Bean butchers: Capitalizing on the hunger for plant-based “meat"
In many ways, The Very Good Butchers in Victoria, B.C., seems like a typical deli and restaurant. Diners at the rustic wooden tables chow down on burgers, sandwiches and barbequed ribs. In front of two large glass cases, customers peruse a selection of sausage rolls, pepperoni and cheeses. And behind the counter, co-founder Mitchell Scott works a large meat slicer, shaving a few hundred grams of roast beef for the next person in line.
But look closer and you’ll do a double-take. Everything here is 100 per cent vegan.
Vegetarians and carnivores alike can’t get enough of the plant-based “meat” products made from beans, barley, beetroot and other organic ingredients. “We did $850,000 in sales in our first year, which is pretty nuts,” says Scott.
What started as sold-out Saturdays at the farmers’ market on sleepy Denman Island soon became a bustling permanent location in the Victoria Public Market. Opening day drew more than 1,000 people, while their online store has been overwhelmed with orders. Today, they’ve got a waiting list of 60+ restaurants and grocery stores eager to carry their product.
That kind of demand is exciting, but Scott knows that growing too fast can kill a company. He worries about financing expansion, hiring good staff, ramping up production in a way that doesn’t compromise quality, developing the right management systems and more.
For support, The Very Good Butchers turned to Bioenterprise. The agri-tech accelerator provided funding for a partnership with a co-packer in Vancouver to expand production and distribution. They also helped Scott polish his presentation for VANTEC’s Funding Food Program pitch event — sponsored by Bioenterprise — where investors offered him close to $250,000 in soft commitments.
Looking ahead, Scott plans to tap Bioenterprise’s market research expertise as he opens a second location and a bigger production facility in Vancouver. “They seem to have a lot of expertise in all areas that we’re interested in right now,” he says. “Fundraising, food science, larger-scale manufacturing — they seem to either have direct experience or know somebody that does.”
In April, Scott took his pitch, some samples and a few T-shirts emblazoned with their “Bertie the Butchered Bean” mascot to Toronto to film an episode of Dragons’ Den. Although he can’t reveal the results until the episode airs next season, one thing is certain: whether any Dragons bought in or not, the future is looking very good for The Very Good Butchers.