Meatless Farm Products Back at UK Supermarkets After VFC Acquisition
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Three months after the UK company was bailed out of bankruptcy by fellow British plant-based meat brand VFC, Meatless Farm products are back on UK supermarket shelves. The brand has relaunched a few of its old products alongside a new offering, as it prepares a comeback marketing campaign nationwide.
It’s been a challenging time for the plant-based meat sector, with sales declining, employees being laid off, and brands going out of business. In June, the UK-based arm of Meatless Farm came close to the latter – before it was rescued by VFC.
Meatless Farm now prepares to return to supermarket shelves across the UK. Its flagship pea-protein-based mince is making a comeback, and so are the burgers, chipolatas, chicken breasts, and chicken roast joints. Two of its pasta – the Beef, Red Wine & Porcini Mushroom Girasole and the No-Duja Ravioli return to shelves too.
In addition, a new chicken and bacon tortellini SKU will be launched exclusively in Tesco, while its other products will be available across Sainsbury’s, Ocado and Asda (which is where Meatless Farm launched its pork and apple sausages last month).
Speaking to Green Queen, Meatless Farm and VFC CEO Dave Sparrow confirmed the company plans to relaunch more of its old lineup: “Our valued customers and consumers are our number one priority, [and] bringing their favourite Meatless Farm products back to the shelves has been our absolute focus.”
Along with its retail return, Meatless Farm has launched a national marketing campaign with the tagline ‘For the Tryers’, encouraging flexitarians to “give it a try” as it hopes to increase the adoption of plant-based meat in the UK. The campaign – which will run from September 25 to October 22 on tube car panels, digital six sheets, street hubs and billboards – is expected to reach over eight million consumers.
The ads will be integrated with a £2 discount coupon that shoppers can redeem in-store on Meatless Farm’s products. “It’s fantastic to see the brand return to retail,” Sparrow said in a statement. “And we’re all delighted to let everyone know that Meatless Farm is back for good via our national advertising campaign, encouraging consumers to make simple switches and give the brand a try.”
‘No harm in trying’
This is the Meatless Farm’s first big step back into focus after a turbulent year that saw it nearly cease its operations. In early June, the company laid off its entire staff, days after filing a notice of intent to appoint administrators. It was facing millions in losses and needed to find a buyer to avoid administration – and the company had reportedly found an investor, who eventually backed out and the company ran out of time.
In just over a week, it was acquired by vegan chicken brand VFC in a deal worth €12M in sales (with The Grocer reporting the VFC paid just a few, saving it from bankruptcy and keeping the brand assets intact. At the time, Meatless Farm was a household name in UK retailers and had a US distribution deal with a presence in over 600 stores stateside, as well as a host of foodservice partners, most notably securing a nationwide agreement with UK pub chain Wetherspoons in 2019. The VFC deal was limited to the UK operations, with Meatless Farm US and Meatless Farm Europe not part of the package.
At the time, Sparrow said: “Meatless Farm has built strong consumer awareness, which aligns with our core values, and their exciting product portfolio enhances our existing range. By integrating both brands, we can utilize numerous synergies with valued customers and suppliers, thus driving innovation and extending customer choice.”
Meatless Farm confirmed to Green Queen that it is using the same manufacturers, supply chain and recipes post-acquisition, and added that it is already back in foodservice channels. “We’ll have more updates on further expansion soon,” Sparrow revealed to Green Queen. “Innovation is a key part of our growth plans to reach more consumers via new eating occasions.”
Navigating a stagnating market
Its return is welcome news for the UK vegan market – it’s the second-largest in Europe, with Brits spending £964M on vegan meat and dairy last year. But sales have stagnated and, over the last decade, total investment in plant-based protein R&D has been overtaken by cultivated meat. Last month, the UK received its first regulatory filing for approval of cultivated meat sales by Israeli company Aleph Farms.
“Much has been reported on the plant-based market recently and it’s clear that, whilst it will see continued growth and demand, the level of early capital and emerging brands has saturated the space,” said Sparrow. “Consumer-led brands that stay true to their core values will weather the storm to create strong businesses.”
He added: “Within VFC Foods, that starts with having quality-led products, impactful brand communications and an eye on maintaining affordable price points for consumer entry into plant-based foods. Beyond this, ensuring that choice and convenience remain a priority to make eating plant-based food an easy transition is key – bringing both VFC and Meatless Farm brands together is a big part of our objective here and an excellent opportunity to be at the forefront of the market in the coming years.”