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Singapore food tech Next Gen, maker of plant-based chicken brand TiNDLE, has secured US$20 million in its extended seed round in order to launch in the U.S. market. This takes the startup’s total seed round to US$30 million, and according to Pitchbook, the initial US$10 million was already hailed as the largest seed round for a vegan food tech company gobally. According to publicly available information, the company is valued at US$180 million.
TiNDLE’s first product was developed by Next Gen CTO John Seeger along with expert chefs. The plant-based chicken offers high protein and fibre and is low carb and naturally cholesterol-free and fulfills the nutritional guidelines set by the Healthier Choice Symbol administered by Singapore’s Health Promotion Board. Compared to other plant-based alternatives, the company claims that the product has lower sodium and saturated fat content and it can be adapted by chefs in a range of cuisines.
TiNDLE first launched in Singapore in March and as of now, its products are sold in 70 restaurants across Singapore, Hong Kong, and Macau. These restaurants include ADDA by four-time Michelin Star Chef Manjunath Mural and two Michelin Star Bo Innovation by Chef Alvin Leung in Hong Kong. A debut in Kuala Lumpur is planned soon.
Global investor backing
The financing round witnessed the participation of Global Fund GGV Capital; China-based agriculture and food tech venture fund investing in the alternative protein space; Bits x Bites; a major Asian food and beverage player in the plant-based dairy sector, Yeo Hiap Seng; co-author of Blitzscaling(how tech companies can scale quickly) Chris Yeh; and a well-known group of athletes including the England national team footballer Dele Alli.
This new group of investors joined the company’s existing investors including the Singapore state investor Temasek Ventures, who famously backed Impossible Foods early on, and Asia-based venture capital fund K3 Ventures, both of whom participated in the extension. This brings the total raise to over US$32 million.
When asked about the now public valuation of Next Gen, co-founder and newly appointed Chief Executive Officer Andre Menezes told Green Queen that “fundraising and valuation are not what we consider success. What success means to us is the fact that we have built an extremely scalable business model with solid fundamentals, a strong team and great traction – which in turn allowed top tier investors to be confident to be part of our journey.”
In a press release seen announcing the news, managing partner at GGV Capital Jenny Lee said that given that the Next Gen team has already created and launched a plant-based meat product in Europe (co-founder Timo Recker founded LikeMeat and sold it to LIVEKINDLY Collective in September 2020), it has one of the strongest founder-market fits in the global food tech industry: “The team’s focus on product quality, brand recall, and distribution provide a strong foundation for the future growth of the company. Our partnership with the NextGen team is underpinned by our commitment to team up with founders who show real passion and flair in solving the fundamental challenges of our time – food sustainability is one of them. By leveraging technology to create delicious plant-based foods, NextGen has a unique global opportunity to popularize non-animal food products and let consumers know that great flavor can go hand-in-hand with both great nutrition and sustainability.”
Our partnership with the NextGen team is underpinned by our commitment to team up with founders who show real passion and flair in solving the fundamental challenges of our time – food sustainability is one of themJenny Lee, managing partner at GGV Capital
Prep for U.S. market entry
According to the Good Food Institute, in 2020, the U.S. retail market for vegan foods was valued at US$7 billion, higher than its US$5.5 billion in 2019. In addition, 47% of young Americans identify themselves as flexitarians, those that are reducing their meat intake, though not completely eliminating it from their diets.
With this in mind, and in an effort to address the product gap for plant-based chicken, the startup plans to use their newly-raised capital to drive TiNDLE’s market entry into the U.S. within the next 12 months.
Next Gen has onboarded new CFO Rohit Bhattacharya, formerly a director at Temasek and will further recruit 50 U.S. employees across all departments to support its launch in North America. Co-founder Recker will take on the role of Chairman going forward.
Menezes added: “The United States is the world’s biggest market for plant-based foods. We are already putting our foundations in place to be in-market within the next 12 months as we accelerate our goal of becoming the world’s number one plant-based chicken. The outstanding response from both existing and new investors shows their confidence in our innovative technology, highly scalable business model, differentiated taste experiences, and the ability of our team to make TiNDLE a market leader in the U.S.”
The United States is the world’s biggest market for plant-based foods. We are already putting our foundations in place to be in-market within the next 12 months as we accelerate our goal of becoming the world’s number one plant-based chickenAndre Menezes, co-founder and CEO, Next Gen
Expansion in APAC and the Middle East
Next Gen’s CMO Jean Madden said: “Following our March 2021 TiNDLE launch, we have expanded to three key markets, and we expect to be in more than five by end-2021, a mark that some leading brands do not cross after years of existence. We are scaling at this incredibly fast pace with our asset-lite business model, distribution network, talent, and collaborations with great chefs and hot restaurants.”
According to UBS, the plant-based protein market across the world is predicted to reach US$85 billion by 2030.
To tap into this growing demand, the company will utilize its additional resources to continue its expansion in APAC and the Middle East markets, in addition to its U.S. plans. It will develop its technology, set up an R&D center in Singapore, and diversify its product range.
In an exclusive interview with Green Queen, Menezes explained that he chose Hong Kong, Macau, and Malaysia as the company wants to focus on global urban well-connected cities for TiNDLE’s expansion. “Hong Kong is one of the greatest food and cultural hubs in Asia. Macau is a renowned tourist destination, especially for Mainland China, with some 40 million tourists in 2019. Additionally, Kuala Lumpur has also been recognized for its culturally diverse cuisine. These factors make all three cities perfect for Next Gen’s expansion in the Asia Pacific. Hong Kong and Singapore are also seen as global hubs with what is best in this space globally, hosting leading brands from the USA, Europe and across Asia. We are confident that TiNDLE can perform at that level, and these markets are highly relevant to us.”
Going forward, the company plans to raise Series A funding, and expand into Europe as well.
Lead image courtesy of TiNDLE.