Black Sheep Foods Raises $5.2 Million In Funding To Produce New Vegan Meat

Black Sheep Foods Vegan Lamb

Black Sheep Foods (BSF), a San Francisco-based vegan meat startup, has acquired $5.25 million in early investment to provide new vegan meat choices to the foodservice industry. Last November, the firm launched its debut product, meat-free lamb, with the goal of developing more vegan versions of animal proteins designated wild game or historic breeds. Investors include New Crop Capital, AgFunder, and Siddhi Capital, as well as venture funds focused on purpose-driven food businesses.

While companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have created plant-based beef, poultry, and pig, BSF sees a gap in the market where few, if any, companies are reproducing these specialized meat variations, which are frequently unavailable to most customers owing to their scarcity and high price tag. Sunny Kumar, a software entrepreneur, and Ismael Montanez, a biologist, co-founded BSF with the goal of democratizing these proteins with greater flavor and the added goal of being ecologically friendly and cruelty-free—in sharp contrast to industrial animal agriculture.

BSF pioneered analytical chemistry to discover the fundamental chemicals that give specialist meats like lamb its particular gaminess and complexity, including the flavor that coats the palate and the multi-sensory experience provided by fragrance. Using patent-pending taste compounds and components including texturized pea protein, coconut oil, and cocoa butter, the business spent two years developing their meat-free lamb, resulting in a product that resembles the flavor and feel of its animal counterpart. While BSF presently uses plant sources for these tastes, it is working on a fermentation-based approach for growing the required chemicals.

“It’s exciting to see the growth of the plant-based industry at large and as a plant-based company that focuses on flavor, we’re already working on other breeds of game meat,” Kumar stated.

Lamb is particularly significant since, in terms of production, it is the most difficult on the globe, with the highest water use, land usage, and environmental devastation. On the primary metric of waste vs benefit, lamb comes last among all domesticated meat sources. According to BSF, meat-free lamb rearing utilizes 95 percent less land, produces 95 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, and uses half as much water as commercially reared lamb.

The Greek Treatment

Last November, BSF launched their meat-free lamb at Souvla, a Greek restaurant in San Francisco, where it was added to the menu as a fifth protein choice alongside lamb, pig, chicken, and roasted white sweet potato. Souvla’s specialty sandwiches and salads include meatless lamb presented in bite-sized chunks. Souvla’s menu had not been changed since it initially launched in 2014, so the additional protein choice was a welcome addition.

“We had yet to find a plant-based meat that made sense for our restaurants, but when we tried Black Sheep Foods, we felt it was the right moment to add a plant-based offering to our menu… This [expands] upon our vegetarian offerings, which we’re excited to offer our guests,” stated Charles Bililies, Souvla’s Founder and CEO.

Increasing the Availability of Vegan Meat

BSF’s seed financing will be used to deliver these lesser-known vegan game meats to the foodservice industry. This year, many more Bay Area eateries, including upmarket Indian restaurant Rooh, Arabic restaurant Beit Rima, pizza chain Joyride, and Mediterranean restaurant San Bruno, will feature BSF’s trademark product on their menus. Souvla also aims to add BSF meatballs to its Delta Airlines menu, which will be accessible in first and business class.

“We’re thrilled to be working with such a reputable group of restaurants across the Bay Area—everything from fine dining to fast-casual—but we’re also planning to expand to other parts of the country this year… Our launch restaurants spotlight the versatility of our plant-based lamb and also act as springboards for us, ultimately helping us enter more mainstream channels,” Kumar stated.



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