“We just refuse to go slow”: v2food bags another $72 million to take its plant-based meat products global

v2food

Nick Hazell at the v2food display in a Woolworths store. Source: supplied.

Aussie plant-based meat startup v2food has secured another $72 million in funding, as it makes a push into international markets.

SmartCompany caught up with co-founder and chief Nick Hazell to talk about global growth, global goals (as opposed to financial ones) and why he’s in such a rush to get v2food’s products to the masses.

What is v2food?

Founded less than two years ago in partnership with Main Sequence, CSIRO and Hungry Jack’s boss Jack Cowin, v2food produces a range of plant-based meat products including mince, sausages and burgers, and has seen a swift upwards trajectory in the Australian market.

The business has now raised a total of $185 million, including it’s $77 million Series B closed in October last year. The latest round gives it a valuation of more than $500 million.

When it comes to revenues, founder and chief Nick Hazell declines to comment on the specifics. However, he does say the startup is seeing “strong growth” both in the retail and food service streams, even despite ongoing challenges in hospitality.

In June, the startup partnered up with celebrity chef Neil Perry to put v2food products on the menu of his new restaurant, Margaret, in Double Bay in Sydney.

“Everything Neil touches when it comes to food turns to gold,” Hazell tells SmartCompany.

“So we know Margaret patrons will agree the future of food is plant-based.”

Who are the investors?

The ‘Series B Plus’ round was led by European impact investment fund Astanor Ventures, and also included new strategic investment from an unnamed Chinese e-commerce platform.

Existing backers Huaxing Growth Capital Fund, Main Sequence and ABC World Asia also contributed to the round.

It’s a significant cash injection, but it also brings in key backers in the Asian and European markets. The round marks “an important step” for v2food, Hazell says.

“Developing our footing in Asia is a high priority for us,” he explains.

“But we also need to build the infrastructure that will enable us to scale quickly. Expertise from investors including Astanor will enable us to do this.”

Why now?

When asked why it was the right time to raise, Hazell points to the issues v2food is taking on. The global population is growing, he notes, and we are facing a huge shortfall in the amount of food we produce today, compared to how much we will need.

There’s no way we can get there in a way that is also kind to the environment. And there’s no time to waste, he says.

“It’s imperative that we scale quickly, because these global issues need immediate solutions,” Hazell explains.

What’s next?

Having already launched in New Zealand, Thailand, the Philippines, Japan and Korea, v2food recently made the push into China, starting out with its plant-based mince product.

This funding will be used to broaden its reach in Asia, and to expand into Europe, too.

But the team is also working on 18 separate projects with CSIRO across nutrition, protein extraction technology, plant-breeding technology and carbon sequestration — the compression and storage process that follows carbon capture.

That’s on top of work to develop the flavour and textures of its food products.

Again, Hazell stresses that this is all about speed.

“We just refuse to go slow with our mission, we take huge risks,” he says.

“Everyone in the business is totally signed on to try and do everything we can to better our product and offer consumers a plant-based alternative that can feed us all for years to come.”

And then?

This is just the latest in a string of huge funding announcements to come from home-grown startups over the past few months. And, it’s one that brings v2food halfway to becoming Australia’s first plant-based unicorn — in Aussie dollars, at least.

However, while Hazell says it’s encouraging to see local startups hitting the magic $1 billion mark, he maintains that’s not his goal.

At a macro level, “the size of the prize is building Australia’s plant-based industry,” he says.

“And we would want to be a major player in the global plant-based industry.”

But success for him will be creating real change in the way people eat and boosting the sustainability of the global food system.

“As a result of that, we will have a significant positive impact on the environment,” he says.

“That’s our imperative.”

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