Toronto-based New School Foods has closed $15.9 million CAD ($12 million USD) in seed funding to tackle what it views as a major gap in the plant-based meat market—whole cuts.
With a founder that sold his previous startup to Instacart, New School Foods claims that its technology is capable of producing whole-cut fish alternatives that look and cook just like ordinary seafood.
“The next frontier of meat alternatives is whole cuts.”
-Chris Bryson, New School Foods
The capital comes from a group of investors that focus on sustainable food systems and alternative protein, including Lever VC, Blue Horizon, Hatch, Good Startup, Alwyn Capital, Joyance Partners, as well as grants from multiple government agencies, including Protein Industries Canada.
Vegetable burgers, veggie sausages, and other types of plant-based meats have grown in popularity in recent years as many consumers have reduced consumption of traditional animal meat in light of its environmental and health impacts.
To tackle this opportunity, many leading food brands, including President’s Choice, have come out with their own product lines for plant-based meat. However, demand for alternative meat trend has plateaued and companies in the space have struggled to obtain habitual adoption from consumers.
The next generation of plant-based meats technology is producing whole cuts of plant-based protein alternatives, creating a closer resemblance with regular meat as a way to attract consumer interest.
New School Foods was founded in 2020 by repeat tech entrepreneur Chris Bryson. According to the startup, its entire process is cold-based, so the ingredients remain uncooked and proteins are not denatured. This results in a whole cut of salmon that can demonstrate the visual transition from being raw to being cooked.
Bryson believes that the next frontier of meat alternatives is whole cuts. With New School Foods, the founder hopes to solve two connected issues: the quality of meat alternatives in the market, and the “limited toolkit” that the industry uses to produce them.
“What’s generally available for consumers now are rubbery, ground, pre-cooked products that will not convince the average customer to change their lifelong habits,” said Bryson.
Another Canadian company that is producing whole cuts of alternative meat is Kitchener-Waterloo-based Evolved Meats. That company cultivates its meat substitute product from animal cells rather than plants.
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Bryson has accumulated years of experience working with a variety of different parts of the food supply chain, including alternative proteins and groceries.
Before he started New School Foods, Bryson also founded Unata, which provides white label e-commerce solutions for grocers. He sold Unata to Instacart in 2018 for a reported total of $65 million. Bryson has also invested through the angel network Glass Wall Syndicate in numerous plant-based, fermentation, and cultivated companies.
When he established New School Foods, Bryson put out a call for proposals to food science universities, offering to fund multiple research and development projects focused on whole-cut meat alternatives. From that contest, New School Foods funded six projects across three universities and two private labs. One of those projects is by food scientist and post-doctoral researcher Auke de Vries from Toronto Metropolitan University whodeveloped New School Foods’ directional freezing scaffolding technology. He has joined New School Foods full-time as lead food materials scientist.
New School Foods has raised approximately $13 million USD to date, including a $1 million pre-seed round.
With its new funding, New School Foods said it will continue focusing on research and development by expanding its team of food scientists, scaling up its scaffolding technology, and building out a research and production facility.
New School Foods recently poached Beyond Meat senior scientist Rebecca Miller, appointing her as lead food materials scientist, and Bryson told TechCrunch that the startup broke ground on a facility in Toronto last month and will be unveiling its plans for the hub in the coming months.
The company has also launched a chef-only pilot program as it expects to bring its salmon alternative to restaurants across North America this year.
Feature image courtesy New School Foods.