Administrators are racing to find a new buyer for Heather Mills’ vegan brand VBites before a Christmas deadline following its collapse into administration.

The supplier called in Interpath Advisory as administrators on Monday after failing to attract new funding amid cost pressures.

Interpath is running an accelerated sales process for the company and its assets. If no rescue deal is secured by 24 December, it is understood the company will be wound down.

Interpath said it would keep the company’s manufacturing site in Peterlee operational while it sought a buyer.

However, VBites’ two factories are not thought to be included in the sales process as they are operated on a leased basis. The sales process instead focuses on the VBites brand and manufacturing equipment.

Founded in 1993, VBites has been one of the leading manufacturers and wholesalers of plant-based meat and cheese in the UK – operating from two sites in Peterlee, County Durham and Corby, Northamptonshire.

At the Peterlee site, 29 members of staff have been retained by administrators to assist them with trading, while 25 employees at Corby have been retained to deal with the fulfilment of outstanding orders.

However, 24 employees across the business have been made redundant.

Interpath said VBites had experienced increased pressure on cashflow due to the impact of rising raw material costs and energy prices, as well as a softening of demand for alternative protein products.

As a result, the business’ directors sought additional funding, but were unable to secure the requisite investment and were “left with no option but to seek the appointment of administrators”.

On social media, founder Heather Mills said she was “devastated” by the collapse of the business. “This is extremely distressing for me on a personal level but also for my wonderfully loyal and hard-working staff.”

She said she had personally invested “tens of millions of pounds” into the business and “offered every solution I feasibly could to keep it going”, but that efforts to save the business were “thwarted by a demand that I stepped away from day to day management, in order to secure essential investment”.

She also pointed the finger at “galvanised and well-funded marketing of misinformation currently being undertaken by the meat and dairy industries” for damaging the prospects of plant-based competitors.

“The plant based industry needs to take a lead from the dairy industry in unifying its voice but as a force for good and promotion of the facts - as opposed to a litany of lies and misinformation,” she said.

VBites becomes the latest high-profile vegan and meat substitute brand to have run into financial difficulties as growth of the category slowed post-Covid.

Meatless Farm was rescued in a pre-pack acquisition of by VFC Foods in June, while VBites founder Heather Mills acquired the assets of vegan supplier Plant & Bean out of administration in July.

Mills previously sold a minority stake in VBites to the German multinational owner of Intersnack, Pfeifer & Langen, for an undisclosed sum in December 2021.

“VBites is one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of vegan food products but unfortunately, and in common with many other companies across the food manufacturing sector, had seen trading impacted by rising commodity and energy prices,” said James Clark, joint administrator and MD at Interpath Advisory.

“Our immediate priority is to provide support and assistance to those employees impacted by redundancy, as well as seeking a buyer for the business and its assets. We would encourage any interested parties to make contact with us at the earliest opportunity.”