Heather Mills’ VBites, the UK vegan business set up by the entrepreneur in 2009, has gone into administration.
London-headquartered Interpath Advisory was appointed as administrator for VBites Foods on 11 December, led by James Clark and Howard Smith. A self-proclaimed vegan since the early 1990s, Mills set up VBites when she acquired Redwood Wholefoods in 2009 before renaming the business the same year.
VBites, which produces alternatives to meat, fish and dairy, was suffering from cashflow problems and a “softening” in consumer demand, according to a statement from Interpath Advisory, adding the company had been unable to raise new funding to secure the future of the business.
Mills, meanwhile, said in a lengthy statement: “With great regret, I am sorry to announce that after 30 years of pioneering plant-based production and innovation in the meat-free, fish-free and dairy-free sectors, VBites Foods Ltd., a company very dear to my heart, is entering into administration this week.”
She added: “Anyone that knows me well, knows the blood, sweat and tears that my team and I have put into the business, for the sole purpose of furthering the plant-based movement, of which we have been the pioneers for over 30 years and effecting a major shift in global human health, the preservation of the environment and the protection of animal welfare.”
VBites’ demise marks another casualty in the alternative-proteins sector, which has seen similar UK companies go to the wall this year, including The Meatless Farm Co., Plant & Bean and LoveSeitan.
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Further afield in Canada, The Very Good Food Company disappeared in 2023, while Tattooed Chef in the US filed for bankruptcy in July. Meanwhile, loss-making Beyond Meat in California is seeing increasing pressure on sales, as is Monde Nissin-owned Quorn Foods, which sought extra fund backing in November.
VBites sold a 25% stake in the company to Pfeifer & Langen late in 2021, with the Cologne-based business becoming a supplier of pea and other plant-based proteins to Mill’s operation. Pfeifer & Langen also owns the Intersnack Group in Germany housing the brands KP and Tyrrell’s.
VBites has two manufacturing sites in the UK located in Peterlee, County Durham, and Corby, Northamptonshire. Speaking to Just Food last year, she said the business also had one plant in Germany and another in Australia.
Interpath Advisory said the Peterlee facility will remain open while they seek a buyer for the VBites business and assets, with 29 staff staying on for the time being. A further 25 workers at Corby have been retained to fulfil orders but 24 employees across the company have been made redundant.
“The company had recently seen increased pressure on cashflow due to the impact of rising raw material costs and energy prices, as well as a softening of consumer demand for alternative-protein products in the wake of the cost-of-living crisis,” the administrator said.
“The directors sought to explore their options, including making attempts to secure additional funding. Unfortunately, however, a funding agreement was unable to be reached, leaving the directors with no option but to seek the appointment of administrators.”
Interpath Advisory’s Clark added: “Our immediate priority is to provide support and assistance to those employees impacted by redundancy, as well as seeking a buyer for the business and its assets. We would encourage any interested parties to make contact with us at the earliest opportunity.”
Mills took aim at a number of issues she said were affecting VBites and the plant-based category, including what she called “misinformation” spread by the meat and dairy industries, along with the “influence of corporate greed in our market”.
She explained: “It is unsurprising and inevitable that where profits are to be made, amorphous corporate entities will follow and unfortunately their practices too often undermine the entrepreneurial spirit, flexibility and agility of movement that saw plant-based entrepreneurs have so much success.
“There is too often a tendency to treat their investments as short-term experiments and opportunistic flights of fancy, embalm them in restrictive governance and then either walk away or enforce a takeover when the market hits a bump.”