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Vegan fried chick*n brand VFC Foods has announced the closure of a successful seed round led by impact VC fund Veg Capital. The £7.5 million (approx. $10.2 million) investment brings the young alt meat company’s total funding to date to £10.5 million. Previous pre-seed funding was also led by animal charity-supporting Veg Capital.
New funding has been earmarked for fast-track development to bring UK-based VFC to an international audience. Scaled capacity, building out a bigger team and R&D have all been cited by the company as top priorities, with a focus on the U.S. market. A larger Series A round is on the cards for 2023.
Heading overseas, with US a key market focus
Co-founded by Veganuary’s Matthew Glover and renowned chef/restaurateur Adam Lyons, VFC was founded with a mission to entirely remove animals from the food system and is open about its vegan ethos in its marketing campaigns. Unlike many meat alternative brands, VFC has banned the term plant-based in its communication collateral.
Progress has been swift: VFC launched all three produt lines nationwide with leading U.K. supermarket chain Tesco in October 2021. The rapid expansion of the young company has inspired existing investors to double down, in turn allowing for more growth.
“There has been huge interest from investors and we’re very grateful for that,” Matthew Glover said in a press statement. “By working with Veg Capital we’ve been able to focus purely on scaling the business as fast as possible to take advantage of the opportunity.”
With consumer confidence high, VFC is doubling down on its international plans. “The reception from both customers and consumers has been incredible, and the successful Tesco launch has allowed us to secure listings in more of the UK’s top four grocers, as well as the largest food service wholesalers,” Stewart McGuckin, VFC’s commercial director said. “Expansion within the UK has been phenomenal, and we are also seeing strong international demand, particularly from the US.”
The company says a great response at the Plant Based World Expo in New York last December has pushed the team to hasten their U.S. distribution plans, with the new funding coming in handy. VFC is also looking to heavily expand the team stateside with some urgency, as “major listings” at large retailers are already be in place. Other international markets, including the EU, are said to be at a similar negotiation stage.
VFC currently offers a range of frozen chicken alternatives including bites, popcorn chicken and fillets.
Version 3.0 of the VFC recipe is in development. “Our recent poll revealed that more than two thirds of people would be willing to trade meat from animals for plant-based meat if it tasted as good,” head chef, COO and co-founder Adam Lyons said in a statement. “That’s very encouraging for our mission. Already, we’ve spared 60,000 birds but, as that is just the number of animals crammed inside two sheds, we have a long way to go. Still, we have an incredibly driven team, all 100% committed to doing good in this world, and we are determined to play our part in ending the suffering of animals in factory farms.”
UK vegan chicken market on fire
On the QSR front, diners can enjoy a range of menu offerings at larger chains like Burger King, which just released new nuggets in time for Veganuary. Developed in collaboration with The Vegetarian Butcher, they are certified by The Vegan Society and join an already popular Vegan Royale chicken sandwich on the menu.
KFC recently revealed that following consumer demand, it will be bringing its Quorn sandwich back to U.K. restaurants permanently. Considerations surrounding cooking methods persist, with Quorn fillets being cooked in the same oil as chicken pieces.
Subway U.K. has unveiled its vegan chicken tikka sandwich. Available until mid-february, the plant-based meat can be added to salads.
All images courtesy of VFC.