During the global lockdown in 2020, many found themselves with unexpected time to pursue dreams and aspirations that they had previously pushed aside during their busy lives. For Satvinder Bains, it was the perfect moment to bring a lifelong dream to fruition—sharing the cherished family recipes she grew up with in a new way. 

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“I have been a vegetarian for over 30 years and transitioned to a plant-based diet over the past five years,” Bains tells VegNews. “I’ve raised my two children on a vegetarian diet from birth and it’s been a lifelong dream of mine to share the family recipes I cooked with my mom and grandmother with families around the world.”

The lockdown provided a unique opportunity for her to delve into this project with her husband, children, and parents, turning their home kitchen into the birthplace of Shicken, initially a direct-to-consumer offering across the UK.

Turning family recipes into a global chicken brand

Family is not just a part of Shicken’s story—it is the heartbeat of its operation and values. The company offers a range of ready-to-heat curries and meaty plant-based chicken kebabs, all made with recipes passed down through generations. 

“Our greatest initial challenge was creating our award-winning Shicken pieces to replicate the texture, taste, and flavor of real chicken,” Bains shared. The company achieved this through whole-muscle technology that mimics the muscle fibers of chicken but is entirely plant-based, enabling Shicken to offer a product indistinguishable from real chicken.

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This toothsome vegan chicken then gets bathed in the family’s heritage. The classic North Indian Butter Curry gets a Shicken spin with pieces of its vegan yogurt-marinated chicken, spiced with tikka and tandoori spices before it’s charred over a live flame and smothered in a buttery curry sauce. 

For spice lovers, there are the Jalfrezi, Madras, and Bali curries, alongside milder—but just as flavorful—Korma, Tikka Masala, and Rogan Josh, all made with the company’s vegan chicken

Bains developed each of these products with her mother’s advice in mind: that every dish you serve must be made with love. 

“At the time I didn’t understand what she meant, but later in life I realized what she meant was to make each dish with love, passion, and time—not to rush making a dish,” she says. 

“A great Indian curry is made in hours and not minutes as you fry onions to a golden brown, cooking out tomatoes until they release their sweetness, fry and ground Indian spices and cook them through the curry until they release their aromatic flavors,” Bains says. “A great traditional curry has a built-in flavor and does not rush the cooking process.”

Transforming the chicken industry across generations

The traditional chicken industry faces environmental challenges that are increasingly hard to ignore. Production is heavily reliant on feed made primarily from corn and soybeans, which demands significant water resources. 

For instance, it takes approximately 1.82 pounds of feed to produce just one pound of chicken. The cultivation of these feed crops is also the largest source of water consumption in the industry. 

Furthermore, the environmental impact extends to land use changes, such as deforestation in South America and South Asia for soybean cultivation. Plus, raising chickens for food is done primarily on factory farms, which comes with grave ethical, environmental, and public health concerns. 

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With Shicken, Bains hopes to transform how people eat and think about food, particularly in terms of sustainability and animal welfare.

To support her goals, Shicken recently secured a substantial investment of $5.3 million from VegCapital, bringing the firm’s total investment in Shicken to $7.9 million. This funding is set to enhance Shicken’s manufacturing capabilities and fuel its expansion both in the United States and internationally.

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This is a pivotal time for Shicken, having successfully launched at 410 Sprouts Farmers Market stores nationwide, marking it one of the first Asian-founded brands in its category to enter mainstream US retailers. 

As Shicken continues to grow, propelled by recent investments and expansions into new markets, Bains remains focused on her core mission: to offer a taste of her heritage while fostering a sustainable future.

“Shicken is unique within the plant-based industry, where most brands operating in this category are looking for a quick win and a quicker exit,” she says.  

“The Shicken strategy is very much generational where we want to make a longer-term impact removing animals from the food system and offering consumers globally a healthier more environmentally friendly range of Asian meals, kebabs, and snacks,” Bains says. “We want to pass on the work that we have started to our children so that Shicken can impact the lives of future generations to come,” she says. 

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