Singapore-based Tolaram invests in plant-based chicken maker Shandi

Shandi's plant-based chicken drumstick. Credit: Shandi's websiteShandi's plant-based chicken drumstick. Credit: Shandi's website

Singapore-based Tolaram, which is one of Africa’s largest packaged-food companies, led plant-based chicken producer Shandi’s second seed round, raising more than US$700,000, marking its first investment in an alternative protein player.

Other investors in the round included Australian food-tech accelerator SparkLabs Cultiv8 and Simmarpal Singh, who was formerly Louis Dryefus’ CEO for India and who is an angel investor, Tolaram said in press release Thursday.

The funding is earmarked for Shandi to set up a manufacturing facility in Singapore for its plant-based chicken products and to expand partnerships in the food sector, as well as for product development of new textures and formats, the statement said. The products are made to emulate chicken’s amino acid profile so it also cooks similarly, the statement said.

Currently, Shandi, founded in 2019 by researcher and vegetarian Reena Sharma, is producing plant-based chicken alternatives in pieces, shreds, strips and drumsticks. Its products are made from non-GMO pea protein, chickpeas, quinoa, flax seeds, brown rice and coconut oil.

“With its strong logistics and supply chain, forward-looking regulatory framework and supportive government initiatives, Singapore is well positioned to host our first commercial plant and we’re delighted to be setting up here,” Sharma said in the statement.

Deepak Singhal, managing director of consumer products at Tolaram, pointed to strong growth in the alternative protein market, especially for more-affordable options in emerging markets.

“We believe that Shandi could be a game-changer as they have created a chicken substitute that not only tastes and behaves like the animal meat but is also priced at par with it,” Singhal said in the statement.

Shandi plans to launch its products to foodservice and food manufacturers in the first quarter of next year, with a consumer retail product to launch later, the statement said.

Tolaram has business interests across consumer products, fintech and infrastructure; it operates 23 manufacturing facilities in Africa.