The spectacular early performance of Californian start-up Beyond Meat after it listed on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange last year catapulted plant-based meat alternatives into the public spotlight. Impossible Foods, still private but valued at over $4 billion by venture capitalists, is the other big veggie-meat start-up from California. But now the UK will have its own horse in the race for what is a quickly growing international market after Leeds-based Meatless Farm closed a $31 million funding round.
Vegan alternatives to traditionally meat-based products such as burgers and sausages have soared in popularity over the past couple of years. One reason is that more and more people are becoming aware of the environmental impact of large-scale meat farming, with rearing cows for beef particularly heavy on harmful emissions and water consumption. And wanting to reduce or cut out their meat intake as a result.
The other major factor in the growth of the plant-based meat alternatives market is recent developments in food technology, helped along by hundreds of millions invested over recent years. Plant-based meat alternatives are now getting pretty close to their imitation of the real thing. And not only when it comes to taste. Smell, look and texture have all been taken account of as contributing to the eater’s experience and the new generation of products do a good cross-sensory imitation job.
Yorkshire’s Meatless Farm hopes the new $31 million in investment capital raised will provide it with the firepower to become a serious competitor of the U.S. giants in its exciting new market. The money will be used to fund plans to expand the company’s sales network both in the UK and internationally. New manufacturing facilities will also be built in Canada, to service the North American market.
Some of the cash injection will also be invested into R&D to develop new products. Meatless Farm currently makes mince, sausages and burgers. Pea protein is a core ingredient of all three, which are currently stocked by all the major UK supermarkets, as well as Amazon-owned Whole Foods in the USA.
Morten Toft Bech, Meatless Farm’s 45-year-old founder, commented:
“We are seeing strong demand for our plant-based burgers, sausages and mince across all markets and see fantastic opportunities to grow the Meatless Farm brand rapidly as people look to eat more healthily and sustainably post Covid-19.”
Meatless Farm was established just four years ago in 2016 after Mr Bech’s wife challenged him to develop vegetarian food for the couple’s 3 children that would add variety and appeal to a diet centred around beans and lentils. He spent the next two years experimenting with recipes, during which time he reached the conclusion the endeavour also had major potential as a business.
Prior to the recent $31 million investment round, Meatless Farm previously attracted $17 million from investors that included Channel 4’s Commercial Growth Fund. The new investment comes on the back of a year that has seen Meatless Farm grow sales of its plant-based sausages, burgers and mince by over 300%. The company is still a tiddler compared to giant U.S. rivals, with Beyond Meat now valued at over $10 billion, following its 2019 IPO.
But the market is big, Barclays estimates that plant-based meat alternatives will have taken 10% of the traditional $1.4 trillion meat market by 2029. With a new war chest behind it, Meatless Farm will be determined to secure its own share of that market.
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