Straight to content

Bridges exits UK plant-based food supplier Vegetarian Express

Written by:
Published: 29 February 2024

UK-based impact investor Bridges Fund Management has announced its second investment exit of 2024, with the sale of a supplier of plant-based foods to private equity firm NVM.

Vegetarian Express is estimated to have saved the equivalent of around 15,000 tonnes of CO2 by replacing meat-based products with plant-based ingredients | Vegetarian Express

Bridges Fund Management has sold its stake in Vegetarian Express, a UK-based trade supplier of plant-based foods and ingredients, to NVM Private Equity

Bridges’ Growth Funds invested £5.6m (€6.5m) in Vegetarian Express in 2016 to take a majority stake, having identified a growth opportunity for a model that helped  reduce carbon emissions by substituting plant-based foods for energy-intensive meat production. 

Bridges did not disclose financial details of the sale, but NVM said separately it was investing £15m in Vegetarian Express, which would be used to support the firm’s expansion into Ireland, improve operational capabilities, strengthen an expanding customer base, and develop its digital offering.

Business at Vegetarian Express was badly hit during the COVID pandemic, but has recovered strongly since, according to Bridges. It now supplies over 1,200 products to more than 3,000 chefs across the UK.

Bridges said Vegetarian Express had more than doubled its revenues since its investment was made and that by replacing meat or dairy products in recipes, it had averted greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to around 15,000 tonnes of CO2.

Impact opportunity

“We invested in Vegetarian Express because we believed there was a clear commercial and impact opportunity in helping consumers reduce their meat consumption by switching to plant-based meals,” Emma Thorne, partner at Bridges, said.

Dave Webster, managing director of Vegetarian Express, said NVM’s backing would enable the company to scale up its output and customer base faster.

During Bridges’ investment period, Vegetarian Express bolstered its management team, developed its own-brand range of products, and  launched an e-commerce platform to reach smaller independent customers. A tool developed by Vegetarian Express to provide chefs with plant-based recipes and provide education has become a key point of engagement with customers, according to Bridges. 

The company, which is now a certified B Corp, has also diversified its customer base geographically away from the south-east of England where it is based, as well as catering to new sectors, including education and hospitality. 

Mauro Biagioni, an investment partner at northeast England-based NVM, described the Vegetarian Express as a “true category specialist, with an  excellent reputation for its extensive range of high-quality authentic products”. 

“ESG is at the heart of the business, and with new investment, a highly experienced management team and its reputation for outstanding customer service, Vegetarian Express is well positioned for considerable future growth,” he said.

The exit is the second to be announced by Bridges recently. In January, it said its Evergreen funding vehicle had completed the sale of AgilityEco, a home decarbonisation business, to M Group Services. That transaction provided a money multiple return of 3.4 times and an internal rate of return of 40% on Evergreen’s original investment.

Share on social media

Latest articles