Zikooin raises US$23m to fund construction of new plant-based factory in South Korea

SOUTH KOREA – Zikooin, one of Asia’s leading plant-based startups, has raised US$23 million in a new funding round to fuel the construction of its new factory.  

The round was led by KDB Bank and saw participation from STIC Ventures, PremierPartners, and Crit Ventures, among others.  

The plant, located in Jecheon city, is set to become one of Asia’s largest plant-based meat factories with its land area spanning over 14,650 square meters. 

The startup which produces not only the Unlimeat brand of vegan beef, but also plant-based patties, minced meat, meatballs and vegan cheddar cheese, says that its new “Clean Meat Factory” will be fully operational by mid-2022.  

Products from the new factory will be primarily made from upcycled grains, oats, and nuts, helping to cut down on food waste. 

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Zikooin hopes that the ramped-up production capabilities will help it become one of the leading exporters of vegan meat substitutes in the region.  

At the moment, its vegan beef brand Unlimeat is sold across Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Australia and the US. 

“We have carried out a large-scale infrastructure investment in preparation for increasing our production capacity,” shared the company’s CEO Min Keum-chae.  

“The results will propel us to leadership of the alternative meat sector and enable us to expand our export market share.” 

Even as it ramps up production for export, Zikooin has also doubled down its presence in South Korea by partnering with large food companies, including convenience chain CU, and QSR giant Domino’s Pizza.  

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Its expansion has coincided with an uptick in Plant-based demand in South Korea which started during the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Data shows that the number of vegans in the country has tripled to half a million, while flexitarianism has ballooned to an estimated 10 million—representing nearly 20% of the country’s total population.  

Globally, the plant-based sector is poised to continue its rapid growth, with flexitarians now accounting for around 4 in 10 consumers globally. 

Research commissioned by Atura Proteins suggests that plant-based products will witness a surge of investments next year, as manufacturers respond to an increase in consumer demand. 

According to the research, investments will particularly go to broadening product ranges to appeal to flexitarians ie, those who eat a plant-based diet without eliminating meat completely (48 percent), and vegans (47 percent). 

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