Plant-based specialist This has been named UK food and drink’s fastest-growing brand amid soaring demand for meat alternatives.

The brand’s rapid growth and heavy investment has propelled it to the top of Alantra’s annual Fast 50, a ranking of the country’s fastest-growing food and drink companies on two-year sales growth.

This has posted two-year annual compound sales growth of 246% – almost three times that of the ranking’s leading business last year, Gousto, which posted growth of 95%.

In addition to This’s surging sales growth, there was a notable step-up in growth rates across the rankings, despite intense pressure on consumer spend and the rising cost of debt making funding less abundant.

Second and third in the rankings were vegan snack brand Misfits and collagen supplements supplier Absolute Collagen, which boasted two-year growth rates of 215% and 158% respectively.

Across the top five businesses, average growth rates rose to 167% compared with 73% a year ago, beating the 110% high recorded just before the pandemic.

This rise in growth rates is partly driven by the top of the list being led by smaller companies with more headroom – with average annual sales of £8.4m compared with £39m last year.

But the significant  growth rates in the Fast 50 were also indicative of the gap widening between successful SMEs and those struggling in stressed economic conditions, suggested Alantra head of UK food & beverage Charles Lanceley.

“We are seeing something of a fork in the road between winners and losers, where the weaker are getting hammered and the stronger are managing to build through,” he said.

Many leading names in the ranking had seen significant recent funding, he noted. This raised £11m in 2021 with an £8m crowdfunding top-up in 2022, while fourth-placed Dash Water raised £9m in funds in January.

“The funding environment for SMEs is much tougher than it has been for quite some time,” he said. “The bar has been raised in terms of the quality of business that investors are looking for and therefore there is much less money available, which is why you have seen brands that have failed to get funding fall by the wayside.”

That investor caution partly explains why just 10 of the 50 businesses have private equity investment, which is the lowest figure in recent years, while it has the highest number of family owned businesses at 15.

In total, 16 businesses in the 2020 and 2021 Fast 50 have subsequently been acquired by trade buyers.

While M&A activity has slumped 2022, Lanceley said he expected larger food and drink groups to remain active in acquiring fast growing SME assets.

“Many trade buyers have strong balance sheets coming out of Covid and can take a longer term of M&A than private equity buyers, so are less worried about buying in the current consumer environment.

“Opportunities for high quality, fast growing assets are few and far between, so trade will remain active because it is easier for them to buy in this growth than develop brands organically.”

In total, The Fast 50 has 33 new entrants and just 17 that have appeared in previous rankings, compared with 23 and 26 in the prior two years.

The largest company in the list remains sixth-placed Gousto, with sales of £315m and two-year growth of 95%.


The “remarkable” success of This is based on its products, according to Alantra.

Founders Andy Shovel and Pete Sharman spent 18 months researching and developing its range of products, having launched in 2022, while building a distinctive brand that stands out from the usual packaging of plant-based products.

This earns around 70% of its income from consumer sales in grocery retailers, while around 30% is from foodservice partners, including Greggs and Caffe Nero.

Foodservice is a particular area of potential growth, with on-the-go sales held back so far by the pandemic.

The brand has been heavily backed by external investment. Last year it secured £11m in what it claimed as the largest series A fundraise for a meat alternative brand in the UK, while having also raised £8.7m in seed funding from VC investors and seen two crowdfunding rounds net £8m in 2022 and £3.8m in 2020.

“This is a classic disruptor brand that has been able to capitalise on that early interest in its products because it looks different, feels a bit different and the name is so recognisable,” Lanceley says.

However, he suggests the brand next major challenge will be turning soaring growth into a sustainable and profitable business, given its heavy fundraising thus far and current low margins.

“Currently they’re not particularly focused on making money off their products because they’ve been able to raise so much cash that it has given them the freedom to go really aggressively after growth,” he says.”

“The question now is whether they keep going and they keep raising money to fund growth or if that growth starts to slow and there becomes more of a spotlight on gross margins.”

Its most recent crowdfunding raise last year valued the business at £150m. It said at the time that its January 2022 sales already gave it annualised sales of £17.5m, with statutory revenues of £11.8m in 2021.