Chicken made of pea protein selling out in supermarkets

By Nichola Murphy
Wednesday, 15 November, 2017

Health, environmental and animal welfare concerns are all becoming priorities for consumers, which is why Auckland start-up Sunfed Meats is experiencing significant expansion.

Plant-based proteins that are better for both human health and the environment have provided a new model for food, and companies such as Sunfed Meats have begun to capitalise on this. The Chicken Free Chicken, made of pea protein, became available in Progressive Enterprises and Foodstuffs supermarkets in July this year.

In its initial funding round, the product attracted global investors who recognised its potential for growth, and consumer demand was so high that it has been consistently selling out. The chicken alternative also featured in a Facebook video which went viral, gaining over 7.6 million views so far and still increasing.

“The response to our product has been nothing short of phenomenal if you consider the fact that we have not invested in any traditional advertising and marketing. It has all been organic word of mouth, which speaks to the product,” said the company’s chief executive and founder, Shama Lee.

As a result of its success, Lee aims to upscale quickly — increasing production 100-fold — and the company is therefore looking for another injection of funding.

“We have far more demand than we can meet from all sides of the business — retail, wholesale and fast food — and it keeps growing.

“There is no other product on the global market like ours. Through rigorous R&D we invented a clean water-based process by which pea protein cooks, feels and tastes exactly like chicken, as well as becomes highly bioavailable to the human body.”

International competitors have focused their efforts on developing red meat alternatives such as burger patties. But since chicken is the most consumed meat in the Western world, Lee wanted to create a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable plant-based protein that still replicates the taste and texture of chicken.

“We challenged ourselves to a high bar of not making a patty, but a piece of fleshy meat with long succulent fibres that would be a good replacement to boneless skinless chicken breast pieces. We also wanted it to be just as versatile, so it had to work easily with existing chicken recipes, and I think we’ve cracked it,” said Lee.

Despite the fact that the Chicken Free Chicken has one of the most minimalistic ingredient profile in the global market, it contains high levels of nutrition, including double the protein of chicken and triple the iron of beef.

The product mainly consists of high-protein, sustainable pulses of the legume family which require minimal fertiliser, irrigation and pesticides. It avoids all of the antibiotics, hormones and Salmonella that can be found in animal-based protein and is also cholesterol free, trans fat free and a source of dietary fibre.

As well as these nutritional benefits, the expansion of the company’s manufacturing capabilities aims to reduce the price of Sunfed chicken to cheaper than any factory-farmed animal chicken.

Lee said the company is also hoping to release Sunfed Beef and Sunfed Bacon soon.

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