Black Sheep Foods, a San Francisco–based food tech company that uses plants to create a similar flavor to animal meat, secured another funding round, this time $12.3 million in Series A capital.
The company is leaping over the traditional plant-based foods, like beef, chicken and pork, to focus on scaling production for its lamb-flavored product. The company’s patent-pending technology isolates flavor molecules that give animal meat its flavor, identifies the same molecules in plants and uses that to reconstruct the meat flavor, right down to mouthfeel and richness.
In January, we profiled Black Sheep Foods when it raised $5.25 million in seed funding. At that time, its lamb debuted in some San Francisco and Los Angeles restaurants late last year, including at Ettan, Black Sheep Foods co-founder and CEO Sunny Kumar told TechCrunch. Today that has grown to 44 restaurants.
Charles Bililies, founder and CEO of Greek restaurant Souvla, rolled out the product at six of Souvla’s restaurant locations this year and said the restaurant had been “thoughtful when selecting a plant-based meat partner.” Since then, Black Sheep’s lamb has yielded an “overwhelmingly positive response from our many loyal guests,” he added.
Venture capital into the food tech sector has been waning recently. However, by making flavors and also using them, Kumar believes Black Sheep Foods’ new funding is the result of setting the company up for a vertical integration approach that puts it in a unique space done only by Impossible Foods thus far. He adds the new round was planned and follows progress on some of the key things the company has set out to do in 2022, including the rate of product adoption and R&D milestones on its flavors.
“We had these two approaches, and when we launched with our lamb, we began seeing really good traction and sales growth month over month of 22%,” he added. “It was just this realization that we needed to go a little bit faster on this.”
The new funding is led by Unovis and includes Bessemer Venture Partners, AgFunder, and KBW Ventures. It brings Black Sheep’s total funding to $18.05 million since its inception in 2019.
Kumar intends to deploy the capital into building up its product and R&D teams as well as sales and marketing.
Black Sheep was also limited at its production facility, where it was able to make only 5,000 pounds per month. Some of the capital will go to moving into a facility that will allow the company to make 16 million pounds per year. That increased production will likely start in the first quarter of 2023, he added.
Meanwhile, Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed, founder of KBW Ventures, participated in the round after tasting Black Sheep’s lamb.
“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 flavor,” Prince Khaled said in a written statement. “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 flavor, excellent texture and a strong nutritional profile.”