VFC Expands Vegan Brands Portfolio with Clive’s Purely Plants Acquisition Agreement
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Months after bailing out fellow British alt-meat brand Meatless Farm, vegan chicken maker VFC has expanded its portfolio of plant-based brands by agreeing to acquire vegan pie maker Clive’s Purely Plants for an undisclosed sum. The deal is pending final-stage due diligence, which is expected to conclude in a matter of days.
The move will diversify VFC’s offerings to include Clive’s premium vegetable pies, savoury tarts, quiches, nut roasts and sausage rolls – bar the latter, all of Clive’s products feature vegetables, expanding VFC’s position from an alt-meat company to a plant-based food producer. The acquisition also means VFC now has a production facility in Dartmouth, which makes it the company’s first foray into primary manufacturing.
Clive’s was previously owned by Veg Capital – a VFC investor, which led its £6M seed funding round in April. Clive’s will operate as a subsidiary of VFC Foods with full support from its existing team. But VFC added that it will unveil “a new trade-facing identity” in the near future.
In June, VFC rescued Meatless Farm, which had laid off its workforce and filed a notice of intent to appoint administrators after facing millions of losses and failing to secure funding. In just over a week, VFC purchased Meatless Farm in a £12M deal for its UK operations (VFC paid just a small portion of the sum, saving it from bankruptcy and keeping the brand assets intact).
By integrating both brands, we can utilise numerous synergies with valued customers and suppliers, thus driving innovation and extending customer choice,” VFC and (now) Meatless Farm CEO Dave Sparrow said at the time.
‘A formidable player’
Now, Sparrow – who also served as a non-executive director at Clive’s – says this latest acquisition of Clive’s positioned it as “a formidable player” in the market. “With three strong brands experiencing substantial growth, we are well-positioned to further penetrate the retail and foodservice sectors in the UK and Europe,” he said.
“What excites us the most is the diverse range of products we can offer consumers, from enticing meat alternatives to wholesome and delicious vegetable-based options, making us one of the most diversified players in the category.”
Clive’s managing director Esther Pearson, who remains a shareholder, added: “We are thrilled to have found a like-minded partner in VFC Foods to support us through this period of accelerated growth. We are committed to maintaining business as usual with all existing customers and ensuring that we uphold our high standards of customer service.”
In July, VFC expanded its portfolio by launching chilled SKUs of its plant-based chicken, and last month, Meatless Farm returned to UK supermarkets with a few of its old products, as well as a new offering. Clive’s, which is stocked in Waitrose, Asda, Ocado, and Abel & Cole, will soon announce a further Big Five UK supermarket listing this December (poised to be Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons or Aldi).
“Reducing meat consumption is crucial for a healthier and more sustainable future, and consumers are increasingly seeking varied options in the plant-based aisle, including high-quality vegetable-based products,” Sparrow added. “Clive’s perfectly complements our portfolio and enhances our ability to meet this growing demand.”
A stagnating UK plant-based market
The UK is the second-largest market for plant-based foods 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. In August, the UK received its first regulatory filing for approval of cultivated meat sales by Israeli company Aleph Farms – and last week, it was reported the government was set to fast-track this process.
“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,” Sparrow told Green Queen last month. “Consumer-led brands that stay true to their core values will weather the storm to create strong businesses.”
“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.”