You Can Now Buy TiNDLE’s Vegan Chicken Nuggets, Wings & Burgers in US Grocery Stores
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Singapore-headquartered global plant-based meat brand TiNDLE Foods is launching its vegan chicken range at US grocery stores, marking the company’s retail debut in the country. Green Queen speaks to US Managing Director JJ Kass about conquering the world’s largest plant-based market.
The launch comes two months after the company debuted its breakfast sausage for foodservice in the US, which was its first domestically made product, and shortly after successful retail launches in the UK (at all Whole Foods locations and 350 Morrisons stores) and in Germany (at 2,200 EDEKA Group stores).
TiNDLE Foods is rolling out its plant-based chicken SKUs in grocery stores in select cities, which will be the brand’s first foray into retail in the US. Its chicken tenders, wings, patties and nuggets will be dispersed at different retailers across the US, with broader nationwide penetration expected in 2024.
Where you can find TiNDLE chicken
The soy- and wheat-based chicken, TiNDLE’s flagship product, has been widely available in US foodservice since 2022, including at BrewDog, BAIA, Goldie’s Tavern, Native Foods, Project Pollo, Parson’s Chicken and Beyond Sushi. In September, it launched its first locally produced offering in the US, partnering with plant-based egg producer JUST Egg to create a breakfast sausage.
TiNDLE’s retail debut sees its chicken products appear on the freezers of various retailers on the East and West coasts, as well as the Midwest. In Ohio and Pennsylvania, its patties, tenders and wings are available at 84 Giant Eagle stores, while those in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York City can find its patties, wings and nuggets on FreshDirect’s online platform.
On the East coast, the brand’s plant-based chicken is available through independent retailers. In California, TiNDLE’s products can be found at Berkeley Bowl, BESTIES Vegan Paradise (Los Angeles), Harvest Market (Fort Bragg and Mendocino), Pacific Market (Sonoma County) and Piazza’s (Palo Alto and San Mateo). Additionally, it’s launching in Hawaii at Mana Foods.
All the products carry an RRP of $9.99. The brand is activating a digital marketing campaign to promote the launch in the local surroundings of these retailers. “We plan to launch in-store promotional materials with Giant Eagle to educate consumers about TiNDLE chicken,” JJ Kass, TiNDLE’s VP of business development and US managing director, tells Green Queen. To incentivise customers, Giant Eagle will also launch a price promotion in December and BOGO deal in January.
Standing out from the nugget crowd
The vegan chicken market is increasingly crowded. There were signs of its potential in 2021, when it was a growth leader in the plant-based meat industry. A report by the NPD Group earlier this year revealed that pound sales for plant-based chicken shipped by broadline foodservice distributors increased by 38% year-over-year.
But this space – particularly for nuggets – is overpopulated and highly competitive. For example, there are over 20 brands in the US making plant-based nuggets, including Gardein, Quorn, Beyond Meat Impossible, Jack & Annie’s, Simulate, Alpha Foods, Daring, MorningStar Farms, Yves, Rebellyous, LikeMeat and Boca (not to speak of brands that have exited the space like Nowadays).
And that’s before you get to supermarkets’ own-label products. This has naturally led to a squeeze – mirroring the overall decline of the meat alternatives category – with companies like Nowadays having to cease operations.
“Many products on the market today have a similar flavour and experience across chicken nuggets, chicken tenders and chicken sandwich patties (where they’ve mostly been focused),” acknowledges Kass. So how does TiNDLE plan to stand out? “We wanted to perfect each of those offerings, but also take it a step further and customise each of our products to match the versatile and wide experience that people know from dining on poultry chicken today.”
She points out how TiNDLE rolled out its chicken in foodservice before retail across other markets too, as it aimed to collaborate with chefs and culinary experts “to first perfect the entire experience of eating chicken – nailing down that complete ‘chicken’ aroma and flavour”. When it came to developing its retail range, the company wanted to replicate this “high-quality restaurant experience” at home. “Our team looked at a full range of consumer needs, and we created differentiated products that are not only rich in flavour, but also use specially designed coatings to deliver the best experience possible,” she adds.
To do so, the team looked at specific use cases, whether that’s identifying “the right bite, peppery finish, and meaty mouthfeel of a wing”, the ideal coating and thickness of chicken patty for burgers or sandwiches, or a “family-friendly nugget” with a crispy breadcrumb finish. “Each of our products is individually developed to fit these different use cases and deliver the most outstanding version of it (animal-based or not),” she explains.
Clean-label chicken for the time-strapped
Kass relayed consumer feedback revealing how they’re looking for products with shorter ingredient lists. It’s a major point of criticism of plant-based meat, particularly from the meat lobby, which has successfully run targeted ads against this very aspect of meat alternatives.
But Kass’s claim is backed up by data. In 2020, a global survey by Ingredion found that over half of respondents believe it’s important for products to have short ingredient lists, while further research from the ingredients manufacturer earlier this year suggested that 78% would spend more on products with ‘natural’ or ‘all-natural’ packaging claims.
Within the US, a 1,022-person survey by the International Food Information Council in May found that ‘healthy’ (24%) and ‘natural’ (23%) are the two most appealing labelling descriptions for plant-based meat. Food products labelled as ‘natural’ are the most regularly bought items across physical (40%) and online (39%) retail, while ‘clean ingredients’ are important to 29% and 30% of consumers in those respective channels too.
“We were intentional in developing our core TiNDLE chicken with only 9 base ingredients – many of which are common and familiar, including soy protein, oat fibre, and sunflower oil,” notes Kass, adding: “All of our ingredients are also GMO-free.”
As alluded to above, the going has gotten tough for plant-based meat lately. According to data from Circana, the retail sales volume of meat alternatives dropped by 23% in the year ending October 8. Companies like Beyond Meat – the US’s leading meat alternatives brand in terms of sales last year – have registered repeated revenue declines and had to resort to employee layoffs.
“Those numbers of retail sales declining in the category are impacted by a few factors, including retailers who may be adjusting their assortments or changing the types of products they’re offering,” suggests Kass.
“While overall plant-based meat sales may be down from last year, we’re still seeing strong interest in plant-based chicken, and it continues to grow.” She cites SPINS data reporting that sales of frozen plant-based chicken nuggets/strips/cutlets were up by 4% year-on-year.
Before TiNDLE’s vegan chicken launch at Giant Eagle and FreshDirect, it tested retail readiness with several pop-ups (including in New York City, Miami and Los Angeles) and a rollout to dozens of West Coast indie stores to enable consumers to try the products.
“Feedback was positive across the board and allowed us to gain some insights from shoppers to understand which of our products were most useful for their home cooking habits,” says Kass. “We’re launching this week our full product range in Giant Eagle and FreshDirect with new resealable frozen bags – ideal for busy households or shoppers who are interested in high-quality, plant-based meals at home, but are short on time.”