat. The crispy coating adds an extra nuance that makes Skinny Butcher ready to compete with major poultry QSR brands, across a broad portfolio of products.
“We have always been a food first company, and Dave Zilko & team have created an unparalleled product that we are proud to partner with and represent on a national scale,” Geoff Alexander, CEO and president of Wow Bao said in a statement. “While other plant-based chick’n companies have nuggets, we have a full line of menu items that will please any and all eaters.”
Taking on The Colonel
Skinny Butcher is not alone in rising to the challenge of offering U.S. poultry fans a sustainable alternative to animal-based fried chicken.
Last month, TiNDLE, a flagship brand of Singapore’s Next Gen Foods, had secured $100 million in a record-breaking Series A, ahead of U.S. launch for its plant-based chicken. The product was first unveiled less than 18 months ago, but is already enjoying presence in more than 200 restaurants, across six countries. The company has cited the U.S. as a major milestone in its international distribution ambitions.
U.K. brand VFC has just made the leap overseas. Available through online retail partnerships with Vejii and GTFO, the activist-led brand has been prolific in its desire to take over from KFC. U.S. consumers will have access to fillets, bites, and popcorn chicken products. The brand hopes to increase the number of chickens it claims to have saved from slaughter, which currently stands at around 75,000, thanks to its wheat protein alternative.
All photos by Skinny Butcher.