Black Sheep Foods, a San Francisco based foodtech start-up, is redefining the term ‘alt-meat’, by crafting delicious meat flavours beyond the usual suspects, and doing it using plants. First up is lamb made from plants. The company has raised $12.3MM in Series A funding led by plant-based venture veterans Unovis – early investor in Oatly and Beyond Meat – alongside Bessemer Ventures Partners, AgFunder, and KBW Ventures, bringing total investment to $18.05MM since the company’s founding in 2019.
This round helps to accelerate Black Sheep Foods’ journey to bring consumers flavour freedom in the meat section, and to scale up production for its debut lamb made from plants for national distribution.
“Our minds associate meat with a shape, a texture, and a flavour,” says Sunny Kumar, CEO and Cofounder of Black Sheep Foods, “While texture has been the focus of meat innovation, flavour is a white space. Our debut lamb made from plants has more depth of flavour, richness, and appetizing aromatics than other meats, full stop. We’re in the business of giving consumers access to the most delicious meat variety, using plants instead of animals.”
In the Middle East, where consumers are especially discerning about their lamb, a meat that is featured in many national dishes, Black Sheep Foods is also garnering high praise. Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed, the MENA region’s preeminent greentech investor, founder of KBW Ventures, and early investor in alt-proteins, participated in this funding round after tasting Black Sheep Foods’ lamb. In talking about his experience with the lamb made from plants Prince Khaled says, “Black Sheep Foods’ lamb is shockingly good; as someone who has grown up with this taste profile, I couldn’t believe the authentic mouthfeel and flavour. With taste being a vital aspect of customer adoption, Black Sheep Foods will easily dominate amongst plant-based meats. Additionally, game meats are still a wide open playing field. There’s a whole range of taste profiles that Black Sheep will be able to explore, especially with the company’s technology, allowing for an amplified flavour, excellent texture, and a strong nutritional profile.”
This rate of product adoption is fuelled by the years Black Sheep Foods has invested in flavour R&D. Their patent pending flavour technology allows them to isolate the flavour molecules that give any animal meat its distinctive flavour, identify the same molecules in plants, and reconstruct the depth of meat flavour – including mouthfeel and richness – using only plants.
Black Sheep Foods is not playing by the rules of industrial farming. The default American meat line-up of chicken and beef has been a product of factory farms’ unit economics. Often, dictated by which animals require the least amount of space per pound of meat produced, and grow the quickest in size with the least feed required. Black Sheep Foods’ flavour technology however, is unencumbered by the commercial constraints of industrial animal farming. The company can use plants to create the flavour of any animal meat. Flavour deliciousness is now the name of the game, not farming margins.
Timing is ripe for Black Sheep Foods’ flavour tech, with consumers becoming more adventurous with their eating since the pandemic. While travel was restricted, consumers found an affinity for taste tourism. 3 in 5 Americans are now using their meals to explore different flavours and cultures. This appetite for flavour diversity is seen even in demand for lamb itself, which hit a 30 year high in per capita consumption in the U.S. last year.
Ultimately, Black Sheep Foods has the ability to shift the paradigm of “meat alternative”. Round lead, Unovis, an early investor in Oatly and Beyond, has a history of making bets on companies that transform food alternatives to mainstays, and believes that Black Sheep Foods is primed to do so for America’s meat flavour line-up. Dan Altschuler, Managing Partner at Unovis says, “Black Sheep Foods is set up to deliver the best-tasting meats that just happen to be made from plants. Animal-free and environmentally sound. We’re thrilled to partner with them on their journey.”
With this Series A funding, Black Sheep Foods is primed to bring their lamb made from plants to restaurants across America and unlock new, full fidelity meat flavours for consumers, while removing animals from the equation. Tastier meats, made from plants.