Brothers Chad and Derek Sarno raise $20 million to build vegan brand with help from Woody Harrelson
Vegan food brand Wicked Kitchen just secured $20 million in a new round of funding with a little help from Woody Harrelson. The actor was part of a round that also included Ahimsa VC (a fund that invests in startups focused on sustainability and health) and NRPT (a leading food producer in Thailand).
Wicked Kitchen was founded in 2018 by New England-born chef brothers Chad and Derek Sarno, who created the brand to bring consumers culinary-advanced vegan products across multiple categories such as ready meals, dressings, meat alternatives, desserts, and more.
While the brand originally launched in Tesco stores in the UK – where Derek Sarno serves as Executive Chef and Director of Plant-Based Innovation – it made its way to the United States last year via major retailer Kroger.
The new investment will help the brand, which has more than tripled its sales year-on-year, further accelerate its growth. “Having known Chad and Derek for many years, I have been struck by their mad creativity in the kitchen and their unafraid to push the envelope,” Harrelson said in a statement.
“What I love about this brand is that the products are actually created by chefs who always put taste first, which makes it so easy to go plant-based,” said Harrelson.
Harrelson previously worked with the Sarnos on various projects including the documentary series Evil Healthy World and her herbal book The Wicked Healthy Cookbook.
The new $20 million funding builds on $14 million that Wicked Kitchen raised last year to support its international expansion.
Wicked Kitchen is expanding vegan food empire
Earlier this month, Wicked Kitchen announced the acquisition of Good Catch Food’s North American business. Founded by the Sarnos in 2019, this vegan seafood brand has gained retail distribution for their frozen and preserved vegan seafood in the United States and Canada. Its vegan seafood products have been featured on the menus of chains like Long John’s Silver.
This merging of the brands brings together the Sarno brothers’ shared mission to make the food system more sustainable and compassionate, with their plant-based, restaurant-quality foods that can be easily enjoyed at home.
Products in the set by Wicked Kitchen include cooking sets ranging from Shiitake Ramen to Crackin’ Coconut Korma; comforting meal pots like mac & peas and veggie paella; a lot of pizzas with Grandma Sarnos special sauce; and ice cream pints, bars and novelties made from a lupini bean base unique on the market.
Currently, Wicked Kitchen is sold at 6,500 retail locations across the US, which in addition to Kroger also include 7-Eleven stores (where its pasta cups are on the shelves at 2,000 locations); 1,250 Walmart stores; and Giant Stores (which stock 32 Wicked Kitchen products, the largest selection of plant-based products from a single retailer to date.)
With Good Catch and $20 million in additional funding in two stages, Wicked Kitchen is moving forward at full speed. “During this period of strong growth, it’s validated to have the support of additional investors who believe in our mission and in the future of plant-based foods,” said Pete Speranza, Wicked Kitchen’s CEO, in a statement.
“This latest round of funding will help us expand our offerings faster in the U.S. and internationally, and puts us in a strong position as we continue to lead plant-based innovation with taste-driven products that appeal to vegans and omnivores alike,” said Speranza.
Outside the UK and US, Wicked Kitchen has recently launched 23 products at top retailer S-Market in Finland and is entering Thailand with 17 products via major retailers Tops Market and Central Food Halls.
Wicked Kitchen is also a proud supporter of Support + Feed, a food security initiative started by Maggie Baird (mother of musicians Billie Eilish and Finneas), for whom the company has provided 100,000 plant-based meals to date.
Is Woody Harrelson vegan?
Harrelson’s investment in Wicked Kitchen fits in with his own vegan lifestyle, which he has championed for more than 30 years. Harrelson has previously invested in other vegan brands, most recently Abbot’s Butcher, a plant-based meat brand that makes pea protein-based chicken, beef and chorizo.
The 61-year-old actor is also open about how animal husbandry is fueling the climate crisis and previously teamed up with fellow vegan Eilish in a Greenpeace video titled ‘Our House Is on Fire’ to raise awareness of the issue .
And Harrelson has also helped other actors go vegan, including Sadie Sink – best known for her role as “Mad Max” on the hit Netflix series stranger things. After going vegetarian for a year, Sink decided to go vegan after working with Harrelson on the 2017 film The Glass Castle. Other actors, including Liam Hemsworth and Thandie Newton, have also been inspired to change their diet after working with Harrelson.
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