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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Nestle invests in East Bay maker of fake skin and bone chicken

Corinne Gretler | Bloomberg

Nestle SA has invested in a vegan startup that tries to mimic chicken as realistically as possible, including fake skin and bones, as the world’s largest food company moves forward with the expansion of plant-based meat substitutes.

According to Jessica Schwabach, chief executive officer of the Albany, California-based company, Nestle spearheaded a $ 4 million funding round at Sundial Foods. The proceeds will help fund initial production as the company plans to launch vegan chicken wings in the Bay Area in the spring and expand production across California next year.

The Swiss food giant is investing heavily in alternative proteins as more consumers are turning away from animal products due to environmental and health concerns. Following a late entry into the vegan market, CEO Mark Schneider is now aiming for a plant-based substitute for every animal protein. Nestle is testing water for new technologies, including meat farming with Israeli startup Future Meat Technologies Ltd.

The sundial was created in 2019 after co-founders Schwabach, who is a vegan, and Siven Deng met as part of an alternative meat program at the University of California, Berkeley, where they explored topics such as tackling dryness in plant-based meat alternatives. They spent a year at the Nestle R&D Accelerator in 2020, and together they did a test launch at the end of last year in Swiss grocery stores.

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“People loved the realistic look and high protein content, but their favorite aspect was plant-based skin,” the 22-year-old CEO Schwabach said in an interview on Thursday. “It added a culinary experience and provided an interesting texture when eating.”

A spokesman for Nestle declined to comment.

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