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September 30, 2019

The Meatless Farm eyes Europe manufacturing

UK-based meat-alternative business The Meatless Farm Co., already looking at manufacturing options in North America, is considering another production base.

By Beth Wright

UK-based meat-alternative business The Meatless Farm Co. is looking to set up manufacturing in mainland Europe.

At present, the fledgling firm has its products manufactured in the UK. However, the company, based in Leeds in northern England, is now selling its meat-free products in Ireland and the Baltic states as well as the UK, and is interested in production on the Continent.

“We are looking at co-manufacturing partners as well in mainland Europe as well. We need it for supply and probably as a bit of a Brexit offset as well as we still don’t know what’s happening,” The Meatless Farm CEO Rob Woodall said, referring to the lack of clarity about how the UK will leave the EU.

“We’ve been in talks with one party in particular. We’re still in talks. I can’t give too much anyway.”

Last month, Woodall said The Meatless Farm was looking to start the manufacturing of its products in the US next year to build on its recent entry into the market.

Speaking to just-food on the sidelines of a conference held last week by investment bank Houlihan Lokey, Woodall said: “We’re looking at manufacturing options in the US and Canada. We’re talking to partners who can co-manufacture for us.”

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Growth in the US, the former Kellogg executive said, is a priority for The Meatless Farm in 2020. Whole Foods Market is listing the firm’s products on an exclusive basis in 450 stores. The Meatless Farm has also opened an office in New York City.

“We’ve had Whole Foods’ endorsement which is a tip-of-the-spear retailer, so really next year is around opening up the US even more, building that team and then starting to step out into the regions or other natural channel retailers, building the brand out,” Woodall said.

Last week, The Meatless Farm announced UK broadcaster Channel 4 had acquired a stake in the business.

Woodall said Channel 4 had bought a “minority” stake in the firm, which was founded in 2016 by Danish entrepreneur Morten Toft Bech, but declined to comment on the exact size of the shareholding.

He said the investment from Channel 4 would help The Meatless Farm start TV advertising. “It’s that chicken and egg: do you go on TV before you’ve got the rate of distribution? Or do you to the rate of distribution and then go on TV? The market’s moving so quickly that we thought we need to go on there,” Woodall said. “It allows us to go not just on TV but on all of their products. We can go onto video on demand. With Channel 4, it allows us to do it without as much impact on the cash flow.”

The backing from Channel 4 follows a round of financing that was closed in May, which attracted new shareholders in the shape of US-based Stray Dog Capital and Switzerland-based Beyond Impact, which both invest in plant-based businesses.

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