Tesco’s signature vegan food brand is crossing the Atlantic following a successful $14 million Series A funding round. Until now, plant-based brand Wicked Kitchen could only be found in the United Kingdom at the 600 Tesco supermarket locations, but the company’s rapidly rising popularity has led it to expand to the United States. The funding round, led by Unovis Asset Management and Thailand-based NRF Nove Foods, comes after years of success in the United Kingdom.
Founders Chad and Derek Sarno developed Wicked Kitchen in 2018 to increase the plant-based selection at Tesco to coincide with the rising consumer demand across the UK. Initially, the chef brothers debut the vegan brand with 20 items across the 600 Tesco locations in 2018 where Derek Sarno works as the executive chef and Director of Plant-Based Innovation. Following a positive consumer response, Wicked Kitchen now offers 100 different products in 15 different food categories.
“The launch of Wicked Kitchen in the UK was met with really impressive consumer response, and since then Tesco has extended the line to more than 100 products across the store,” the Sarno brothers told VegNews. “We know the US consumer is limited in their plant-based options currently available to them, but we also know they haven’t had anything as wicked delicious as what Wicked Kitchen offers, and we look forward to hearing what they have to say about our products.”
The Wicked Kitchen brand provides customers with plant-based alternatives and meals to fit every craving. Within the 100 products, the vegan brand continues to innovate vegan cuisine to cater to a growing plant-based shopper base. Prepared meals include Spicy Mushroom and Veg Sourdough Pizza, Mac Attack Salad Bowl, and a Toasted Three Onion Dip. The plant-based brand is also working to develop more vegan proteins. Currently, the vegan meats include BBQ Fib Rack and Wicked Chorizo Style Bangers, and the brand recently made a five-year commitment to increase sales of its vegan meats by 300 percent.
The United States expansion is currently aiming to reach 2,500 retailers nationwide. The brand will launch 20 different products across seven food categories, bringing some of the favorite Wicked Kitchen items to American consumers. The expansion is partially attributed to the United States’ growing interest in plant-based foods and sustainable food production, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Research firm Packaged Facts released a report last year that claims that one in four Americans have consumed plant-based meat.
“Wicked Kitchen’s expansion to the US aligns with the unprecedented changes already taking place among US consumers with more than 10 million Americans now following a plant-based diet, a number that grows exponentially every year,” CEO of Wicked Foods Pete Speranza told VegNews. “We also know there are many colliding market factors that are producing a large change to a plant-based lifestyle globally.”
Another report from P&S Intelligence showed that the plant-based meat market grew to over $1 billion in 2020. The rapid advancement of plant-based alternatives is occurring globally, inspiring Wicked Foods to jump to the American market as consumer attention is directed to plant-based alternatives.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns over the consumption of meat products and hence, the adoption of plant-based proteins is expected to grow, thereby propelling the meat substitutes industry,” the report states. “Furthermore, the pandemic has disrupted the supply chain of meat-based products, which has led to the reduced availability of fresh meat. This has shifted the attention of customers towards meat substitutes, which is why the sale of these products is surging.”
Wicked Kitchen plans to allocate the money raised from the latest funding round towards product innovation, company expansion in London, Austin, and Minneapolis, and expansive branding efforts within the US market.
“This funding supports the next giant leap in growth and adoption of the Wicked Kitchen product line,” Speranza said. “We are building a lifestyle culinary global brand that goes well beyond the food.”
The Sarno brothers are also responsible for the highly popular vegan seafood brand Good Catch. The New England-born brothers wanted to create a sustainable seafood product that would not harm the oceans, so they developed the legume-based seafood that initially hit the US market in 2019. The flagship fish-free tuna was well received, and now the brand offers a wide selection of plant-based seafood including fish cakes, fish burgers, filets, and crab cakes.
Earlier this year, the brand’s parent company, Gathered Foods, secured a $26 million funding package to accompany the $36.5 million dollars raised from Paris Hilton and other celebrity investors. As the Sarno brothers’ products continue to increase in popularity, soon consumers globally will be able to purchase products from any of their plant-based brands.