Agribusiness Harvest Road, part of Andrew Forrest’s Tattarang, has invested in commercial scale plant-based pioneer ProForm Foods.
ProForm Foods CEO Matt Dunn told Food & Drink Business the investment gives Harvest Road a minority stake in the company and will accelerate its next growth phase, assist its existing production facilities, and strengthen its focus on using locally sourced ingredients.
“We started a capital raise mid 2021 with the objective of getting a key strategic investor on the register.
“Capital markets are aggressive in this space, but we were focused on a sustainable growth strategy to build domestically and overseas. To do that we needed to get the right investor onboard committed to our short-, medium-, and long-term goals,” Dunn said.
ProForm was established in the early 2000s by Dunn’s father Stephen with the intention of producing nutritious plant-based protein at scale. It has been supplying some of Australia’s largest food companies for the better part of a decade.
Last year it opened a new 1600 square metre facility with its patented processing method that can produce 5000 tonnes of plant-based meat every year. It also launched its first own retail brand, MEET.
Dunn said Harvest Road’s principles aligned to those of ProForm and its business strategy and it could see ProForm was a premium investment.
“They have seen the milestones we’ve hit in the last twelve months – getting our products into Hello Fresh meal offerings, and in particular, our successful move into a fresh retail range as well as our original frozen products. That was incredibly validating for us. We presented a product that had good shelf life, presented well, still met our high Health Star Ratings and tastes good.
“We were a good proposition for them for them to invest in from a technology, capability, and brand perspective,” Dunn said.
Harvest Road CEO Paul Slaughter said the investment was part of the company’s commitment to high quality and environmentally sustainable food companies that prioritise Australian provenance.
“Sustainable food production that meets the growing global demand for protein is a challenge we must all rise to, and we recognise the opportunity to invest in Australian innovators who are ahead of the game in the development of high-quality, plant-based protein sources,” Slaughter said.
ProForm uses around 70 per cent of Australian ingredients but has said from its launch that it wanted to raise that to 100 per cent as the local industry matures.
A major challenge for the Australian plant-based meat industry has been a lack of domestic processing and therefore supply of protein inputs, although investment has ramped up in the last two years.
While a lack of local demand for Australian-made inputs made investment in the sector harder to justify, regional demand for 100 per cent Australian ingredients and produced is providing the business case, Dunn said.
“Covid supply chain issues have been challenging for everyone, which translates into pricing increases and inflation, so it starts to make sense to produce locally,” he said.
For ProForm, R&D on protein inputs and the functionality of ingredients in its products is pushing the business to the next level of innovation.
Dunn said they would be looking to proceed with another capital raise to deliver further growth.
“At the moment we believe we’re ahead of the game in terms of commercialised in the market technology, but we want to maintain that and stay at the forefront.”
You can listen to our 2021 podcast episode with Matt Dunn here.