Quorn – the popular meat substitute brand which was once the sole preserve of vegetarians but which is now picking up fans beyond the veggie community – is “aiming for worldwide growth” after being sold today to a Philippines-based noodle firm for £550m.
Food scandals, concerns about the environmental impact of farming livestock and an ad campaign fronted by Olympic running hero Mo Farah had already broadened Quorn’s appeal beyond vegetarians. The company says three-quarters of the customers for its mycoprotein (ie, fungus) based products – which are produced in West Yorkshire – are now meat eaters and the company has set its sights on health-conscious customers across Europe and the US.
The buyer, Monde Nissin is best known for its instant noodles. It shelled out its £550m offer after Quorn Foods had enjoyed its best-ever six months, with sales rising by 7% across the 23 countries where its products are sold. There were several potential buyers when Quorn’s private equity owner Exponent hung up the “for sale” sign last month. Bidders were said to include Nomad Foods, the owner of Bird’s Eye and Findus, chip kings McCain, Nestlé and WhiteWave, the company behind Alpro soya milk.
“Younger consumers everywhere around the world want to eat less meat and that creates a different category and a business opportunity for people like ourselves,” said Kevin Brennan, chief executive of Quorn Foods.Laura Jones, global food science analyst at analyst Mintel, said meat-substitute products have started to lose the stigma of being “tasteless” or “cardboard”. “People used to think, ‘why would you try to create a vegetarian sausage’, but now they are starting to compete on a taste basis.”
However, products such as Quorn still account for less than 1% of processed meat sales, according to Mintel.