Quorn Foods, the UK-based meat-free supplier, is looking at locations to set up a production facility in the US.

The company, owned by the Philippines food group Monde Nissin, markets meat-free products from mycoprotein made at its site in north-east England.

For the products Quorn Foods sells in the US, it ships partially-completed food to a local co-manufacturer, which then coats the products.

However, Marco Bertacca, Quorn Foods’ CEO, has told Just Food the business plans to set up its first fermenter in the US, a market the company has been trying to crack for a number of years.

The US, Bertacca said, is one of Quorn Foods’ “three key areas of growth”, alongside its domestic market in the UK and its business with quick-service restaurant chains. It is the company’s ambitions in foodservice that are a factor in its plans for a physical presence in the US.

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“At the moment, we work with a third-party manufacturer [in the US], so we ship some of our formed products and we do the coating there and finish it off on-site but, of course, if you start to work with some of these global players, they will always want you to follow them wherever they are,” Bertacca said.

The former Unilever, CSM and FrieslandCampina executive, who became Quorn Foods CEO in January 2020, said the company was “three years away from starting” production in the US.

“We are quite a capital-intensive company. If you see the fermenters, you know why. We’ve started now. We are looking for locations and potential partnerships, potential collaboration there. To co-locate, that would be an interesting opportunity.”

The majority of Quorn Foods’ turnover is generated in the UK but the company is looking to try and expand further in the US.

Speaking to Just Food last year after stepping down from the helm, former CEO Kevin Brennan said the company had had “an up-and-down journey” in the US, held back, he acknowledged, by “maybe hubris” after some early success in the country at the start of the last decade. The business, he added, was also in part hampered in the US by too broad a product range.

Bertacca said Quorn Foods would look to develop products more suited to US tastes. “With respect to our culinary expertise here [at Quorn’s HQ], we cannot just make the food for everyone and ship it out. It’s not going to work,” he explained.

The company has set up a product-development site in Dallas,” Bertacca added. “We need to find a way to create the right food that is appropriate for US tastes. To be specific: we have developed some chicken wings that are very different from what we eat here. They’re bigger, they’re thicker, they’re very rustic and that’s what we are currently launching in the US.”

Growing Quorn Foods’ presence in the chicken segment of the meat-free market is central to the company’s growth plans more generally and Bertacca said that strategy would be part of its ambitions in the US, too.

“We believe we have something special for the US because of the chicken [products],” he added. “If you see the growth that has happened there, mainly it has been burgers, right. Great companies, they’ve done a fantastic piece of work in the last few years, [they] came up with a big marketing activity, and in essence they’re just the burgers, which are very famous.

“We believe that actually chicken is a big opportunity, is the second most-consumed meat item in the world and we have something special to offer, not just in our view, but in the eyes of the customers and the consumers.”

Just Food’s interview pages: “We really need to step into phase two of Quorn” – CEO Marco Bertacca on his plans to grow the UK meat-free firm