Hassle-free healthy eating: Australia’s v2food eyes new avenues of growth through acquisition of ready meals brand

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

v2food has acquired ready meals brand Soulara as part of its portfolio expansion and business growth drivers. ©v2food
v2food has acquired ready meals brand Soulara as part of its portfolio expansion and business growth drivers. ©v2food

Related tags plant-based Ready meals Australia Protein

Australia’s plant-based pioneer v2food is aiming to strengthen its position in the category through the acquisition of ready meals brand Soulara, with portfolio expansion and broadening sales channels as growth drivers.

The acquisition process started in September 2023 and concluded in January this year.
According to Tim York, CEO of v2food, one of the main reasons for this move is the common customer base shared by plant-based and ready meals categories.

“Most of our products are ingredients that go into meals, such as burgers, sausages, mince, crumbed chicken, etc. We’ve been exploring new avenues of growth and one category we are most interested in is ready meals because we see a big overlap with the consumer demographic for plant-based foods.

“Ready meals are typically sold to single-income or ‘dual income, no kids’ households, and consumers in the 20s to 30s age bracket, which are the core demographics interested in plant-based foods. The key motivation for consumers to adopt a plant-based diet is health, while the biggest driver of ready meals is convenience— plant-based ready meals address both, so it made a lot of sense for us [to acquire Soulara],” ​York told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

Soulara is said to be Australia’s leading vegetable-forward ready meals brand, with its products delivered across the country. It offers a variety of meal subscription plans, as well as a range of snacks and beverages.

With the acquisition, v2food will be incorporating its plant-based meat products into Soulara’s vegetable-based offerings, thereby building a more comprehensive line-up and extending its reach to a broader audience.

“Some of the barriers to getting consumers to eat plant-based food include the perception that it may not taste good, and concerns about not knowing how to cook it. By adding Soulara to our portfolio, we can further demonstrate how easy and delicious meat reduction can be.  

“From a revenue perspective, we expect good synergies from bringing the two brands together. We are also very excited about going beyond supermarkets and food service. This additional direct-to-consumer (DTC) channel allows us to engage directly with customers, which we believe will help accelerate and amplify the adoption of plant-based foods.”

Currently, v2food is available in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore, with plans to venture into the UK.

The new range of Soulara ready meals containing v2food’s products are expected to be launched within the next three to six months. At the moment, these are planned solely for the Australian market.

“v2food is the largest plant-based meat company in Australia, and we aim to speed up [growth] to gain a bigger lead on the competition in this market. We also have aspirations to enter the UK, and to continue growing our Asian business.

“We are always looking at growth opportunities. If acquiring a company makes more sense than growing organically, we would look at it,” ​York shared.

Riding protein trend

Besides having its own science and technology unit, v2food works with several universities and research organisations in Australia and Europe for product development. It also boasts a team of in-house chefs who craft its ready meals range.

Following the acquisition, the firm will double down on innovating across a spectrum of eastern and western cuisines.

“The number one reason why people are wanting to eat plant-based food is because of the health aspect. Particularly for ready meals, protein seems to be a call-out that really communicates to people — the idea that it is good for them and can keep them full. We will be looking at how we can put more protein content into our plant-based ready meals to leverage that,” ​York added.

At the same time, v2food has expanded its portfolio to include MACROS, a fitness-focused ready meals DTC brand whose products are made of seafood, beef, chicken as well as plant-based ingredients.

Its line-up consists of more than 45 meals across 15 cuisines, catering to a wide range of taste preferences and health goals.

“MACROS’ dietitian-designed meals use only the best ingredients to ensure maximum nutrition and flavour. We will continue to utilise different proteins in the recipes, while also looking at incorporating more plant-based ingredients.”

Slow but steady

Despite acknowledging “slowing growth” in the past few years, York remains optimistic about the long-term prospects of the plant-based category.

“Although there seems to be more of a contraction in the North American market, the major players from two to three years ago are still around. We are also seeing growth in Asia and Europe. We expect the category to become a sizeable part of the protein supply chain in future, but it is going to take time.”

In addition, York observed that among the many brands that entered the plant-based space in Australia since 2020, the successful ones have continued to thrive while a fair number have failed.

“Today, retailers are choosing to support the brands that are winning, and v2food is certainly one of those that they are backing. In the last financial year, our business in Australia grew at about 50%.

“The recipe for success is not a secret. The brands that are winning are the ones that taste best, deliver the best value proposition to consumers, and are healthy and convenient. Specifically, we’ve always tried to position v2food as a plant-based brand that is priced the same as animal protein.”

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