Tue, 12 Dec 2023 | ADMINISTRATION
VBites Foods Ltd, the plant-based food manufacturer established by well-known businesswoman Heather Mills, has fallen into administration. James Clark and Howard Smith from Interpath Advisory were appointed joint administrators on December 11 and will now seek a buyer for the business and its assets.
VBites was founded in 1993 and operates from two manufacturing facilities in Peterlee, County Durham, and Corby, Northamptonshire. The company manufactures plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy products and fish and has worked alongside businesses including McDonalds.
Despite being one of the most prominent and long running UK plant-based food firms, VBites had been impacted by rising raw material and energy prices and falling demand for plant-based protein alternatives, amid changing consumer tastes and the cost-of-living crisis.
This resulted in the business experiencing increasing cashflow pressure. Directors had explored options including seeking additional funding, but were unable to secure a funding agreement. As a result, directors had no option but to appoint administrators.
In a lengthy statement, Heather Mills blamed the company’s collapse on rising costs and manufacturing issues, but also singled out a "combination of corporate greed and poor management". Mills said she had invested “tens of millions of pounds” of her own money in an effort to keep the company going.
She continued: "Brexit has been an utter disaster for the supply and maintenance of the sector and the government doubtless has a lot to answer for.”
"So do the opportunistic utility companies and their broker networks, that through an array of nefarious practices now under investigation have hiked up prices so that companies simply cannot afford to operate."
The joint administrators will continue to trade VBites’ Peterlee site while a buyer is sought, meaning that 29 staff members have been retained at that facility to assist with trading. 25 employees have also been retained at the Corby site to assist with outstanding orders, but 24 staff at that facility have been made redundant.
Joint administrator and Interpath Managing Director James Clark said: “VBites is one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of vegan food products but unfortunately, and in common with many other companies across the food manufacturing sector, had seen trading impacted by rising commodity and energy prices.”
"Our immediate priority is to provide support and assistance to those employees impacted by redundancy, as well as seeking a buyer for the business and its assets. We would encourage any interested parties to make contact with us at the earliest opportunity."
James Lumb, Managing Director at Interpath’s Newcastle office, added: "This is disappointing news for our local food manufacturing base, which has proven resilient in the face of challenging economic conditions."
The UK’s plant-based protein alternatives sector has experienced an extremely difficult few years, despite having seen significant growth up to and during 2019. Several firms in the sector have collapsed this year, including Plant & Bean, which was acquired out of administration in July by two companies at which Heather Mills is a director, and Meatless Farm, which was subsequently acquired from administrators by vegan brand VFC.
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