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Business & Economy

Heather Mills’ VBites, announces an investment from German food conglomerate

Pioneering plant-based food business, VBites, has announced a minority investment from German, family-owned food conglomerate and parent company of Intersnack, ‘Pfeifer & Langen Industrie- und Handels-KG’, who have reached agreement to purchase 25.1% of the company.

The move signals the launch of a strategic partnership between the two companies with VBites laying claim to the broadest range of plant-based product IP in the world and Pfeifer & Langen being one of the leading international plant ingredient farm to fork’ manufacturers. It´s the New Food division of Pfeifer & Langen that has acquired the stake in VBites to support founder, Heather Mills, with their in-depth experience in mass-scaling food production.

It is believed that the initial focus of the partnership will be to accelerate the growth of VBites’ thriving award winning plant-based cheeses and fish-free product segments, but it is understood that VBites’ long-standing meat-free segment will also be a focus due to current demand in the market for their innovative range of plant protein isolates, including Faba, Quinoa, Chickpea, soy and algae.

Founded in 1993 by entrepreneur and activist, Heather Mills, VBites has been producing plant-based alternatives in the meat, fish and dairy free B2B and B2C sectors for over 28 years, winning 80+ international taste awards along the way. The company currently exports to 20+ countries and counts companies such as Dominos, Norseland (Applewood), Ocado, Morrisons, Spinneys and Greencore amongst its customer base. VBites also has one of the largest plant-based only manufacturing footprints in the global market – a major advantage given the issues others have faced with cross-contamination in mixed meat and dairy facilities.

Mills describes the partnership as ‘transformational’ for the plant-based sector. ‘We are delighted to have found a partner that shares our values and ambition for the plant-based movement. Pfeifer & Langen specialise in the procurement and refinement of raw ingredients for their food businesses and understand the importance of controlling your own supply chain – especially with global ingredient shortages set to be a consistent challenge for the plant-based and food markets over the next 10-20 years. VBites’ output has doubled in the last 12 months and with that growth set to continue we are also very pleased to be working with a partner that specialises in large-scale food manufacturing.

Over the last 14 years Mills has also been successful in sourcing and developing one of the highest levels of DHA (420mg) algae strains in the global ingredients market under another of her companies, V-Omega 3, claiming that algae will be the protein source of the future. ‘the protein content and nutritional values of algae as a food ingredient are practically unrivalled. At present we distribute the algae in oil form as a pure source of Omega 3 but in time it will be commercially viable to refine the isolate on a large scale to utilise as a core food ingredient. Algae also represents not only the most nutritious, but the most sustainably produced plant protein isolate.’

The partnership with VBites is intended to complement Pfeifer & Langen’s previous investment in German pea-protein brand, Endori. New Food-managing director, Benjamin Rekab remarked on the partnership: “ With Vbites’ huge product range and Endoris’s EU based manufacturing capabilities,  the two companies will support each other in expanding their sales across borders in all plant-based categories , allowing, for example, vegan, functional fish or cheese products from the VBites brand to be launched on the German market. We will also support VBites in expanding its range internationally with a focus on developing key accounts in core strategic markets.” He added: “With this partnership we follow a medium- and long-term strategic approach regarding our market presence in the internationally growing plant-based category. However, we also aim for short-term benefits on both sides that provide stimuli to both VBites and Endori in their daily operations.”

The cooperation will initially focus on the UK and Germany as target markets, while VBites continue to export to 24 countries elsewhere. With Brexit issues prevailing, the partnership also satisfies Mills’ key aim of collaborating with an experienced, ethical investor in the food sector who could manufacture in the EU, whilst VBites focuses it’s Peterlee site in the North East on the UK, Middle East and USA.