How fast-growing plant-based food and drink firms are leading Yorkshire's economy

Yorkshire is famously the home of steel, iron and textiles, but now a new industry is taking over in God’s Country – plant-based food and drink.

From Leeds to Bubwith to Ossett to Bedale, there are a wealth of plant-based businesses taking the leap into this fast growing industry.

Yorkshire plant-based brands such as Meatless Farm, Mighty, Over the Spoon, Northern Bloc, Plant and Bean, VFC and Heck are bringing significant investment to the area. They have raised millions of pounds in investment – a boost for the companies and a boost for the Yorkshire economy.

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Plant-based promoters are saying this is great news for Yorkshire and its relatively new but rapidly growing brands.

Mighty was founded by Yorkshire brothers Tom and Nick Watkins and has secured £4.5m as part of its European expansion.

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This was one of the main drivers behind a £1.3m investment for dairy free desserts brand, Over the Spoon.

Over the Spoon’s UK managing director, Tim Wild, said: “The free-from chilled desserts category rises 25 per cent year-on-year.

“Appealing to dairy consumers is critical to growing the category. We are changing our brand to broaden our appeal beyond dairy free and vegan audiences.”

Plant-based meat alternatives brand Meatless Farm has raised significant investment since launching in 2018, including its recent crowdfunding round.

It has also expanded its product range and, like Over the Spoon, operates in markets beyond the UK, taking a piece of the Yorkshire pie to other nations.

Plant milk brand Mighty secured £4.5m as part of its European expansion and to launch the next generation of plant milk MLKology in the UK in January.

The firms insist that the move abroad has not removed these brands from their Yorkshire roots.

The investment in state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities at their Yorkshire bases is testament to the companies’ commitment to staying in the area that helped build them.

Michael Hunter, UK managing director at Meatless Farm, said: “Yorkshire is where Meatless Farm began.

“We’re proud to have grown into a global brand from our office in Leeds. It’s a great place to work and we see Yorkshire as leading the way for the plant-based revolution.”

Yorkshire’s booming plant-based industry is also boosting employment in the county.

This powerhouse of companies shows that the North has all the capabilities of the South for bringing fun, creative and innovative brands to the core of a vibrant county.

It gives younger people a reason to stay in the North rather than losing talent to London. Plus, the expansion of these brands creates roles for many people – from cleaning staff to manufacturing staff to executive level.

In a recent green careers event hosted by Leeds City Council, Mighty’s co-founder Nick Watkins shared his personal journey into an ‘eco’ career.

He said “Having a career that helps rather than hinders the environment doesn’t necessarily look how you’d expect.

“It was great to be part of an event showcasing the opportunities of working in the plant-based industry for Yorkshire’s young people.

“It’s a whole new industry for people to gain purposeful and rewarding employment while giving back to the county’s economy.”

Mighty, Meatless Farm and Over the Spoon employ more than 200 people in Yorkshire and growth of the plant-based industry has the potential to create hundreds of more jobs in the future.

Plant-based food tends to have a much lower environmental footprint so they can help Yorkshire with its green credentials too – both for business and for the people.

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James Mitchinson