It looks like chicken and tastes like chicken but it's not chicken, and people can't get enough of it.

Kiwi startup Sunfed Meats, which produces a chicken substitute made from pea protein, is being sold out wherever it is stocked, and the company is looking for investors in order to expand.

Founder and chief executive Shama Sukul Lee has launched a campaign to raise capital in order to meet the growing demand for its Chicken Free Chicken, with much interest coming from overseas.

The product took three years to invent, and Lee said people generally couldn't tell the difference between the real thing, other than its slightly more golden colour.


"It's not just a recipe, it's a technology -- a very clean, water-based technology."

Lee initially self-funded the research because it was "highly risky and not that feasible", until they had a breakthrough with a particular type of yellow pea protein. This attracted investors from the United States and UK.

The company launched into mainstream Progressive Enterprises and Foodstuffs supermarkets in July this year, with the products being placed right next to real chicken.

"We sold out pretty much the first day of launch and we're pretty much constantly sold out, and we're supplying them with a decent amount of stock" she said.

"That's why we're scaling now -- much earlier than we had planned too -- which is a really good problem to have. And this is just retail, let alone wholesale, the food service, fast food."

The company's initial funding round was open and there it was getting a lot of overseas and local interest.

"If anyone thinks they'd be a good fit for us we'd love to hear from them," she said.

The company wanted to scale "fast and hard" in volume and new products


It was building a larger operation plant that could be "copied and pasted" anywhere in the world.

"We've been flooded by requests from overseas because people want this option and there's nothing like this out there."

Sunfed Meats founder and chief executive Shama Sukul Lee. Photo / supplied
Sunfed Meats founder and chief executive Shama Sukul Lee. Photo / supplied

Lee said people were becoming increasingly conscious about where they got their protein from, but it was just so hard to say no to meat.

Other companies doing the same thing were generally focused on beef, which was usually came in patty form.

"What we've actually done is made a whole piece of meat, which is much more difficult because you need those long fibres.

"The key thing is the texture: that is what will tell your brain if it's meat or it's not meat so if it's mushy it's not going to work ... we actually took plant protein and realigned it into the same formation as chicken."

The product costs $12.99 for a 300g pack. Lee said the it contained double the protein of chicken and triple the iron of beef. She hoped to eventually make products cheaper than meat, "But that will come with economies of scale".

The company has also developed substitute beef and bacon products which Lee hoped to launch soon.