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The forecast for 2021 is looking cloudy with a 0% chance of meatballs, unless they’re meat-free that is. 

Interest in plant-based diet has surged this year, with concern for the state of the planet, animal welfare, and general health and wellness driving the trend. In fact according to the Economist, Google searches for “veganism” have doubled in America and tripled in Australia, France and Spain. That’s a lot of interest. 

But what’s even more fascinating about the plant-based movement, is that adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet – and doing your part for the environment in the process – has never been easier than it is today. Brands like THISFarmstandallplantsLivia’s and more are catering to the every need of the meat-free consumer, through advanced delivery services, on-the-go meals, free-from snacks, and imitation meat that tastes so much like the real thing, it has professional food critics completely fooled. 

And what do all the above companies have in common, other than a shared passion for the planet? They’ve all raised on Seedrs.

Keep reading for insights on sustainability and innovation from Andy Shovel, co-founder of THIS.

What is THIS’ mission?

We’d like to make the mass-market crave THIS more than animal-based foods. 

We’ve made it so close to real meat that a bunch of food critics and bloggers couldn’t even tell the difference in a blind taste test. We’ve created chicken nuggets, rashers, bacon and more that tastes exactly like the real thing, but uses way less water to produce, and generates a fraction of the C02 emissions… and by a fraction, I mean literally 97.6% less kilograms of C02 per unit compared to beef. Most of our packaging uses 90% less plastic too. 

And those are impressive stats, but what we’re most proud of is that we’ve created products that are high in protein, fortified with iron and B12, don’t contain nitrates or antibiotics or any of that, and taste absolutely incredible.

Who is THIS’ target customer?

Pretty much everyone to be honest. Our products aren’t made exclusively for the typical vegan consumer. They’re also for meat-lovers, and flexitarians and vegetarians and everyone who wants to do their bit for the planet without getting guilt-tripped about it. We’re not elitist, we’ve just built something that’s so good you’ll want to eat it, and you’ll feel good about doing something for the environment too. What we want to do is make it as easy as possible for anyone to enjoy some of life’s greatest joys (*cough* bacon) in a way that also happens to be great for the planet.

Was sustainability always part of the bigger picture mission for THIS?

Absolutely, but the messaging around that is quite subtle compared to some other sustainable brands. We like to champion our foods’ taste, texture and satisfaction vs meat. We don’t think guilt-trips make anyone hungry! 

Tell us a bit about THIS’ growth story.

We’ve grown from nothing to £450k sales per month (July) in 12 months. That’s looked like circa 30% monthly sales growth, every month. When we launched in 2019, we did 700% growth in one year which was incredible. By the time we did our Seedrs raise this year, which happened to be the fastest funding F&B campaign on the platform ever, we were already stocked in over 2,000 retailers and restaurants including Tesco, Waitrose, Ocado and now Morrison’s.

We’re now listed with wholesale behemoth, Brakes, and we’ve locked in hundreds of national PR features and mentions. We’ve won stuff and we’ve raised £5.6 million from VC funds so overall it’s been a pretty mind-blowing year and we’re excited for what’s in store.

There’s never been a better time to be vegan, with all the options available on the market. How does THIS stand out?

There are a lot of options for plant-based eaters right now, but you also see a lot of Frankenfood on the shelves. THIS on the other hand is predominately made from soy bean protein, water and pea protein. Take our Isn’t Bacon for example, the product contains no cancer-causing nitrates (present in animal-based bacon), no saturated fat and roughly half the salt of animal-based bacon. So all things aside, it’s actually a really good choice for your long-term health too.

Big picture, we aim to be the most realistic plant-based meat-alternatives in the world, in terms of texture, taste and nutritional qualities. I think we’re getting there, which really is no small feat. It took us over 1.5 years to develop our food. We tasted over 2,000 iterations across our 8 launch products – it’s been a long old road, and Pete and I are getting greyer by the minute, but we’re kind of on a roll.

Have you seen any changes in demand in the wake of the crisis?

The Covid-19 crisis seems to have made many consumers wary of high meat-consumption, and so we anticipate that demand for our products will keep growing. Our sales shot up in 2020 and although our restaurant sales did dip for a couple of months, they’re now back on the up.  

What do you think will be the biggest challenge going forward?

Creating more industry-leading products! We’ve got a lot of exciting things in the pipeline already, and we’re working hard to keep the innovative juices flowing.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your customers?

People keep sending THIS back in restaurants because they think they’ve been served animal-based chicken… we must be doing something right.

What makes you work best as a founding team?

Definitely mutual respect. 

What little life hacks would you recommend to help incorporate sustainable living into everyday life?

Eat less meat and cycle loads.

What advice would you give to someone trying out a more plant-based diet for the first time?

Going cold Turkey (s’cuse the pun) can be tough, so take it slow and steady for the win. 

THIS raised £4 million from 1,844 investors in 2020.