HERO, a Shanghai-based alternative protein company, announced today that it has raised an $850,000 pre-seed round of funding. Global commodities and co-manufacturing company, Cremer, as well as Lever China Fund and various restaurant executives all participated in the round.
According to the press announcement sent to The Spoon, HERO’s first product lineup will include a number of different plant-based beef and chicken products. HERO’s plant-based meats will be formulated specifically for the Chinese market. The company is made up of former R&D execs at Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, Gardein, Lightlife and Morningstar (so, basically, all the big players in the North American plant-based meat space).
HERO is making its plant-based meat through the use of “high moisture extrusion technology,” which, the company says, is common in the West, but has not been used by Chinese brands. High moisture extrusion helps reproduce the juiciness and mouthfeel of meat.
China is a bit of a holy grail for alternative meat companies with its large consumer market and growing demand for protein. Beyond Meat is building two production facilities in China and launched a minced pork product there. Hong Kong-based Green Monday’s Omnifoods label has launched plant-based meats at retailers throughout China and raised $70 million to expand its efforts.
Plant-based meat experienced a surge in interest last year, thanks to the pandemic. COVID exposed problems with the meat supply chain, ethical issues around meat production, and the specter of zootropic disease associated with eating animals. At the same time, the technology for producing plant-based meat continues to get better at replicating the “real” thing, which makes eating plant-based burgers and such much more palatable.