Natalie Portman-Backed La Vie Is Taking over Large Pork With Vegan Ham

Backed by actress Natalie Portman, French startup La Vie first gained recognition for its vegan bacon. After solely 18 months in operation, La Vie now sells one vegan meat product each 12 seconds. 

For its subsequent product, La Vie just lately unveiled a plant-based ham designed to rework the traditional French jambon beurre sandwich. This transfer is critical given the cultural significance of the jambon beurre in France, the place an official index tracks the recognition of the sandwich, additionally known as “Le Parisien.” 

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With greater than 1.2 billion jambon beurre sandwiches offered yearly in France, La Vie’s new product presents a extra sustainable various to the easy sandwich, which is made solely with a baguette, ham, and butter. 

La Vie’s vegan ham

La Vie spent 4 years creating its plant-based ham, which is primarily made up of 90 p.c pea protein and contains solely seven components. In contrast to conventional hams, this model is devoid of nitrites, substances the World Well being Group has related to most cancers dangers. 

Nutritionally, a single serving of La Vie’s ham presents 19.5 grams of protein and a mere 0.7 grams of saturated fats, in comparison with 21 grams of protein and 1 gram of saturated fats present in typical French ham.

“And better of all, it doesn’t hurt a hair on a pig’s ear,” La Vie introduced on social media. “We’re the c-HAM-pions, my buddy.”

La Vie’s new ham—out there in each smoked and plain varieties—has been on the cabinets of a number of main French grocery store chains for a short while and has already acquired a positive shopper response, with many lauding its shut resemblance to its animal-derived counterpart. 

It’s at present out there in French retailers Intermarche, Leclerc, Tremendous U, Auchamps, and Cora, and the corporate has a watch on additional growth.

France pushes again on plant-based meat

La Vie is shaking up the established order in France, a area recognized for its meat- and cheese-heavy delicacies. 

Final yr, La Vie’s vegan bacon was added to the menu at 550 Burger King places throughout France, because of a customer-driven marketing campaign. A tweet from a patron named Julien lamented the absence of vegan bacon in Burger King’s plant-based Veggie Steakhouse burger. Responding to this name, La Vie engaged in a week-long marketing campaign, together with an advert within the Parisian newspaper Le Parisien

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The marketing campaign was successful and early this yr, landed La Vie’s vegan bacon on Burger King menus in the UK as a part of three plant-based bacon cheeseburgers. 

Nonetheless, La Vie’s victories haven’t been with out main challenges. That’s as a result of it’s working in a local weather the place the French authorities is looking for to ban using meat-related phrases for plant-based merchandise. This proposed regulation comes with the assist of native farmers and the meat business in France.

Final fall, La Vie discovered itself in a skirmish with the French pork foyer, which accused the startup of “unfair competitors” because of the similarities between its vegan bacon and conventional pork lardons. In response, La Vie launched a spirited social media marketing campaign. 

“The pork foyer has given us discover for ‘unfair competitors’ as our vegetable lardons precisely mimic ‘genuine’ pork lardons,” the corporate wrote on social media. “Sure, they do. We take into account it the best type of praise, receipt acknowledged.” 

This battle over labeling has just lately resurfaced. Final month, France’s agriculture ministry issued a decree to suggest a ban on 21 meat-related phrases, akin to “steak,” “ham,” and “fillet,” getting used to label plant-based merchandise. 

A second record of 120 phrases—akin to “bacon,” “pastrami,” and “sausage”—will likely be allowed however with a stipulation that they be produced from a mixture of vegetation and animals, with the plant protein ranges restricted to a sure threshold. 

Notably, the phrase “burger” was not on the record of phrases. That is after a 2020 vote by Members of Parliament of the European Union (EU) to reject Modification 165, a proposed ban on phrases akin to “burgers” and “sausages” on merchandise that don’t comprise animal meat. 

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Client advocates argue that these adjustments are pointless, stating that customers are totally conscious of what they’re shopping for once they go for plant-based alternate options. Stateside, pioneering model The Tofurky Firm has efficiently challenged comparable laws on the bottom that it interfered with the corporate’s company free speech rights, protected by the First Modification. 

If the proposed rules go, La Vie and different plant-based corporations could have three months to conform.

Constructing the world’s largest pork firm

Whereas the battle over plant-based meat continues in France, La Vie is shifting full steam forward to develop its plant-based meats.

In January, La Vie secured €25 million ($26.9 million) in a Sequence A funding spherical to fund its development and worldwide growth, together with into the USA. The corporate just lately initiated a €1 million ($1.1 million) crowdfunding effort on CrowdCube that can run via September 28.  La Vie goals to be worthwhile by 2026 and the crowdfunding is part of a bigger, yet-to-be-disclosed funding spherical.

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Presently, La Vie’s vegan meat merchandise are offered at 4,600 retailers and provided on the menu at 3,000 eating places throughout Europe, together with within the UK the place its vegan bacon is obtainable at main retailer Sainsbury’s as a part of a BLT. 

La Vie can be gearing as much as launch a digital restaurant, with objects akin to vegan bacon burgers and sandwiches out there for supply first throughout France earlier than increasing to different areas. The corporate’s final purpose? 

“To change into by 2050 the biggest pork meat model on planet Earth, with out hurting a fly,” it states.

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