VBites, the self-proclaimed ‘pioneer of plant-based foods’, was created by Heather Mills in 1993.
The company is now preparing to open an ex-Walkers Crisps factory in Peterlee, in northeast England. The 180,000-square-foot site will create approximately 300 jobs when it opens this autumn.
“This is really exciting news and it’s particularly encouraging to see that there will now be more than 300 job opportunities create at the old Walkers site in the nature future,” according to local Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration, Carl Marshall.
“We’re thrilled that Heather Mills is choosing to bring jobs back here to the North East and making the most of our talented workforce,” he added.
VBites will use the site to manufacture its meat-free, vegan meat substitutes for distributors worldwide, including the UK and 15 European countries.
According to CEO Heather Mills, the decision to expand was driven, in part, by a booming plant-based market.
“After 25 years of trying to educate people the future is plant-based, they are finally listening…” Mills told FoodNavigator.
In addition, “…after the huge sales of hundreds of millions of pounds in American plant-based companies, corporates are now interested,” she added.
“Our mission is to deliver all of the taste and texture of meat, fish and dairy products, but without the harmful dietary, environmental, welfare and sustainability drawbacks of pastoral agriculture and fishing.” - VBites
VBites perceives itself as the founders of the plant-based market. “…Everybody is trying to catch up, so we are ahead of the game on quality, taste, texture and manufacturing, owning over 600,000-square-feet of factories in the UK,” Mills told us.
Within the UK and European markets, meat-alternative brand Quorn could be regarded as VBites’ primary competitor. However, unlike VBites, Quorn is not 100% vegan.
“[Quorn] has a few vegan products…but is mainly vegetarian. Most of the others [in the market] are vegetarian, which is a different market as it includes eggs and milk – so is not vegan,” she said.
VBites sells a range of meat-free products, such as burgers, sausages and patés, alongside fish-free offerings and dairy-free cheese alternatives.
Indeed, the company recently launched 10 new plant-based cheese for the UK market, including Red Cheddar Cheezly, Edam Cheezly, and Mozzarella Melt.
Besides telling us that all ingredients were sustainably sourced, Mills remained tight-lipped about the recipes and manufacturing processes for her product range.
“The intellectual property is top-secret, there are 130 products made from a variety of different proteins and ingredients ranging from pea protein to allergen dairy free coconut products, like vegan cheese and butters – all depending on what the supermarkets and buyers want,” she told us.
“We can replicate any taste texture or flavour without harmful chemicals,” she added.