Why did Heather Mills’ vegan food empire collapse?: Paul McCartney ex-wife slams industry ‘gaslighting’
Heather Mills, who was once married to Sir Paul McCartney, had previously hoped to turn the North East of England into the “Silicon Valley of plant-based foods”.
VBites, the vegan food business founded by Heather Mills, ex-wife of Sir Paul McCartney, has collapsed into administration.
Mills has attributed the collapse of her business to what she describes as “gaslighting” by the meat industry.
VBites, established in 1993 and known for its range of meat-free products including ‘fish fingers’ and ‘smokey slmn deli slices’, is preparing to file for administration this week.
The company, once boasting a supply deal with McDonald’s, had been a prominent player in the plant-based food sector.
Sales of chilled and frozen meat alternatives have plunged by 16.8 percent and 13.5 percent, respectively, year-on-year, according to a report from market research firm Nielsen.
In a statement on her website, Mills expressed her devastation over the company’s downfall and criticized the meat and dairy industries for their marketing strategies.
Mills stressed the need for the plant-based industry to unify and promote factual information, countering what she views as a campaign of lies from the dairy and meat sectors.
“One of the major issues the plant-based market needs to tackle is the galvanised and well-funded marketing of misinformation currently being undertaken by the meat and dairy industries – and sadly backed by select celebrities who, in my view, should take their responsibilities as influencers much more seriously.
“Many of the campaigns we are seeing such as the ‘Got milk’ campaign by the dairy industry, joking about plant milk, insulting lactose intolerant people as well as ethical environmental animal lovers, are well-funded gaslighting initiatives that detract from the facts and sow the seeds of doubt in consumers who deserve to know the truth.”
Challenges facing the vegan food industry
Mills cited a combination of corporate greed, poor management, the ongoing cost of living crisis, and rising prices as contributing factors to VBites’ struggles.
VBites, with three factories in the North East of England, offers over 140 products and exports to 20 countries.
Despite Mills’ substantial personal investment and efforts to sustain the business, the company has not been immune to the broader challenges facing the vegan food industry.
The sector has seen a slowdown in demand since the pandemic, with several companies, including Meatless Farm, facing significant difficulties.
The market for meat-free products peaked between August and October of 2022, with demand falling back since.
In August, Beyond Meat, which is stocked in supermarkets and supplies McDonald’s, said that its sales had fallen by almost a third over the previous three months.
Administrators from Interpath Advisory were appointed on Monday after talks to raise new funding for VBites collapsed.
James Clark, joint administrator and managing director at Interpath Advisory, 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.”