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Record sales for vegan BOL as more stores sign up and customers step up on their vegetarian pledge | City & Business | Finance

The recent launch of its Power Soups and Shakes and One Pot meals in 2,000 Co-Op stores, “will greatly improve our findability,” says Founder and CEO Paul Brown.

“If all goes according to plan, we will break £2 million in revenue in January alone and make this year our biggest year ever.”

After eight years, the company has grown into a grocery tour-de-force and by 2022 the UK’s fastest growing meat-free brand with tasty crowd pleasers such as Spanish smoky butter bean stew, creamy Japanese Katsu curry and Mediterranean pesto spread.

Following a series of recent innovations devised during lockdown, the 24 nutrition-packed recipes now include breakfast, lunch and dinner, are rich in protein and fiber and are sold in more than 4,000 outlets.

Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Amazon are all part of a distribution mix that now includes growing office and convenience channels, fast and meal pack providers such as HelloFresh and direct-to-consumer.

This year BOL forecasts a £24m turnover as it grows its team, currently 76 per cent female, to 50 and helps create more indirect work for scores through its manufacturing process where ingredients are prepared and then dispatched by outsourced operators in Lincolnshire and the northwest.

Besides the 100 percent plant-based benefits, freshness and variety of ingredients – the Fresh Veg Pots have 16 of them – are other signature strengths.

Among the company’s increasingly health-conscious customers are those looking for a nutritionally complete, convenient meal on the go or post-workout. About 80 percent are flexitarians, a growing group that decides to eat less meat instead of eating no meat at all.

“The cost benefits of going plant-based could save up to £645 a year and the meal replacement category is a huge opportunity, estimated to grow by more than 43 per cent over the next five years,” says Brown.

However, the work involved in coming up with new products is enormous and never more so than for independents starting from scratch – the pre-mix formula for BOL’s protein Power Shake took a year to complete.

The foundation of the company is the ultra-efficient distribution model, supported by a rock-solid digital management system that reaches a broad customer base.

Its creation lies in Brown’s strategic flair and the experience he has gained for Innocent Drinks over 14 years. When Coca Cola acquired it, the exit deal he made enabled him to create BOL.

But after a profitable two years of being 100 percent plant-based, it was close to ruin.

Sales initially fell by 52 percent as supply and production changed and staff were advised to get their resumes ready. However, Brown stuck to his “force for good” mission that has now proven itself.

With an investment of £6 million to date, BOL for Social Purpose is a certified B Corp, reaping the benefits of profound changes in consumer lifestyles and thinking.

As well as a presence in more fridges in the UK, a target this year is to get into high street food service chains, along with on-site contract catering businesses, such as those in the education sector and scaling up online delivery.

Some 67 million servings of fruit and vegetables later, Brown also calculates expansion in the US and Europe, while “global brand” is always on his agenda.