UK-based alt meat brand VFC (Vegan Fried Chick*n) has acquired distressed meat-free brand Meatless Farm, which laid off most of its staff earlier this month after a key investor expected to provide a capital injection backed out. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.
Under the deal, VFC has acquired the UK business from administrator Kroll and will bring Meatless products back to store shelves. However, it will not re-hire most of the staff laid off at Meatless Farm’s headquarters in Leeds. The deal does not cover the Lovingly Made Ingredients business in Calgary.
VFC CEO David Sparrow said the acquisition had been financed from the company’s cash reserves, adding: “Meatless Farm has built strong consumer awareness, which aligns with our core values, and their exciting product portfolio enhances our existing range [Meatless focuses on beef alternatives, while VFC focuses on chicken alternatives].
“By integrating both brands, we can utilize numerous synergies with valued customers and suppliers, thus driving innovation and extending customer choice.”
‘Numerous synergies with valued customers and suppliers’
Cofounder Matthew Glover told AgFunder News (AFN) that Meatless Farm products “grew significantly within the food service sector” in 2022 although he did not provide any numbers about the brand’s overall performance.
In 2023, he said, “Some Meatless Farm products are still on shelves, but the majority have been out of stock for around four to five months. We are working alongside our valued customers and suppliers to review the portfolio. Our immediate priority is to get much-loved products back on the market.
“Meatless Farm use third party manufacturers in the UK and Europe. By integrating both brands, this will not change going forwards. VFC Foods ltd can utilize numerous synergies with valued customers and suppliers, thus driving innovation and extending customer choice.”
Asked about Meatless Farm employees, he said: “Unfortunately, redundancies were already in progress before we made an offer. VFC has a team deployed to absorb the Meatless Farm business within its current structure and therefore as we grow it’ll create opportunities. However at this time it’s resulted in the unfortunate situation of redundancy.”
“VFC Foods is well positioned to sustainably grow the Meatless Farm brand once the cost-of-living crisis eases, and the plant-based space has experienced further consolidation.” Matthew Glover
VFC: Founded by Veganuary and Veg Capital founder Matthew Glover and Chef Adam Lyons in 2020, York-based VFC debuted in Tesco in 2021. It entered the US in 2022 and has secured distribution at retailers including Raley’s, Hannaford and Bristol Farms, Glover told AFN.
“Over the last year the VFC brand has experienced a significant upward trajectory, with coverage increasing tenfold. The brand’s latest next-generation ‘more meat-like’ recipe has won further distribution across Sainsbury’s, as well as new listings in Asda, Morrisons, Ocado and Waitrose. VFC can also be found on the menu of Marston’s Community Pubs across the UK following a national foodservice roll-out.
“Internationally, VFC has also started strongly, launching into Albert Heijn in The Netherlands, La Sirena in Spain, and expanding into the USA.”
Unlike some other players in the space, VFC is unapologetic about its mission: to save animals, who are frequently overlooked by alt meat marketers that tend to shy away from animal welfare and focus on health and environmental benefits, according to Glover.
VFC is backed solely by Veg Capital and has raised c. £18 million to date.
Meatless Farm: Founded by Danish entrepreneur Morten Toft Bech in 2016, Meatless Farm raised more than $48 million from investors including Stray Dog Capital and SK Inc, and launched its first products in 2018. It went on to sell finished products in 20+ markets in Europe, the US, Canada, Asia, and Latin America and set up an ingredients division in Calgary called Lovingly Made Ingredients.
According to accounts filed with Companies House, Meatless Farm posted a £23.5 million ($29.4 million) loss on sales up 66% to £12.5 million ( $15.6 million) in the year to December 21, 2021. This figure dipped slightly to £11.2 million ($14 million) in 2022, according to The Grocer, although Toft Bech claimed 2022 sales were up 30% year over year in a recent interview with Business Leader.