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Welldone, a Russian plant-based meat startup, has just raised $1.5 million in fresh funding. Amid surging vegan demand in the region, the capital will go towards growing production and distribution. Welldone, which already has a strong foothold in the Russian market, says it plans to take its products across Eastern Europe and beyond.
Welldone has just raised $1.5 million in a new round led by Phystech Ventures, a Bay Area-based VC. The round was joined by Lever VC, an alternative protein investor based out of New York and Hong Kong. It comes just shy of one year after the Moscow-based brand first launched on the market in September last year.
Making plant-based meat affordable
Welldone’s range includes plant-based mince, burger patties, and cutlets made with a base of soy protein and coconut oil. Currently, the brand’s products are retailed at around 500 stores across 50 Russian cities, including the top five supermarket chains in the country.
Welldone also sells its products directly to consumers through online e-commerce platforms and is served at a number of restaurants. Outside of Russia, the brand has established a footprint in Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Unlike foreign players such as Beyond Meat, Welldone’s analogues are affordably priced and close to price parity with their conventional counterparts. Its vegan beef patties, for example, sell for around $2.60 per 200-gram package, whilst real beef costs $2. Beyond’s patties, on the other hand, retail for around $16 in Russia.
Distribution expansion and new products on the horizon
The startup says the fresh funding will help it increase production to 150 tonnes per month, double down on the Moscow retail market and extend distribution to more Eastern European countries.
Welldone also said a portion of the capital will fuel R&D and expand the team to churn out new products to meet demand. According to Alexander Kiselev, CEO of Welldone, consumers in Russia and Eastern Europe are increasingly thinking about nutrition—and it’s driving the popularity of vegan meat alternatives.
“Today more and more people in Russia are starting to think about their diet. They understand that there are ingredients in animal meat which are not good for them, such as cholesterol,” said Kiselev.
“The plant-based market is poised to grow very quickly in Russia and Eastern Europe, and with our significant investment in R&D, world-class yet affordable products, and partnership with Phystech Ventures and Lever VC, we look forward to leading the growth of the category.”
Russia’s alt-protein scene heats up
For now, the most mature plant-based markets are still concentrated in North America and Western Europe. A recent E.U.-funded Smart Protein study that included France, Germany, Austria, Spain, the U.K. and 6 other European countries showed plant-based demand growing double-digits over the past two years.
But signs are now indicating the industry is gaining speed in Russia too. According to estimates from the Russian Agricultural Bank, the plant-based meat market is set to account for 1.5% of the country’s animal protein market within 4 years. 1.5% might not seem like a lot, but it translates to 140,000 tonnes of vegan meat in annual sales.
Earlier this year, the country welcomed its first animal-free food tech accelerator program too, which promises to foster more talent in the Russian alternative protein space. It was created by the co-founders of Greenwise, another homegrown plant-based meat startup.
Even KFC Russia is on the alt-protein trend, partnering with Russian company 3D Bioprinting Solutions to bring lab-grown chicken to the market.
With the Russian vegan market set to grow, Anna Gishko, principal at Phystech Ventures, is bullish about Welldone’s future. “Welldone’s key advantages include an experienced team [and] deep R&D expertise.”
“With excellent scientific talent available in the country and much lower input costs, the efficiency of R&D in Russia is an important competitive advantage for international expansion,” Gishko added.
All images courtesy of Welldone.