National Vegetarian Week: Top 5 sustainable food startups

In honour of National Vegetarian Week, here’s the top 5 most-promising sustainable food startups that are making us green with food envy this year.

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More than 30 years have passed since Linda McCartney’s famous frozen sausages hit UK freezers. Since then, the market has expanded astronomically, with new startups crowding around to make their name in the vegetarian and vegan food space.

Much of the plant-based industry’s success is down to public image. Non-meat eaters are no longer considered Woodstock hippies that represent ‘alternative’ food choices.

Instead, they represent some of the millions of consumers who are reconsidering the impact the meat industry has on their personal health and the global climate.

In fact, this National Vegetarian Week promises to be the biggest ever. A recent YouGov survey found that more than a quarter of people in the UK (27%) are reducing the amount of meat they consume.

Below, we’ve ranked five of the most exciting vegetarian startups and small businesses that we think are providing a tasty solution to the climate crisis.

1. allplants

Jonathan Petrides, Founder of allplants

Jonathan Petrides, Founder of allplants

Kicking us off is a big-name player in the vegetarian food game: allplants. Founded in 2016, the firm has created over 150 completely ready-made meals you can store and cook from frozen. And guess what? They’re all plant-based.

Last year, allplants became our highest-ranked food startup in the Startups 100 index. This was a plummy jump from position 32 in 2020 due in large part to impressive funding.

In October 2021, allplants announced a £38 million in Series B funding. At the time, founder Jonathan Petrides and his brother Alex said they would use the money to expand and feed hungry consumer appetites (100,000 customers are currently signed up to the service).

Adding to its list of accomplishments, the firm is now also home to the largest plant-based kitchen in all of Europe. Run on 100% renewable energy, the allplants HQ proves the company has taken its net zero pledge to heart.

The company celebrated becoming a certified B-corp in 2018, demonstrating its commitment to positive social and environmental change. For allplants, our two-time Startups 100-listed startup, we’d definitely order thirds.

2. THIS™

THIS founders

THIS™ founders, Andy Shovel and Pete Sharman

Feast your eyes on our number-two sustainable food startup, THIS™. Its founders Andy Shovel and Pete Sharman had an unconventional entry into the meat-free industry.

Having grown disenchanted with their (real) beef burger restaurant chain in 2016, the partners sold the company and founded their now market-leading vegan brand.

In just two-and-a-half years of trading the company has grown to 55 staff members spanning three offices across London. Shovel and Sharman are targeting £20 million annual revenue in 2022, fueled by a chain of new product releases including cocktail sausages.

According to THIS™, they are the fastest-growing plant-based meat brand, recording a 333% year-on-year net sales growth in 2021.

They’ve enjoyed such a meteoric rise to success that we’ve featured them in our Startups 100 index for two consecutive years.

Earlier this month, the brand also announced its first public investment campaign with crowdfunding platform Seedrs. Investors will be able to buy into the brand from just £10 helping THIS™ to become (in its own words) ‘proper famous’.

Green-fingered entrepreneurs who take a page out of THIS™’s recipe book will be well on their way to vegetarian victory.

3. The Vurger Co.

Vurger Co (1)

The label of vegan diets as ‘rabbit’ food has persisted for a long time. We’re hopeful that the success of our third meat-free startup should put that myth to rest.

Sustainable burger chain, The Vurger Co. has had a seat at Startups’ VIP table since 2018, when it featured in the Startups 100 index. It caught our attention after hitting its Crowdcube fundraising goal of £180,000 within just 30 hours.

Since then, it’s climbed the leaderboard for four consecutive years, coming an impressive 27th in 2021.

The brand’s indulgent menu offers delicious burgers, fries, mac ‘n’ cheese and milkshakes – all of which are made with fresh ingredients and 100% vegan.

From its humble beginnings as a market stall in 2016, The Vurger Co. is well on its way to becoming a beloved national chain with locations in Brighton, Shoreditch and Canary Wharf.

Don’t worry, Northerners. Vurger will also open its fourth site in Manchester this year. Get your tents pitched up now folks, before the nation gets a taste for this delectable restaurant chain.

4. Sauce Shop

Sauce Shop

Sauce Shop founders, James and Pamela Digva

James and Pamela Digva founded Sauce Shop in 2016 in their own kitchen, from a shared passion for flavourful sauces.

However, from the shop’s humble origins pours a steady flow of saucy success. The business has grown into a team of 34 chefs and food lovers, with products now being sold by Sainsbury’s, Co-Op, Whole Foods and Amazon.

The brand’s story is important to the Digvas. Every craft sauce and seasoning is made at the brand’s Nottingham-based facility. Excitingly, they also announced last year that they were going carbon negative.

Working with carbon offsetting partner, Ecologi, Sauce Shop now supports a range of certified carbon reduction projects across the world. It’s also working with supply chain partners, to try and reduce its environmental impact as much as possible.

Some of the UK’s best-known brands (Heinz, HP Sauce, and Dolmio, to name just a few) are sauces. Now, Sauce Shop is well-poised to join them, having raised £400,000 in funding to date.

Would you like sustainably-sauced goodness, combined with a side of delicious, home-brewed BBQ, tomato, and hot sauce? Say when.

5. Noochy Poochy

Noochy Poochy

Controversially, we’ve included vegan-dog-food brand, Noochy Poochy as our final startup. But the truth is, our furry friends almost have more choices than us for sustainable eating.

Founded by Lucy McKinna in 2021, the smart startup is a result of McKinna’s struggles with being vegan while feeding her dog meat. She decided to sink her teeth into the market with Noochy Poochy, producing vegan dog food for ethically-minded paw parents.

Pet care is one of our top business ideas for 2022. As the market gets more competitive, customers have more choice from their pet food provider.

Indeed, The Vegan Society’s Vegan Animal Report 2022 claims that 45% of dog owners are interested in feeding their pet on a vegan diet.

For those that worry Noochy’s animal consumers will miss out on important nutrients, Lucy is keen to point out that the product has a 28% protein content. That’s higher than any other vegetarian dog food on the market – and even a lot of meat based.

We’re impressed by the innovative gap that McKinna has filled in the busy sustainable food market. We’ll be keeping two big puppy-dog eyes fixed on Noochy Poochy this year.

Conclusion

Today’s consumers are hungering for sustainable and eco-friendly food choices. That means new businesses have free range to disrupt the exciting land of vegan and vegetarian cuisine.

We hope our delicious menu of successful case studies has left you feeling satisfied. But, if you’re still peckish for more green startup concepts, treat yourself to our longer guide to the top sustainable business ideas for 2022

Helena Young
Helena Young Senior Writer

Helena "Len" Young is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has also previously written for a popular fintech startup.

Included in her topics of interest and expertise are tax legislation, the levelling up agenda, and organisational software including CRM and project management systems. As well as this, she is a big fan of the films of Peter Jackson.

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