Nestlé has backed Sundial Foods, a plant-based meat company that creates vegan chicken wings—bones and all.
The Swiss food giant supported the Albany, California-based startup’s $4 million seed funding round. Investors also included the likes of purpose-driven firm Food Labs and sustainable protein investor Clear Current Capital.
Sundial Foods’ whole-cut plant-based wings have a fibrous meat-like texture and taste similar to that of conventional chicken wings. They feature skin, muscle, and bones, which the company creates using proprietary technology.
“Our goal is to make meats that replace the butcher, so our product can be enjoyed as a center-of-plate experience,” Sundial’s co-founder, Jessica Schwabach, said. “We want to give consumers—whether vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian, or meat-eating—a plant-based meat-eating experience that’s interesting, craveable, and versatile.”
The meatless wings contain only eight ingredients: water, chickpeas, chickpea protein concentrate, gluten, sunflower oil, soybeans, nutritional yeast, and salt. They’re free from artificial flavors and synthetic chemicals. And they contain more fiber and less saturated fat than conventional chicken.
Sundial Foods, which has raised $4.25 million to date, plans to use the round of funding to grow its team and scale production. The vegan wings are expected to hit U.S. restaurants in spring 2022.
Nestlé taps into vegan meat
This is not Nestlé’s first foray into plant-based foods. In 2020, Sundial Foods co-founders Jessica Schwabach and Siwan Deng participated in the Nestlé R&D Accelerator in Lausanne, Switzerland, where they piloted the production of their plant-based chicken wings. Later that year, the company co-branded a product with Nestlé’s Garden Gourmet range and ran a successful test launch in more than 40 retail outlets in Switzerland.
The Garden Gourmet range of vegan meats includes plant-based tuna, meatballs, ground beef, and more.
In 2017, Nestlé acquired the vegetarian meat brand Sweet Earth. And three years later, the multinational sold a majority of its stake in German sausage brand, Herta Charcuterie, in order to focus on plant-based meat products.
“It really shows how we are positioning the company towards what is benefiting from higher growth and future areas such as plant-based offerings that are very much on-trend with where consumers are heading,” Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider said at the time.
Nestlé has also developed vegan shrimp (made from seaweed, peas, and konjac root) and egg (made from soy protein), which will both be sold under its Garden Gourmet brand. Both products will first be available in select European markets as a test run.
Cultured meat could also be on the horizon for Nestlé. In July, the company confirmed its partnership with Israeli startup Future Meat Technologies. It’s expected that the collaboration will yield blended, or hybrid, proteins—those that feature both cultured meat and plant-based ingredients.