VBites, the prominent vegan food company founded by Heather Mills, has recently succumbed to financial difficulties and entered administration.

Heather Mills, the former wife of Sir Paul McCartney, established the plant-based business in 1993, specializing in meat, fish, and dairy-free alternatives.

Despite an initial surge in demand for vegan products, the company faced insurmountable challenges, primarily attributed to escalating raw material costs and energy prices.

The company’s growth trajectory included the acquisition of Redwood Wholefood in 2009, solidifying its position in the vegan market.

However, VBites eventually grappled with the dual pressures of rising costs and supply chain disruptions. The downturn in sales and profitability dealt a significant blow to the company, leading to its recent collapse.

Expressing her distress over the situation, Heather Mills lamented the company’s demise and acknowledged the dedication of her team, emphasizing the years of hard work and commitment they had invested.

Mills, who had personally injected “tens of millions of pounds” into the business, explored various solutions to salvage it. Despite her efforts and those of her team, the challenges proved insurmountable.

The broader vegan food industry has faced headwinds, with VBites being the latest casualty. The market dynamics have been impacted by the higher costs of vegan alternatives compared to traditional meat or dairy products.

In August, Beyond Meat, a major player in the industry, reported a nearly one-third decline in sales over the preceding three months.

Other companies, such as sausage maker Heck, also responded to market challenges by significantly reducing their meat-free product offerings.

The challenging environment has not spared renowned brands like Pret  A Manger, which had to close half of its vegetarian and vegan-only outlets within the last year.

The rising prices of food have deterred some consumers from opting for more expensive vegan alternatives, contributing to the industry’s collective struggle.

However, despite these setbacks, the Vegan Society reports that there are approximately 700,000 vegans in the UK. Vegan food continues to enjoy a broader appeal, particularly among vegetarians.

The current challenges facing companies like VBites may be indicative of broader industry trends rather than a decline in consumer interest in vegan products.

The administration process for VBites has been initiated under Interpath Advisory, with administrators appointed on Monday.

Talks to secure additional funding for the company proved unsuccessful, leading to the decision to enter administration.

VBites operates from two manufacturing sites in Peterlee, County Durham, and Corby, Northampton shire.

In a bid to preserve some operations, administrators have opted to continue trading from the Peterlee site while actively seeking a buyer for the business and its assets.

At the Peterlee site, twenty-nine staff members have been retained to assist with ongoing trading activities. Simultaneously, twenty-five employees at the Corby site have been retained to fulfill outstanding orders.

Unfortunately, a total of twenty-four employees across the business have been made redundant, underscoring the human toll of the company’s financial challenges.

James Clark, joint administrator and managing director at Interpath Advisory, acknowledged VBites’ prominence as one of the UK’s leading vegan food manufacturers.

However, he highlighted the shared struggles of companies in the food manufacturing sector, echoing the pervasive impact of rising commodity and energy prices on businesses across the industry.

The fate of VBites now rests on finding a suitable buyer willing to navigate the challenges and rejuvenate the company’s prospects in a demanding market environment.

 

 

Last Updated: 12 December 2023