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China plant-based ‘meat’ brand HERO Protein closes USD850k pre-seed round

HERO Protein, the first domestic plant-based ‘meat’ company in China to use cutting-edge “high moisture extrusion” technology, has completed a USD850k pre-seed funding round to launch its products into the market. 

The funding round saw participation from Cremer, a leading global commodities and co-manufacturing company; Lever China Fund, the most active alternative protein investor in China; and senior executives from leading restaurant brands.

HERO Protein’s initial product range, which includes a variety of plant-based beef and chicken products, was formulated specifically for the Chinese market by a team of former senior R&D executives at Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, Gardein, Lightlife and Morningstar, the five largest plant-based meat brands in North America. The application of high moisture extrusion technology, which is common in the west but to date has not been used by domestic brands in China, is particularly critical for reproducing the juiciness and mouthfeel of meat.

The funding round will be used to advance the company’s ongoing research and development, to develop and scale production, and to expand distribution. HERO Protein launched into the foodservice channel in China in January.

“Plant-based meat is a rising and unstoppable trend in China,” says HERO Protein CEO Edward Weng, who for the past fifteen years served as VP of Sales and Marketing at Xiamen Zhongma, selling conventional meat and other food products into leading QSR chains in China including KFC, Starbucks and Burger King. “HERO Protein aims to bring together the advanced food technology used by top international players such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods and the domestic know-how to curate delicious products specifically catered to the Chinese palate, at prices affordable for a broader range of Chinese consumers. We are very pleased to receive support from investors and partners who share our mission.”

“HERO Protein is proud to partner with leading domestic players in the ingredients, logistics, production, food and retail industries,” says HERO Protein COO Ludovic Shum, who previously worked as Marketing Director at Carrefour China in charge of category management and new concepts development, with 15 years of experience in the retail industry at Carrefour France and China. “By localising the production we ensure product quality control and keep pricing affordable, allowing for successful market penetration and growth.”

HERO Protein is the first domestic company in China to sell plant-based meat products produced using high moisture extrusion. Founded in 2020 and based in Shanghai, HERO Protein aims to become the leading brand delivering a tasty and accessible range of plant-based meat products, offering consumers the culinary experience of conventional meat while ensuring food safety and sustainability. HERO Protein was recently named to the International Future Agrifood 2020 Alternative Protein Top 20 list, and was a winner of TechNode Global’s 2020 ORIGIN Innovation Awards in the Food & AgriTech category.

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