2023 was a difficult year for plant-based meat. With Beyond Meat, one of its biggest brands, seeing a falling share price, and a range of businesses going into administration, the market for plant-based meat analogues isn’t an unqualified success story.
However, UK-based plant-based brand VFC is not shrinking, but growing. Using its acquisitions to bolster its size, it hopes to expand its reach in the industry.
A growing network
VFC, or ‘Vegan Fried Chick*n’, is no longer just a plant-based chicken brand. The company is now Vegan Food Group, or VFG, and aims to expand with further plant-based acquisitions.
“VFG will be focused on business; growing organically and through acquisition,” VFC co-founder Matthew Glover told FoodNavigator. “We’ll only be investing in start-ups as part of our M&A strategy, but not in the typical VC sense.”
So far, the Vegan Food Group includes Meatless Farm, which sells plant-based products including vegan mince, vegan burgers and vegan steak and which VFC rescued from administration last year; and Clive’s Purely Plants, which produces plant-based pastry products such as pies, ‘sausagey rolls,’ and quiches.
The company’s new rebranding suggests a desire to expand. This could, should success allow, mean going global. “We’ll be based in the UK and EU in the short term, so that’s where our main focus will be. But, some of our brands already export to areas like the Middle East and Australia so we’ll keep an open mind generally about international expansion should it make financial and strategic sense,” Glover told us.
Glover, who also heads up Veg Capital and is the co-founder of the Veganuary campaign, will take on the role of ‘Chief Mission Officer’ for the newly rebranded company. “I’ll be involved more in a strategic role as Group Chair of the Board, supporting the CEO Dave Sparrow, and working with head of marketing Alison Reilly to plan the overall brand direction for the Group and individual brands under the VFG umbrella.
“With the need for consolidation I’ll also be heavily involved in discussions with interested companies, and analysing which opportunities make most sense for VFG.”
Glover has high aims for the company, saying that he hopes it will one day become a ‘vegan Unilever.’ We asked him if such a comparison could ever mean an expansion beyond the food sector entirely.
“We’ll be focusing on food for the time being, as 99% of animals exploited in the world are in the food sector. In the long term, there could be opportunities in cosmetics (or) materials, for example vegan leather, but that’s not in our immediate thoughts,” he told us.