Strong demand for vegan meals has boosted sales at Quorn Foods, which saw a record 16 per cent rise in global growth in 2017.
The firm, which is based in Stokesley in North Yorkshire, said sales have also been boosted by a sharp increase in “flexitarians” - people who eat a plant-based diet with the occasional addition of meat.
Quorn said sales totalled £205m in 2017 after an “unprecedented” second half.
The sustainable and healthy protein company, which exports globally to 20 different markets, is aiming to become a billion dollar business by 2027.
The group said its billion-dollar ambition is grounded in the fact that many consumers are now choosing to eat less meat for a combination of reasons.
Whilst health is the leading factor, demand is accelerating due to an increased awareness of the environmental impact of meat production. This is leading to a reduction in meat consumption, and in many cases, to a complete shift to vegan diets, underlined by the growing popularity of “Veganuary“ (going vegan in January) which now has more than 115,000 registered followers globally.
Quorn Foods’ CEO Kevin Brennan said: “Around the world we are seeing a significant increase in meat-reduction diets, including both flexitarianism and veganism.
“The vegan trend is something that Quorn Foods is responding to with the launch of more and more vegan products such as Quorn Vegan Chicken-free Slices, Quorn Vegan Hot and Spicy Burger, and Quorn Vegan Fishless Fingers, which are winning around the world.
“Choosing to eat Quorn products is about more than choosing great tasting food. It’s about a mindful choice to care for your and your family’s health, and also for the health of the planet.
“What is exciting for us is that Silicon Valley firms keep talking about what they are going to do, whilst we, a great British innovation, are already delivering it having now served over 4 billion meals since launching in 1985. This further underlines our continued success and how much consumers love our products.”
The results follow a £150m investment in Quorn’s Billingham facility last July.
Quorn said the investment is ongoing and will not only cover the expansion of the company’s existing main manufacturing facility at Billingham, making it the largest facility of its kind globally, but it will also create hundreds of jobs covering construction, operating the new facilities and providing key support services to the site.
Quorn also recently invested £2m in a new CHP plant, in partnership with Veolia, which resulted in a vast improvement in carbon dioxide savings, totalling 2,000 tonnes per year.
“I am extremely proud of our growth, the quality of our foods that underpins that growth and the contribution we are making to the local area,” said Mr Brennan.
“At Quorn Foods we continue to take a long term view and we plan to invest heavily into the meat-free category and maintain double-digit growth rates.”
The firm said investment in international expansion has paid off with strong growth in Europe (up 27 per cent) and beyond.
In the US, the biggest export market for Quorn, growth in the grocery sector accelerated to 35 per cent in 2017.
Quorn Chicken Style Nuggets are the fastest selling product within the meat-free category at US supermarket giant, Kroger.
In addition, Australia saw 35 per cent growth, with Quorn Vegan products the fastest selling in the category.
“This ensures business resilience to the political and economic fallout of any Brexit deal,” said Mr Brennan.