This promoted content is produced by a publishing partner of Open Mic. A paid-for membership product for partners of The Drum to self-publish their news, opinions and insights on thedrum.com - Find out more
Vivera acquired for €341 million in record year for plant-based investment
April 29, 2021
Vivera, the brand behind the UK’s first vegan steak, has been acquired by JBS for €341 million. The plant-based revolutionary can now accelerate its mission of ‘more life, less meat’. The acquisition marks a milestone for Gilde Buy Out Partners, the Vivera team, and CEO Willem Van Weede, who made the bold move of focussing the entire company on a protein-based future in 2019. It’s also a gain for creative ventures firm, And Rising, brought in to re-imagine the brand and scale it to meet that vision.
Vivera’s story begins in 1991 from humble roots in the Netherlands. Starting up so far ahead of the market means that Vivera today has a unique depth of expertise in plant-based innovation. And the world has finally caught up. An ever-increasing majority have said they want to eat more healthily and shop more sustainably. In 2019, 75% of people in the UK said they were looking for small actions to be conscious consumers, and 93% said they’d like to eat more healthily. But people are less willing to change if it involves compromising on quality or taste. Vivera cuts back on neither. Favourites include shawarma (Food Awards Winner), chicken (Innova Classic Awards Winner), burgers, nuggets, hot dogs, and of course, the UK’s first vegan steak, which sparked a mainstream shift away from meat.
But having a great product is rarely enough. It’s one thing to be part of a fast-growing niche and another to successfully ‘cross-over’ into the mass market. And it’s only then that significant change begins. Vivera also focused on the Vivera brand to help it drive a broader appeal. The brand is increasingly the reason sustainable product innovation is succeeding. Oatly has released its pre-IPO S1, citing its creative approach to brand as a core strength (and risk) to its estimated $10bn valuation.
Similarly, Vivera, initially searching for a way to launch in the UK market, knew it would have to re-think what it had relied on in the past. In the end, And Rising recommended stripping out the legacy marque entirely, redesigning it fit-for-purpose and building a programme of marketing investment to rebuild it. The brand’s plant-camouflage rebellion has now become the central identity of a newly articulated ‘more life’ brand movement, one that investors and consumers alike can believe in. The new protest cry of “Vivera” (based on ‘vivere’ meaning ‘to be alive’) is now proudly worn on its factory. And the brand delivered several iconic campaigns, which in turn attracted mainstream collaborators such as Domino’s Pizza and Gourmet Burger Kitchen.
More importantly, brand re-positioning is about identifying a gateway audience to mass adoption —in this case, the occasional user. Vivera isn’t just for vegans, but for anyone who wants to begin their journey towards less meat, expanding the flexitarian revolution. Vivera is now ready to welcome a global audience not only interested in meat-free products, but the movement itself.
Vivera’s business focus on a sustainable future has worked. It took Vivera out of a ‘veggie’ niche to become a scale-up, delivering average annual growth of 25%. The acquisition by JBS begins a new cycle of investment, enabling Vivera to further influence the transition to meat-free, both directly and indirectly. The climate crisis is reaching a tipping point. The evidence is overwhelming that plant-based diets keep us more vital, healthier and happier. This move is a big step forward for Vivera. But it’s also a win for impact investing itself, which surged last year and setting itself up for new records this year towards a sustainable future for us all.