Wicked kitchen_INNOVATION1

Revolution Kitchen supplied Tesco with meat alternatives for the Wicked Kitchen range

Samworth Brothers is exploring the closure of its lossmaking plant-based Revolution Kitchen business, putting hundreds of jobs at risk in another blow for the embattled meat alternatives category, The Grocer can reveal.

The food manufacturing giant has entered into consultation with 169 staff at the Melton Mowbray factory where the group makes plant-based own-label products for the supermarkets, including for Tesco’s Wicked Kitchen and Plant Chef ranges.

Samworth cited a declining market and referenced several other suppliers exiting the category as reasons for the move, in an announcement – seen by The Grocer – from Lee Sullivan, MD of the protein division.

“It is with regret that we are beginning a formal consultation with our colleagues regarding the potential closure of Revolution Kitchen in Melton Mowbray,” the statement said.

“Unfortunately, the market in which Revolution Kitchen operates in is in decline and several other suppliers have already exited the market due to this.

“In addition, despite significant financial investment and the commitment and hard work of everyone, Revolution Kitchen has continued to make significant losses, and this is not sustainable for the group.

“We understand this announcement will be difficult for our colleagues at Revolution Kitchen.”

Samworth expected the consultation process to take “at least” 45 days to complete.

The group added it would look to redeploy some of the affected staff to its other Leicestershire factories if it decided to shutter Revolution Kitchen.

“I realise that this is a significant piece of news and we have thought carefully about this course of action,” Sullivan added.

“However, we must recognise that despite significant financial investment and great commitment from the Revolution Kitchen team, we do not believe it is possible to make Revolution Kitchen sustainable for the future.”

The move follows a turbulent period for the once fast-growing plant-based category, with Meatless Farm and Plant & Bean collapsing into administration in June – with both subsequently acquired by VFC and Heather Mills respectively.

Nestlé also pulled back from the category and dropped its UK plant-based Garden Gourmet and Wunda brands in March, with sausage maker Heck also scaling back its meat-free range.

Samworth opened the Melton Mowbray factory and launched Revolution Kitchen in 2020.

It was an original supplier partner for US-based Wicked Kitchen as the latter developed a range of plant-based products exclusively for Tesco.

Wicked Kitchen CEO Pete Speranza said: “As Wicked Kitchen continues to grow in the UK, as well as in other markets globally, we don’t anticipate any interruption in our UK supply chain at this time. We look forward to expanding our brand presence at additional retailers in the UK with our craveable fresh, frozen and shelf stable plant-based offerings.”

Revolution Kitchen also works with Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s, as well as supplying Quorn, Cauldron and This, and developed products for Samworth brands, including Ginsters and Higgidy.

Samworth also launched The Flavourists plant-based brand in 2022, offering recipe kits and ingredients.

The group doesn’t break down sales for the business in its annual report, but for the 2021/22 year it said it had continued to invest in Revolution Kitchen and called it “an exciting time” for the business.

“We very much regret that we are consulting with colleagues regarding the potential closure of our Revolution Kitchen site in Pate Road, Melton Mowbray,” said a Samworth Brothers spokeswoman today in an official statement.

“No decisions have been made as yet. In the event of a closure, it is hoped there will be opportunities for a good number of individuals to redeploy to one of our many other sites in the Leicestershire area.”