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v2food, one of the biggest local names in fake meat, has changed strategy after the departure of its founder

A torrid 12 months for food startups has also impacted one of the most high-profile ventures, the billionaire-backed fake meat company v2food.
Founder and CEO Nick Hazell, a former executive of Masterfoods and PepsiCo, has left the company and the 4-year-old startup’s $20 million Wodonga production plant is being phased out as part of a strategic shift to improve the long-term viability of v2 to ensure.

V2food launched in October 2019 and raised approximately $185 million, including a $72 million second Series B round of global expansion in August 2021. Astanor Ventures, Europe’s largest impact investment fund, led that round, worth $ 500 million for the company.

A first Series B in late 2020, worth $77 million, saw several Asian investors join the dressing table, including Singaporean state-owned Temasek Holdings. John B. Fairfax’s family investment vehicle, Marinya Capital and Sequoia Capital China, are also investors.

Jack Cowin, former CEO of v2food Nick Hazell and then Minister of Innovation Karen Andrews at the 2019 launch of v2food.

Part of that round was earmarked for the completion of the $20 million production plant on the NSW-Victoria border in Wodonga. Earlier this year, just over two years after opening in December 2020, the company announced it was closing the factory.

The plant protein start-up is a joint venture between Hungry Jacks billionaire Jack Cowin and the CSIRO, through his VC fund, Main Sequence Ventures. Made from legumes (also known as high-protein legumes), the startup’s “ground beef” looks and tastes like meat. The range consists of hamburgers, minced meat, sausages, nuggets and schnitzels.

You can buy the v2food burger as the Rebel Whopper at Hungry Jacks for $10.45. (Add a second patty for $2.70 and/or bacon for $1.35.)

Around this time last year, in addition to the ground beef, the startup rolled out an assortment of $9 ready-to-eat pasta-based meals, which it sells through Coles and Woolworths. The company also launched in China through its 2,300-store chain Shanghai Lawson with a beef-flavored v2 “ground beef” vegetable steamed bun.

While the meteoric rise of v2food was widely reported in the mainstream media thanks to the advocacy of an energetic PR firm, few noticed the change of course in February this year, apart from the ABCregional newspapers and specialist titles, including the alternative protein publication Future Alternative, which spoke to Hazell’s replacement as CEOthe company’s COO, Tim York.

“At the end of last year, we started to reassess where our growth would come from in the coming year and what kind of changes needed to happen in our supply chain. That led to the final decision to close Wodonga,” York said Future alternative.

He continued that since the idea for the plant was conceived in 2019, “the market has matured” and they can outsource the product under the “v2 proprietary recipe.” There was interest in looking for ways to split the soybeans, the building blocks of the v2 “minced meat”, but those plans have now been put on hold.

York said v2 has grown locally 50% year over year over the past 12 months, and while execution tactics may have changed to address supply chain issues in international markets, the mission remains the same.

“The plan has always been to globalize and become one of the world leaders in plant-based meats. That hasn’t changed,” he said.

“But it does mean that as you move more and more offshore, you need to look at where your costs are in the supply chain and the resilience of those supply chains. And there’s a decision change for us that says we need to source more of our ingredients closer to the end markets.”

v2foods also struggles in a highly competitive global market with numerous rival VC-boosted startups, including Silicon Valley tech companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, trying to grab real estate in the alt-meat space. There are also local challengers like Made with Plants, The Vegan Factor, Wildly Good, Veef, Next Gen and Why Meat Co, as well as “braised beef” made from mushrooms by former Shoes of Prey founder Michael Fox’s Fable Food Co.

The changing of the guard at v2food was explored last month by entrepreneur Mark Bouris on his podcast, The Mentor, in a conversation with Main Sequence partner Phil Morle, a v2food executive, and Nick Hazell. They discuss knowing when it’s time to move on.

You can listen to the conversation on Spotify hereor Apple podcast here.

Shreya has been with australiabusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider australiabusinessblog.com, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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