SAN FRANCISCO — Black Sheep Foods, a plant-based foods company focused on heritage breed meats and wild game, raised $5.25 million in seed funding.
The startup last fall introduced its first product, a meat-free lamb alternative, on menus at Souvla, a Bay Area-based group of fast-fine Greek restaurants. Black Sheep’s team spent two years refining the product, using analytical chemistry to identify the key compounds that give lamb its complexity and distinctive gaminess. It used those patent-pending flavor compounds in a plant-based structure composed of pea protein.
The resulting meat-free lamb analogue contains 18 grams of protein per serving and uses 95% less land, 95% fewer greenhouse gas emissions and half as much water as commercially raised lamb, according to the company.
Funds from the seed round will help Black Sheep bring lesser-known plant-based game meats to the foodservice industry, said Sunny Kumar, co-founder of the San Francisco-based startup. Several additional Bay Area restaurants will debut the flagship lamb alternative in early 2022, and Souvla plans to add Black Sheep meatballs to its Delta Airlines offerings.
Black Sheep is the latest culinary addition to New Crop Capital, AgFunder and Siddhi Capital, three venture funds focused on purpose-driven food entrepreneurs. The seed round marked the first food investment for Bessemer Venture Partners, a San Francisco-based firm that primarily invests in technology companies within the enterprise, consumer and health care sectors.
“The plant-based movement has made spectacular strides in recent years and has incredible potential to reduce the destructive environmental impact of industrial meat production,” said Tess Hatch, partner at Bessemer Venture Partners. “Black Sheep Foods’ first heritage lamb product has upped the stakes in what it means to deliver a delicious, sustainable plant-based meat.”