ALBANY, CALIF. — Plant-based meat alternative maker Sundial Foods raised $4 million in a seed funding round that included Nestle SA, Food Labs, Clear Current Capital, SOSV / IndieBio and others.
Co-founded by Siwen Deng and Jessica Schwabach, the Albany, Calif.-based startup is developing chicken wing alternatives that feature plant-based skin, meat and bone. Featuring eight easy-to-recognize ingredients like water, chickpeas and sunflower oil, the wings are made without artificial flavors or synthetic chemicals, according to the company. They contain more fiber and less saturated fat than chicken but approximately the same amount of protein.
Sundial will use funds from the $4 million seed round to expand its team and begin production at the Rutgers Food Innovation Center in Bridgeton, NJ. It plans to launch its first product in restaurants in the United States next spring.
“Our goal is to make meats that replace the butcher, so our product can be enjoyed as a center-of-plate experience,” Schwabach said. “We want to give consumers — whether vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian or meat-eating — a plant-based meat-eating experience that's interesting, craveable and versatile.”
Schwabach and Deng met in 2019 while studying at the University of California Berkeley’s Alternative Meat program, where they initially became interested in the plant-based space. After starting at Berkeley, development of Sundial’s meat alternatives continued at the SOSV life sciences program IndieBio in San Francisco.
The pair in 2020 participated in the Nestle R&D Accelerator in Switzerland, where they took the formula for their chicken from bench scale testing to pilot production. Late last year they co-branded a product with Nestle’s plant-based Garden Gourmet brand and ran a successful test launch in more than 40 retail outlets across Switzerland.
“Making a super tasty alt-chicken wing is only half of it,” said Po Bronson, general partner at SOSV and managing director of IndieBio. “During the IndieBio program, the Sundial team really focused on automating their production and manufacturing method, where they had several breakthroughs. They'll make it to market faster than any IndieBio company in history.”