‘Our main competition is birds, not plant-based’: Next Gen Foods on expanding alt. chicken brand TiNDLE in Europe

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Box Sociaal dishes using TiNDLE alt chicken from Next Gen Foods / Pic: Next Gen Foods
Box Sociaal dishes using TiNDLE alt chicken from Next Gen Foods / Pic: Next Gen Foods

Related tags plant-based

Food tech company Next Gen Foods has set its sights on rapid international growth. As the company enters Europe, CEO and co-founder Andre Menezes tells FoodNavigator that the group’s ambition isn’t just to become a leading plant-based brand globally. It wants to take a bite out of poultry sales.

Next Gen Foods’ plant-based chicken, TiNDLE, has just launched in Amsterdam. The product will be available in six of the city’s ‘top’ restaurants including Box Sociaal​, Cabrón​, CIRCL​,  Coffee & Coconuts​, Rotisserie​ and SOIL​.

The rollout strategy, focusing on food service, follows the successful blueprint that the Singapore-based start-up has used to crack markets across Asia and the Middle East.

“We’re not aware of any other company that achieved the same pace of expansion as we have. It has taken some of the leading companies in this space more than five years to launch their first product. We’re in 150+ restaurants and counting across Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Macau, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, UAE and more in our first year of operation,”​ CEO and co-founder Andre Menezes explained.

The group has set its sights on rapid global growth. Next Gen Foods plans to bring TiNDLE to the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States in 2022. The company is extending its reach into markets where plant-based sales are ‘booming’, Menezes noted.

This market potential has led to a proliferation of plant-based products. But while TiNDLE will be competing for share of wallet in an increasingly crowded category, Menezes believes high levels of activity will only continue to spur growth, allowing plant-based innovators to take on the real competition: animal products.

“Plant-based is a booming industry that has room for many more players and, honestly, our main competition is birds, not other plant-based companies. The more plant-based companies and product options that are readily accessible, the easier it will be for consumers to adopt these alternative proteins,”​ he told FoodNavigator.

Fixing a ‘broken system’ with plant-based innovation 

“This is absolutely the right time and place to introduce consumers to TiNDLE and it’s only the first step in our journey to transform our broken food system and reduce our reliance on animal-based industries and supply chains​,” the food founder insisted.

Next Gen Foods was founded in 2020 by Menezes – a Brazilian-born poultry exporter - and German native Timo Recker, whose family business made schnitzel and other meat products for three generations. After a chance meeting, the food industry veterans decided to work together to develop products that reduce our reliance on animal agriculture.

GettyImages-leischkadesign - chicken
Next Gen Foods says plant-based chicken uses less water and land and produces less CO2 than conventional animal production / Pic: GettyImages-leischkadesign

‘Sustainability on the plate’ is at the heart of the company’s mission and TiNDLE, their first product, is named after physicist John Tyndall, who first proved the connection between atmospheric CO2 and the greenhouse effect.  

“By replacing highly inefficient animal farming with plant-based foods, we’re extracting the most problematic portion of the production chain -- raising animals with low conversion rates for weeks/months and subsequent slaughtering only to make use of the meat portion of their bodies,”​ Menezes argued. 

According to a 2020 study from Blue Horizon comparing the impact of plant- and animal-based foods, chicken analogues use 82% less water and 72% less land than animal-based equivalents and produce 88% fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Menezes said these figures point to the fact that it is ‘invariably and intrinsically way more efficient than animal farming’.

“Next Gen Foods chose to focus on chicken first because it’s the most popular global protein. It’s the most innovative and versatile from a culinary perspective and reaches more consumers and categories of cuisine around the world,​” he noted.

“The inspiration behind the creation of TiNDLE was to find a way to make saving the planet easy, enjoyable and delicious. This included finding new solutions that rely less on animal agriculture, which is inherently inefficient. The world needs a new, sustainable way to feed a growing population and plant-based alternatives like TiNDLE can be a valuable solution that doesn’t compromise on menu innovation, taste and quality.”

Fried TiNDLE Taco with Michalada mayonnaise 1, Cabrón
Fried TiNDLE Taco with Michalada mayonnaise, Cabrón / Pic: Next Gen Foods

Versatility and quality for a ‘culinary first’ approach

Indeed, TiNDLE was developed specifically to combat the notion that eating plant-based requires compromise. This is one of the reasons that Next Gen Foods decided to initially focus its efforts on the restaurant channel.

“Plant based foods have been for a long time associated with compromise in taste, texture, and overall experience. We understand what consumers love, from the deliciousness aspects of the dishes to the overall social experience around the table. This is the reason why we’re intentionally starting with a culinary-first approach, enabling great chefs and restaurants in urban cities across the world to offer innovative, delicious and sustainable plant-based chicken dishes on their menus. After performing with the hardest critics (chefs), we’ll explore other channels and retail offerings are part of that long-term expansion plan.”

TiNDLE is a versatile product that can be cooked in a variety of different ways – much like chicken – we were told.  

“Much like regular chicken, the consumer (and the chef) can decide how they want to enjoy TiNDLE. We’ve encouraged our chef partners to push the boundaries of where they can take TiNDLE and have seen and tasted everything from salads to butter 'chicken', gyros and even, TiNDLE extruded 'noodles'. TiNDLE can be as indulgent as you wish or a healthier option by avoiding breading, deep-frying, etc. Indulgent or healthier meals, the commonplace among them is that they are always delicious and way more sustainable than chicken from birds.”

The range of cuisines represented in TiNDLE’s Amsterdam launch is far ranging, from Mexican to Australian. And according to chef Kimberly Stubing of Coffee and Coconuts, the cooking experience is a positive one.

“The amazing thing about TiNDLE is the texture – it has fibres! The product is incredibly versatile in the kitchen, and I’ve been blown away by the experience each time I’ve cooked with it,”​ she said. “At the restaurant, we decided to go with a fried TiNDLE bao that is fully plant-based, but you wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference.”​ 

TiNDLE Vegan Bao 3, Coffee & Coconuts
TiNDLE Vegan Bao at Coffee & Coconuts / Pic: Next Gen Foods

No compromise on nutrition with ‘clean’ ingredients

Nor does TiNDLE require any compromise on nutrition, Menezes told this publication. “Our intent with TiNDLE was to deliver all the great things consumers love about chicken without compromising on flavour, versatility or nutrition. TiNDLE has the same comparable nutritional values as chicken without GMOs, antibiotics, hormones or cholesterol.”​ 

Unlike some products in the meat analogue space, TiNDLE also boasts a clean label profile because it is made from ‘only nine simple ingredients’. Its primary protein base is made with texturized soy and wheat protein, Menezes explained.

Ingredients include:

  • Water
  • Texturized protein (soy, wheat gluten, wheat starch)
  • Lipi (sunflower oil, natural flavouring) - Lipi provides the aroma, flavour and cookability of chicken and is a proprietary ingredient developed by Next Gen Foods
  • Coconut oil
  • Methylcellulose
  • Oat fibre

Looking to the future, the start-up expects to leverage innovation and geographic expansion to continue to blaze a trail in the alternative protein space. The company currently produces TiNDLE in a production facility in the Netherlands, with plans to develop collaborations with production partners internationally.

“We’re continuing our international expansion at a very accelerated pace – TiNDLE will expand to any place where people love chicken. In the long term, we plan to have production partners in the US, along with Europe, China and Brazil to make TiNDLE available to any chef and restaurant who wants to work with us,”​ Menezes said.

​We’re also doubling down on growing our R&D team and plan to continue to invest in the development of new applications and products to round out our portfolio.”

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