Vegan bacon alternative La Vie – which has attracted criticism from farmers in its native France over claims it is too similar to pork – has made its debut in UK retailers.
The brand’s product, made from a mixture of soy protein and sunflower oil, went on sale in Sainsbury’s and Waitrose on 19 September, and will roll into Planet Organic and Whole Foods Market from 26 September.
Manufactured in France using a patented process La Vie claimed gave it a “taste parity with pork bacon”, the brand is available in two variants: a streaky bacon alternative and lardon lines in smoked and unsmoked flavours.
The streaky SKU costs £3.50 for a pack weighing 120g, while the lardons retail at £3.50 for a 150g pack.
By comparison, a Richmond vegan smoked bacon line retails at £2.70 in Sainsbury’s (150g), while a pack of standard (pork-based) own label smoked streaky bacon costs £2.50 for a 300g pack.
After seeing success in French retailers as a category pioneer, La Vie was now launching into a far more congested market segment, admitted the brand’s chief marketing officer Romain Jolivet.
“In the UK there are more than 20 brands of plant-based bacon,” he said. “It is very interesting for us because it is a harder test [but] we are very confident with our product superiority.”
Jolivet told The Grocer he believed the La Vie offering had two main advantages. The first was because the brand had found a way to replicate the pork fat on bacon through a sunflower oil extraction method. Secondly, La Vie had a “simple” manufacturing process and an ingredient list with only seven items.
The products had spent three years in development, with a team of 20 researchers working on over 5,000 recipes to create the “perfect product” and a viable substitute for standard bacon, he added.
The La Vie lineup will also be available on menus at Honest Burger, Oowee, Byron Burger, Bill’s and Vurger Co. It said it also had plans to expand its European partnership with Burger King over the coming months.
“Our goal is to unite everyone at the same table, no matter their dietary preferences, with a product that is not a compromise for anyone,” said CEO and co-founder Nicholas Schweitzer. “I am confident this mind-blowing bacon is the best way to do just that.
“We are thrilled to have finally arrived in the UK, where we’ve been continuously requested ever since we revealed our plant-based bacon a year ago,” he claimed.
“We are going to do everything we can to make sure there is consumer demand so that our position in the UK is sustainable and we can grow the category instead of taking market share from anybody,” added Jolivet. “The big picture is that 1.8 billion bacon rashers are consumed in the UK each year.”
La Vie launched in 2021 and has since made headlines in France when the pork lobby attempted to implement a labelling ban citing unfair competition and attacking the brand for creating a product that was too similar to pork.
An excerpt from a cease and desist letter attributed to France’s “Industrial Charcuterie Lobby” by La Vie accused the brand of creating a product that was indistinguishable from the real thing, adding: “You simply reproduce the shape, colour, texture, … and the taste of traditional bacon lardons.”
Previously known as 77 Foods – La Vie has also attracted more than €25m in funding this year with notable investors including actor Natalie Portman.
Looking to the future, it is planning a big national marketing campaign at the end of October to “convert” more consumers.
Jolivet added that La Vie intended to launch more pork alternatives, with plans for a new plant-based ham in the works for the start of 2023.