‘The future is plant-based’: Vivera CEO talks exiting the meat business

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Vivera sells off meat business to fuel growth in plant-based
Vivera sells off meat business to fuel growth in plant-based

Related tags vegan plant-based Vivera

Enkco Holding is separating its meat and vegetable protein businesses and re-positioning itself as Vivera Food Group to focus purely on its plant-based products. “The future is plant-based,” the company said.

Enkco Holding has sold off its chilled and deep-frozen meat products business, Enkco, as well as its egg products unit, Karea, for an undisclosed sum.

The company, which is owned by private equity group Guide Buy Out Partners, said the divestiture would allow Vivera to concentrate on developing its high-growth plant-based product units, which include Vivera meat substitutes, Culifrost, which produces vegetable frozen meal components, and Dutch Tofu Company (DTC), which manufactures tofu products.

Animal protein accounted for around 35% of group sales, while plant-based contributed the remaining 65% of company revenue. 

Announcing the deal, newly-named Vivera Food Group said it has “strong ambitions​” in the meat free sector.

Vivera has diversified its product offering through innovation

The Vivera brand provides the Dutch company with a significant market position in various European markets and the firm is currently the region’s third-largest alternative protein manufacturer. Vivera products are available in more than 25,000 supermarkets in 25 European countries.

"Vivera is growing at a high pace, significantly above the already fast growth of the plant- based market. Our expansion is taking place throughout Europe in the major markets (UK, Germany and France) and other markets like Central Europe, Nordics, Benelux, Italy and Spain.

"At the same time we are making significant investments in our operational footprint to keep up with the growth of the business, resulting in duplication of production capacity, including expansion into the newest technologies,"​ Vivera CEO Willem van Weede told FoodNavigator. 

'Innovation is our backbone'

Vivera is a pioneer in plant-based meat alternatives, having commercialised the first vegan steak in 2018. In the UK alone, the company has sold more than one million alternative meat products via supermarket chain Tesco.

Innovation efforts have focused on expanding Vivera's product offering to include items like pulled veggie, shawarma kebab and the veggie quarter pounder.

Some of the proceeds from the sale will be used to increase investment in research and innovation, van Weede revealed. "We are expanding innovation investments. Innovation has always been and is our backbone to offer the market products that outperform competition in taste, bite and sensory experience."

Keeping pace with demand

Responding to growing consumer interest in healthier, more sustainable food, Vivera currently has a weekly output of over one million plant-based products. However, van Weede told us that the group is operating at near full-capacity. 

"We have been operating close to full capacity. Within our production plant we have already made significant steps in expansion with new machinery and extra production shifts and personnel. The expansion is a continuous process, in which we strive to grow capacity expansion quicker than our business growth, in order to anticipate unpredictable elements like acceleration of growth and new unforeseen customers,"​ he explained. 

In addition to driving research and development, van Weede said proceeds from the sale would be used to step up growth initiatives including “large-scale investments”​ to develop Vivera's capacity. The divestiture will support investment in increasing production to meet future need and keep pace with the company's high growth rate. 

“Thanks to the sale of our meat products business we believe we can accelerate Vivera’s international growth even faster.”

Focusing on plant-based

The chief executive stressed that Vivera is one of the first global meat companies to “bid farewell”​ to its animal-based business and focus on plant protein. “We are now focusing solely on plant-based foods that are truly conquering the planet. Consumer are increasingly discovering that plant products can taste as [good] as real meat and have many health, environmental and animal welfare benefits.

"For ourselves, this is a great opportunity to fully focus our energy, resources and competences of this rapidly growing market. This will enable us to keep leadership in this important market and proudly be an important leading player the protein conversion so important and impactful for sustainability."

Enkco's new home

Enkco is a manufacturer of clean-label, high quality, semi-finished convenience meat products. Its ranges includes frozen ready-to-cook schnitzels, meat balls, hamburgers and fresh uncooked meat products. Enkco dominates the foodservice channel and also serves selected food retailers in the Netherlands.

Van Loon Group, the company which acquired Enkco, said that the deal will strengthen its position in the “important”​ out of home market.

The company said the acquisition fits its strategy because Enkco has “more growth prospects”​ in this channel, which includes caterers, health care institutions and on-the-go consumption. “Enkco has a traditionally strong position in this market,”​ Van Loon observed.

Van Loon added that, following approval from the Consumer and Market Authority and works councils, it intends to relocate production to its existing manufacturing facilities within a year and a half. Enkco has approximately 100 employees who will largely transfer to Vivera.

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