Vegetarian Express box

Vegetarian Express offers a range of more than 1,200 plant-based ingredients

Plant-based ingredients supplier Vegetarian Express has secured a £15m investment in return for a controlling stake in the business from NVM private equity.

The PE firm provided an exit for Bridges Fund Management, which invested £5.6m into the company in 2016.

Watford-based Vegetarian Express will use the proceeds of the latest deal to build on its expansion into Ireland, enhance operational capabilities, support a growing customer base and strengthen its digital offering.

The business – formed in 1987 – specialises in offering a range of more than 1,200 plant-based ingredients, such as tofu, tempeh, quinoa, nuts, spices and pulses, to commercial kitchens across the UK.

It has expanded rapidly, more than doubling revenues since the Bridges investment deal in 2016, with turnover rising to more than £17m in the year ended 31 March 2023, according to the latest available accounts.

The company is also B Corp certified, claiming to be one of the first in the foodservice sector to achieve the accreditation in 2019, and estimated that it saved about 15,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions since 2016 as a result of its products directly replacing meat or dairy.

“The management team and I are incredibly proud of what we’ve delivered in the last seven years, which has seen the professionalisation of Vegetarian Express into the UK’s leading plant-based category specialist to the foodservice sector,” said MD David Webster.

“For the next stage of our growth journey, we’re excited to be partnering with private equity firm NVM. NVM’s backing will enable us to scale faster and help even more customers get brilliant-plant-based food on their menus.”

NVM investment partner Mauro Biagioni, who led the deal alongside Alex Wilson, added: “The business is a true category specialist, with an excellent reputation for its extensive range of high-quality authentic products. ESG is at the heart of the business, and with new investment, a highly experienced management team and its reputation for outstanding customer service, Vegetarian Express is well positioned for considerable future growth.”

Bridges partner Emma Thorne said: “We invested in Vegetarian Express because we believed there was a clear commercial and impact opportunity in helping consumers reduce their meat consumption by switching to plant-based meals.

“In Vegetarian Express, we identified a best-in-class provider with strong growth potential that also shared our values. The business has grown substantially over the course of our investment, diversifying its offering, expanding its own-brand range and launching its unique Seedbank tool for chefs. We’re really proud of the growth and impact it has achieved and wish its outstanding team all the best for the future.”