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Leeds plant-based brand targets 'flexitarians' worldwide 

A Leeds start-up that’s capitalising on growing global demand for plant-based meat alternatives is set to send the first shipment of its mince and burgers to the United States this summer, which will become its seventh export market.

The Meatless Farm Co started out two years ago, exclusively supplying Sainsbury’s in the UK. Now, following support from International Trade Advisers (ITA), it has expanded distribution overseas.

The business joined several Food is GREAT-led trade missions after learning from ITAs that there was government funding available to help SMEs to attend. Food is GREAT is the cross-departmental campaign between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for International Trade (DIT) which supports UK food and drink producers with exporting.

Following ITA support to make introductions to buyers at various trade shows and trade missions, The Meatless Farm Co subsequently secured customers in Canada, Hong Kong, Sweden, the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland and, most recently, the United States.

By the end of 2019, the business expects overseas sales to make up 50% of overall revenue, an increase of 20% from today. To support the business’ expansion in new markets, it also plans to hire 10 new staff, taking its total headcount to 30. 

The global plant-based meat market is expected to more than double in value over the next six years. It’s estimated to be valued at $12.1bn by the end of 2019, which is predicted to reach $27.9bn by 2025*. The Meatless Farm Co is aiming to drive this global market growth, alongside Beyond Burger and Impossible Foods.

Robert Woodall, CEO at The Meatless Farm Co, said: “Roughly 80% of our products are consumed by ‘flexitarians’ –meat eaters that are increasingly looking to cut their meat intake for either health, environmental or ethical reasons.

“Flexitarians are becoming more prevalent over the world, particularly in North America and Asia-Pacific countries. In April, a US meat alternative manufacturer became the most successful listing on the Nasdaq this year, valuing at $3.8bn – a great sign of the market’s potential.

“This is why we’ve been internationally minded from the start. We’ve had an abundance of support from Defra and DIT and their networks overseas. Our ITAs based in Barnsley have helped us to find logistics partners that keep our food fresh in transit. They’ve also helped us to find plenty of buyers at trade shows and speed-dating style meet-the-buyer events. There’s more help out there than you might realise; if we can do it, so can you.”

Mark Robson, Head of Regions - Yorkshire & the Humber at DIT, said: “By including exporting in its growth strategy from the very beginning, and by thoroughly taking advantage of the support available, The Meatless Farm Co is firmly on track for success.

“UK food and drink exports hit record levels in the first quarter of 2019, reaching £5.7bn, the largest value of food and drink exports ever for an opening quarter of the year. Exporting helps local businesses become more profitable and resilient, so I’d encourage other firms to consider their prospects overseas, and get in touch with us for an initial conversation today.”

Ashleigh Smith
Article by Ashleigh Smith
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