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Entrepreneurs: Allplants makes frozen meals to save the planet - and has just bagged £38 million

·4-min read
Allplants cofounder and CEO Jonathan Petrides (Allplants)
Allplants cofounder and CEO Jonathan Petrides (Allplants)

Venture deep into an industrial estate on Blackhorse Lane, past the catering supplies vans promising 100% beef and cheesy pizzas, and you get to a very different business: Allplants.

The five-year-old company makes delicious meat- and dairy-free meals in its industrial kitchen before freezing them and shipping them around the country. Almost 100,000 people get Allplants’s frozen meals. Customers can choose from 150 options — everything from healthy breakfast bowls and smoothies to tikka masala and fake “chicken” katsu curry. Orders start at £40 for six dishes.

Today Allplants is announcing a £38 million cash injection to help it fuel growth. It is planning to scale up its kitchen as much as six times to get more dishes on plates as demand soars.

Starting this business in 2021 would be obvious: meat consumption is declining thanks to health- and planet- conscious consumers. Alternatives like Beyond Meat and Impossible make it easier than ever to give up.

But a plant-based diet was far from an obvious winner when founder Jonathan Petrides and his brother Alex set the company up in 2016. Back then, Jonathan found himself constantly defending his food choices at dinner parties and skipping meals due to a lack of options. He was ahead of the curve — the world has caught up.

Allplants CEO Jonathan Petrides in the company’s development kitchen (Allplants)
Allplants CEO Jonathan Petrides in the company’s development kitchen (Allplants)

You might have noticed I have used the word vegan yet. That’s deliberate. Petrides isn’t a fan. “The ‘v’ word gets people’s backs up,” he says when we sit down at the Blackhorse Road kitchen-come-office. Allplants uses the term “plant curious”. A typical customer skips meat and dairy a few times a week, either for health or climate reasons.

Petrides is vegan but wasn’t always: “I ate as many burgers, kebabs and steaks as I could get my hands on.”

What started his journey to giving up was dating his now wife, who didn’t eat meat. The Netflix documentary Cowspiracy, which details the climate impact of the meat and dairy industries, tipped him over the edge.

Animal agriculture has “no future” in the net-zero future we’re moving into, Petrides says, but knew that he couldn’t build a business just by slamming meat.

“You can’t sit there bashing people over the head with a placard,” he says. “It all starts with taste.”

And how does it taste? Udon noodles in teriyaki sauce are pillowy and unctuous, as if they’ve just been pulled from boiling water rather than my oven. A thick slice of Portobello mushroom chews like good steak. Who knew saving the planet could taste so good?

An Allplants delivery (Allplants)
An Allplants delivery (Allplants)

Petrides began his career at McKinsey but junked it in after a few years to go to Africa. “I quit McKinsey on Monday and flew to Nairobi on Tuesday,” he says.

There followed several years setting up businesses helping the poor access banking and healthcare. Both are still running.

He returned to London in 2013 and bounced around looking for his next business. After several “harebrained” ideas, the light bulb finally went off in 2015 when he realised how hard it was to get a decent meal as a vegan.

Petrides bootstrapped Allplants, spending the first half a year cooking up test recipes in his kitchen at home. He funded these experiments with project work at big corporations like Morrisons or HSBC.

Eventually, after a series of successful supper clubs, he and his brother realised it was time to go all in. The pair put in life savings, about £40,000 each. They launched properly in time for Veganuary in 2017 and sold 1000 meals in a month. They knew they were on to something.

Allplants went on to raise seed funding months later and venture capital money followed, but Petrides is scathing of the VC industry in general.

“I think most of venture is f***** up — I don’t agree with it. The unchecked pursuit of just pure profit is what’s got us on the precipice of climate disaster.”

Allplants is a B Corp, meaning it’s legally bound to maximise not just profits but a balance of people, planet and profit. He consciously sought out investors like Octopus and Felix Capital who were on board for his vision of company that would do all three. Draper Esprit, a listed venture capital firm, led the latest funding round.

Supermarkets and takeaway delivery apps are “beating our door down”, Petrides says, as veganism and meat-free days become more common. But Allplants is sticking to its direct model for now, which lets the company hear from customers about what dishes they’d like to see or how to tweak recipes.

Petrides sees Allplants as a business that will take decades of his life to build — that’s intentional. “You’re on the verge of failure every day,” he says of starting a business. “If you don’t have that deep personal reason, I don’t know how you can survive.”

Allplants

Founded: 2016

Staff: 170

Turnover: £6.8 million in 2020, on track for more than £15 million this year

Headquarters: Angel, N1

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