The Next Frontier of Plant-Based Meat: Fake Nuggets, Alt-Fish, and More

Image: Daring Foods

The plant-based sector moves fast. Experts expect the market to grow fivefold by 2030 to $132B.

In recent years, plant-based burgers have been all the rage, but this summer, startups are racing to formulate the next big alt-meat. From faux chicken to seafood substitutes, let’s take a look.

The fake chicken war is heating up. Americans love chicken, with the average citizen eating over 50 pounds every year. But following a global wing shortage this summer (and skyrocketing chicken-flation), faux chicken makers are fighting for your taste buds.

  • Beyond Meat just launched their faux chicken nuggets at 1,000 Canadian fast food locations. The company partnered with Panda Express recently to offer vegan orange chicken, selling over 1,300 pounds on its first day.
  • Following close behind is Impossible Foods, which, besides eyeing a potential IPO, is releasing a plant-based chicken nugget this fall.
  • Alpha Foods is taking a slightly different approach to tempt buyers, with a promotion that drops the cost of its plant-based Chik’n Nuggets in the opposite direction of rising chicken prices.

Meanwhile, investors are pumping millions into other plant-based chicken nugget startups, like Simulate, Rebellyous, Nowadays, and Daring Foods.

Faux fish. Seafood’s no longer on the sidelines. While alt-meat makers have tended to overlook this category, provocative documentaries hooked consumers, and now 78% say they’d be willing to try fake fish. Eager to cash in, investors poured $80M into alt-seafood startups last year.

  • Gathered Foods reeled in $27M in April and has negotiated key partnerships with Long John Silver’s and Whole Foods to sell plant-based fish sticks and fillets.
  • Cell-based seafood maker BlueNalu raised $60M ahead of market launch.
  • NotCo, which secured a fresh $235M Series D in July, plans to make imitation salmon.

In other news, Paris-based Gourmey got $10M to make plant-based foie gras and Pizza Hut now has a plant-based pepperoni.

Takeaway: Production issues, climate change, and shifting consumer conceptions are increasingly disrupting traditional protein. As the plant-based battle expands beyond burgers, expect escalating innovation and funding on all fronts.