Plant-based meats venture ProForm Foods in voluntary administration

- May 30, 2024 3 MIN READ
Matt Dunn
ProForm Foods CEO Matt Dunn. Photo: Wes Neal
The end of the alternative proteins gold rush has claimed another victim with one of the pioneers in the space, ProForm, the makers of “Meet” being placed in voluntary administration, despite the backing of billionaire Andrew Forrest.

KPMG Australia’s Gayle Dickerson and James Dampney were appointed voluntary administrators of Proform Food Group Pty Ltd and three related subsidiaries on May 22. The first meeting of creditors is being held today, May 30, in Sydney.

ProForm Foods is run by former Olympic medals-winning swimmer Matt Dunn. His father and Vogel Cereals founder Stephen Dunn, established the business in 2008, having developed the product with support from CSIRO. ProForm’s best known for the Meet brand, as well as Protein Plate, and Bad Hunter.

Production and trading continues under KPMG and MEET’s plant-based faux beef mince and burgers, and ‘chicken-free” tenders remain on supermarket shelves.

Fortescue boss Andrew Forrest backed Sydney plant-based proteins company in 2021 via Tattarang’s agri-food venture Harvest Road in 2021 in a deal believed to be worth $5 million, amid ambitions for international growth.

The year before ProForm opened an $11 million manufacturing facility for plant-based meats in northern Sydney, having  invested more than $20 million in developing its plant-based meat products to replicate the taste and texture of the real thing. 

KPMG restructuring partner James Dampney said the business will operate as normal as they do their assessment

 “Proform is a well-established business in a sector with compelling medium term growth prospects,” he said

“Our focus will be on maintaining normal operations whilst commencing an expedited sale of business process. We will be working with all stakeholders, including employees, suppliers and customers, to maximise the outcome for all parties.”

While plant-based proteins were seen as a hot new startup opportunity over the last five years, led by another billionaire-backed business, v2food, a joint venture before Hungry Jacks founder Jack Cowin and federal science agency CSIRO, the sector’s popularity has plunged as quickly as its star rose.

While there’s no shortage of competitors in the space, adoption on the family table has been modest, with plant-based meat sales in Australia worth $272.5 million in 2023 at 47% increase over 4 years for a compound average growth rate of 14% since FY2020 according to Food Frontier’s 2023 State of the Industry  report.

v2food raised hundreds of millions – most recently a  $72 million second series B for global expansion in mid 2021, also counting Europe’s largest impact investment fund, Astanor Ventures, John B. Fairfax’s Marinya Capital, Sequoia Capital China and Singapore’s state-owned Temasek Holding among its backers alongside CSIRO-backed Main Sequence Ventures.

But the business changed strategy last year following the departure of its CEO and founder, Nick Hazell, and plans for a $20 million production plant on the NSW-Victorian border were scrapped.

Late last year plant-based meat brands merged when All G Foods spun out its Love Buds brand to team up with vEEF by Fenn Foods to create a merged entity, the Aussie Plant Based Co.

Both are stocked by Woolworths, with Love Buds producing plant-based mince, burgers, sausages, arancini and chicken nuggets, while vEEF’s frozen range spans imitation pulled pork and beef to brisket and steak, chicken pieces, burgers and schnitzels, and bacon bits.

The Sydney-based alternative proteins startup  raised A $16 million Seed round in 2021 from backers including the Clean Energy Innovation Fund, Ellerston Capital, and Andrews Meats CEO Peter Andrews. Then in early 2022, the Woolies VC fund, W23, tipped “a further multi-million injection of capital” into All G.

A rare continued success in the space is Michael Fox’s Fable Food Co. with the former Shoes of Prey founder recently announcing that his products, made from shiitake mushrooms, will be served in the UK-based Asian restaurant chain Wagamama across four dishes, including a pulled shiitake koyo bowl.