The man credited with inventing the veggie wiener in the mid-1980s has a new venture that is exciting investors.
This is despite the past five years being a roller-coaster ride filled with giddiness and disappointment for executives in the plant-based food sector.
Yves Potvin, who founded Yves Veggie Cuisine and, later, Gardein, has founded and is president at Konscious Foods, which closed a $26-million seed-financing round that saw Protein Industries Canada, Zynik Capital, Walter Group and others participate.
Konscious Foods makes and sells plant-based seafoods. That includes sushi rolls, onigiri stuffed rice snacks and poke bowls, which are sold at retailers across the U.S. and Canada, such as Whole Foods Market. The company aims to have products for sale in more than 4,500 stores by the end of 2023.
Potvin told BIV this afternoon that he founded the company in January 2021, and was able to get into so many stores so fast because of contacts made from past businesses, his products have won awards and innovation in the plant-food category, given that there is little competition for seafood.
Konscious Foods intends to use its new capital to grow its retail and food-service businesses as well as to fund operations at a Vancouver production facility.
“This investment validates our excitement about the demand – and critical need – for seafood made from plants,” Potvin said in a statement.
“With the rising demand for fish, and subsequent overfishing crisis, we feel it is crucial to have better-for-you, better-for-the-world seafood options that don’t sacrifice taste or texture. The funds will allow us to focus on sales and marketing efforts as we expand distribution across North America and continue our goal of making sustainable, delicious plant-based food widely accessible.”
Zynik Capital chairman Iqbal Kassam hailed Konscious Foods' product quality and said that his company invested in the venture in part because of Potvin.
“This financing round is also a testament to Yves Potvin’s vision and track record," he said. "Yves is a true pioneer in the food industry and we are so proud to partner with him and the other investors.”
Many industry insiders envisage plant-based products eroding meat and dairy sales around the world, leading to a future where protein alternatives are widespread, and consumers’ carbon footprints are slashed.
Investors, however, have proven skittish, forcing some companies to retrench to survive, while others descend into receivership.
The Supreme Court of British Columbia issued an order in mid-January that put Vancouver's The Very Good Food Co. in receivership.
Los Angeles-based Beyond Meat (NYSE:BYND) created a sensation in 2018, when it struck a deal to sell its beef-like patties to A&W Canada. Other fast-food-restaurant chains, such as Fatburger Canada, started to stock Beyond Meat burgers in addition to longtime veggie-burger offerings.
Beyond Meat competitor Impossible Foods made headway in 2019 when it partnered with Burger King to launch sales for Impossible Whoppers across the U.S.
Fortunes for those companies have waned.
Beyond Meat went public in May 2019 and investors bid shares up more than 850 per cent to nearly US$240 each. Shares then traded at around US$58 during the March 2020 pandemic sell-off, and closed trading today at US$12.43.
Some B.C.-based plant-based food manufacturers – Big Mountain Foods, No Meat Factory, Wamame and Daiya Foods – have executives excited about future growth.