Daring Foods raises $65M and launches at Walmart

Dive Brief:

  • Plant-based chicken maker Daring Foods has raised $65 million in a Series C funding round led by Founders Fund and including previous investor D1 Capital Group as well as athletes and celebrities such as tennis Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka, former NFL quarterback Cameron Newton and DJ and music producer Steve Aoki.
  • Daring is also launching this month at 3,000 Walmart locations, which doubles its retail distribution and includes other national retailers such as Whole Foods, Sprouts Farmers Market and Kroger, and online services like Gopuff and Imperfect Foods, according to a press release emailed to Food Dive. 
  • The California-based manufacturer had several funding rounds within just over a year, bringing its total raise to more than $120 million and strengthening its foothold in the $272 million market for plant-based chicken in the U.S.

Dive Insight:

Water, soy, sunflower oil, salt and natural flavoring: For Daring’s plant-based meat, having such a short ingredient list is a key to standing apart in a suddenly crowded segment. It’s also one reason the startup — which first entered the U.S. from the U.K. in 2019 — has been able to attract so much attention from investors and celebrities. In May, Daring Foods raised $40 million in a series B round, with a series A of $8 million in September 2020.

Daring Foods likes to call its product “the opposite of chicken.” lts four varieties of plant-based chicken pieces — Original, Lemon & Herb, Cajun and Breaded — have 10 to 14 grams of protein per serving and are lower in fat, cholesterol and sodium than the animal counterpart, according to the company.

That said, Daring’s focus on minimally processed, non-GMO products also could make a striking comparison to those of plant-based giants such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat and CPG veterans like Kellogg with its MorningStar Farms, which have also been dogged by complaints that their offers are highly processed, as well as high in sodium and saturated fat.

Daring’s ability to ramp up in U.S. retail within the space of a year is noteworthy. The company originally planned to introduce its product through foodservice, but quickly switched to a direct-to-consumer model as the pandemic flared. Since then, the number of brick-and-mortar locations that have begun carrying Daring’s product have increased from 1,000 as recently as May to 6,000 by October.

The addition of Walmart, which also is carrying Beyond Meat’s new chicken tenders, to Daring’s retail distribution will place the startup on a truly massive stage. The largest retailer in the U.S. has proven insatiable in its appetite for adding plant-based offers; its relationship with Beyond Meat dates back to 2015, and this past September it added Impossible Food’s burger to 8,000 stores. Most recently, products from Greenleaf Foods’ Lightlife brand have made the cut.

With the latest round of funding, Daring Foods has the opportunity to win its spot in more freezer doors across the U.S., and continue supporting its rapid pace of growth. Co-founder and CEO Ross Mackay told TechCrunch the company, which he said has seen a 900% growth rate over the past 12 months, will also use the new funding to support the development and launch of new products set to debut within the next year.

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