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French veggie bacon maker La Vie, formerly known as 77 Foods, has announced a successful Series A funding round totalling €25 million ($28.3M) today. The round, which was led by VC fund Seventures, is the largest single alternative protein raise for a French food tech company to date.
Founders Nicolas Schweitzer et Vincent Poulichet started the company back in 2019. After three years of research, the company claims that in blind tests tasters cannot tell the difference with pork bacon. Funding will be used to embark on an ambitious expansion plan. La Vie, whose products are 100% French made, says they will roll out across France and Europe, including the U.K., at ‘lightning speed’. An in-house innovation programme will be bolstered alongside, to develop new product lines. The ultimate aim of the company is to help consumers commit to a “food transition”. Recruiting is also on the agenda; the company plans to increase their team to 40 people by end 2022.
Fast growth from a young company
Last October, less than three years after 77 Foods began its research, La Vie officially launched and its lardons and bacon secured retail distribution in Carrefour stores. The latter is one of France’s largest supermarket chains. In addition, the startup boasts QSR partnerships with Burger King France, poke chain Pokawa and plant-based fast food shop Furahaa.
In an interview last year, the founders said that La Vie’s nitrate-free plant-based bacon- whose ingredients include non-GMO soy protein, sunflower oil and tapioca starch- accounts for 33% fewer calories, 60% less fat, 88% less C02 and 82% less water than its meat alternative. According to the company’s website, over 90% of their ingredients are sourced from Europe.
Forging partnerships within the catering industry is a top priority for the startup. The team is targeting large restaurants for collaboration. La Vie recognises F&B collabs as an opportunity to reach more people and serve them plant-based versions of dishes they love.
While the company says it is currently focused on pork products and has not confirmed any potential new product lines, it did patent a vegetable fat that offers the promise of multiple applications.
Not since cultivated foie gras startup Gourmey raised a $10 million seed round last year has a French food tech started attracted so much funding. Other VCs involved include Partech, Oyster Bay, Capagro, Entrepreneur First and Bleu Capital.
In a social media post, La Vie publicly thanked what it refers to as its true ‘business angels’ for making the €25 million raise a reality. Other notable participants include Hollywood actor Natalie Portman and Oatly chairman Eric Melloul as well as several French unicorn startup CEOs such as BlaBlacar’s Frédéric Mazzella and Back Market’s CEO Thibauld Hug de Larauze.
Thomas Lodewijk Plantega, CEO of Vinted, also participated. “It is essential to switch to plant-based food and I am convinced that technological innovation has a key role to play in encouraging consumers – even the most reluctant – to make the switch,” Plantega said in a statement. “The La Vie team has created a delicious recipe and a unique brand that will make plant-based meat so appealing that it will become the norm in our societies.”
Taking on the vegan bacon challenge
La Vie is not alone in looking to perfect the holy grail of vegan meats. Plant-based bacon remains a developmental priority for a number of startups and established alt-protein manufacturers around the world.
In the U.K., THIS bacon has been developed with meat lovers in mind. Its soy and pea protein rashers are available in all major supermarkets. It released lardons in 2021, as part of a bacon line expansion. The company is currently participating in a money-back guarantee marketing campaign to encourage consumers to try its meat alternatives.
California’s Hooray Foods scooped new funding at the end of 2021 to scale production of its plant-based bacon. The company says it has sold more than two million rashers since launch ling in 2020. Hooray is constantly evolving its recipe to account for ongoing consumer demand for realistic bacon substitutes.
Taking a different approach is Libre Foods, a fellow European enterprise, founded in Barcelona. Using fungi, or more specifically mycelium, the company hopes to recreate the texture and fibrosity of real bacon. Regulatory approval battles are ongoing but initial tastings proved promising. When bacon is perfected, the company hopes to look at whole cut steaks alternatives.
All imagery courtesy of La Vie, lead image designed by Green Queen Media.