VBites, which currently operates sites in Corby and Peterlee, is to open a factory in Newcastle following the seven-figure funding package. The company is also in the process of seeking a fourth site.
HBSC’s funding will enable VBites to purchase mixing and blending equipment, a slicing machine and a packaging line at the Newcastle facility. It will enable the creation of new products such as vegan pizzas and dairy-free cheeses.
Founded in Corby in 1993 as the Redwood Wholefood Company, Mills changed its name to VBites in 2010.
Walkers Crisps factory
Mills bought the former Walkers Crisps factory in Peterlee, County Durham, in May, after hearing of its closure. Walkers owner PepsiCo closed the site in May 2017, citing significant productivity and efficiency savings. Up to 355 jobs were lost at the factory.
VBites said its ethos was to deliver on the taste and texture of dairy, fish and meat using a sustainable and environmentally friendly approach.
The business now offers 540 vegan substitutes, including Fish-Free Smoked Salmon Slices, Dairy-Free Pepperjack Cheezly and Meat-Free Maple Cured Rashers. It exports to 24 countries worldwide and further expansion is expected into the US.
Commenting on the expansion, Mills said: “After decades of promoting plant-based foods to help the animals, health and the environment, finally the world woke up.
‘Demand for vegan produce’
“The demand for vegan produce has increased by 900% in the last three years, meaning we needed assistance to help increase our productivity, which is where HSBC UK stepped in.”
HSBC UK area director Nick Hicks added: “VBites’ expansion will not only bring new jobs to the city of Newcastle but will also see global exporting opportunities increase for this fantastic UK based company.
“Heather is truly passionate about promoting the vegan lifestyle and her company’s impressive growth, partnered with the popularity of its products, speaks volumes.
“Our recent funding, organised by HSBC UK relationship manager David Sitch, marks the start of what we hope will be a fantastic relationship with VBites.”
Recent research from Mintel found that vegan product launches almost doubled last year, as more UK adults ate vegetarian and meat-free foods.