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BGF invests in plant based meat brand THIS™

BGF News 28.06.2021.
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THIS, the award-winning plant-based meat brand, today announced an £11m Series A investment – one of the highest the UK has seen.

The round is co-led by BGF and  Lever VC, one of the world’s leading investors in alternative protein. THIS has also grown at a record-breaking rate of 530% (April ‘21 vs ‘20). Having only launched 2 years ago, this is one of the highest ever growth rates for a UK food brand, let alone meat-alternative brand, signifying a major step change for the food industry.

THIS was founded in June 2019 by Andy Shovel and Pete Sharman as a plant-based food brand for meat-lovers. Following two years of extensive research and development with a team of world-leading food scientists and flavourists, they created hyper-realistic meat alternatives. The THIS Isn’t Chicken and THIS Isn’t Bacon product ranges are specifically designed to replicate the taste, texture and flavour of popular meat products but without any of the downsides (they’re high in protein, low in saturated fat and are GMO-free, carcinogen free, and nitrate free).

The new investment of £11million is the largest Series A fundraise for a UK meat-alternative brand. It will support the rapid growth of the business, the expansion of its R&D capabilities and help to bring to market an exciting pipeline of new products and distribution points across the UK. Innovation sits at the core of the business and the in-house R&D team is set to grow four-fold this year, developing all recipes in-house to unique specifications at a ‘Willy Wonka’ style R&D centre in London. It has also submitted two patents to-date for its use of high moisture extrusion technology.

In recent years, plant-based meat alternatives have become increasingly popular amongst consumers worldwide and in the UK owing to changing dietary preferences and environmental considerations. The market is now valued at $4.2bn globally and at $0.8bn in the UK, growing at 17% annually.

THIS was listed by Kantar in the top 10 most valuable FMCG product launches of 2020. In under two years since launching, THIS has been stocked in over 8,900 retail distribution points (an annual growth rate of 633%) in all four of the UK’s major grocers. The products also feature in over 300 restaurants throughout the country (including Prezzo, Pho, and Honest Burgers). The brand has sold 22 million portions of its products – enough to feed the populations of Greece and Portugal combined. As a result, THISis making a positive impact on the environment having saved 6.7million kilograms of CO2 (when compared with production of equivalent real meat). The brand also has one of the greatest social media followings in the plant-based scene with over 97,000 Instagram followers on Instagram, highlighting its popularity amongst consumers.

Prior to this fundraise, THIS had a record-breaking seed round secured £8.7m in funding to accelerate growth and distribution from VC investors, Backed and Five Seasons, who are also participating in this round. CPT Capital is investing alongside Lever VC and BGF.

The heavily oversubscribed funding round was led for BGF by Daina Spedding, alongside Zahir Kasmani and Bethany Shiers.

Daina Spedding, investor at BGF, said: “THIS™ is a highly innovative business that is rapidly scaling in a very exciting new food category in the UK. Plant-based meat alternatives are increasingly empowering consumers with more choices in their diet and environmental impact – and THIS™ is at the forefront of this with leading technology, distribution and products. With our long-term investment approach and national network of expertise, BGF will support the highly-ambitious management team at THIS™ to scale and expand further.”

Nick Cooney, Managing Partner at Lever VC, said: “We’ve never seen a plant-based meat company grow its sales and its store count as quickly as THIS™ has. We think the company is well on its way to being a category leader in the UK and beyond, and we’re delighted to back THIS’s stellar team and support their expansion into new products and new markets.”

Andy Shovel, Co-founder of THIS™, said: “We are absolutely thrilled, as we are now in a position to lease an office with windows. The team were losing their sense of humour over our current neon-lit home. In addition, this investment will unlock the most exciting new product development schedule. We’ve got some wacky plans for new tech and a huge line up of plant-based products, which will make eating plant-based food that bit easier for consumers.”