New York-based Blackbird Foods, which produces its own version of high-protein meat alternative seitan, announced last week its first close of a $1.5 million Seed round of funding. According to a press release sent to The Spoon, the round was led by Lever VC, and Blackbird plans on using the funding to scale operations and expand into retail chains.
Emanuel Storch, Blackbird Foods CEO, told me by phone this week that the company was started by vegan chefs and restauranteurs in the New York area who were looking to create a high quality, high-protein, versatile alternative to meat they served in their own restaurants.
Seitan is a traditional ingredient used for meat alternatives, and it is cherished for its high protein and low-fat content. Sweet Earth, a company now owned by Nestlé, produces a variety of different vegan seitan-based products including deli meats, pepperoni, and seitan strips. Upton Naturals is a vegan company know for its jackfruit and seitan meat alternatives, and the company produces seitan-based hot dogs, bacon, and grounds.
Storch said that Blackbird Foods’ seitan is very different from other seitan on the market because Blackbird extracts protein directly from wheat flour, while other companies typically just use hydrated gluten powder. According to Storch, that hydrated gluten powder method can cause seitan to have a rubbery or mushy texture, whereas Blackbird Foods’ seitan more closely resembles the texture of meat.
Blackbird Foods currently has four different flavors of seitan, including original, Texas BBQ, chili lime, and rosemary garlic. Each serving of seitan contains 17g of protein. In addition to seitan, the company also produces four flavors of frozen vegan pizza (Margherita, kale-mushroom, BBQ, and supreme) which uses Violife’s vegan cheese. Storch said the company’s target market is vegans because this demographic is the “low-hanging fruit,” because vegans have already adopted seitan, but it also aims to reach flexitarians.
Blackbird Food’s seitan costs $5.99 per pack and contains three servings. The frozen pizzas cost between $7.99-$9.99, and each pizza also contains three servings. The company’s products are available for purchase on its website, and in-store at retailers such as Erewhon, Mom’s Organic Market, and many independent retailers within the New York area.