Natalie Portman is Investing in Vegan Bacon: Here’s Why
Ever since Natalie Portman announced her Instagram hiatus last year, we’ve desperately missed her vegan recipes. Through the entire COVID-19 quarantine, the acclaimed actress shared recipes over IGTV with her fans, hoping to destigmatize plant-based dieting with a little optimism. Portman stepped away from Instagram, leaving fans waiting for more vegan tips and tricks, but the Oscar-winning actress is still highly active in the vegan movement.
Portman recently helped secure a record-breaking investment for the French vegan company La Vie, formerly known as 77 foods. The company, which specializes in plant-based pork, just closed its Series A funding round with $28.3 million. The investment package marks the largest funding round in the French alternative protein category. Currently, the food-tech start-up is exclusively available at Carrefour across France but intends to expand following the successful funding round.
La Vie aims to expand its production and distribution capacity through the next year, announcing that it plans to rapidly expand within France, Europe, and the UK. Eventually, the brand hopes to bring its plant-based bacon and lardons to the United States market.
Since 2019, the vegan brand has worked to develop a recipe that properly mimics the taste, texture, and most importantly, the preparation of conventional bacon products. The founders Nicolas Schweitzer and Vincent Poulichet officially unveiled its plant-based pork last October, featuring a recipe containing soy, konjac, and sunflower oil. Schweitzer claims that he and Poulichet are “the only ones in the world today to have succeeded in developing a vegetable fat that cooks, fries, infuses and browns.”
France’s Historic Investment Round
Alongside Portman, the historic investment round enlisted the financial support of several prominent names in the plant-based industry. Led by the Paris-based venture capital firm Seventure, La Vie received investments from Oatly chairman Eric Melloul, BlablaCar CEO Frederic Mazzella, Back Market CEO Thibaud Hug de Larauze, and Vinted CEO Thomas Lodewijk Plantenga.
“It is essential to switch to plant-based food and I am convinced that technological innovation has a key role to play in encouraging consumers—even the most reluctant—to make the switch,” Plantenga said. “The La Vie team has created a delicious recipe and a unique brand that will make plant-based meat so appealing that it will become the norm in our societies.”
The high-profile investors signify the potential for La Vie’s plant-based pork and general interest in the alternative protein category. The plant-based protein market is expected to rise 451 percent by 2030, and one of the industry’s leading categories is pork. Alternative pork is expected to grow at a 24 percent CAGR within the next decade, fueling investor interest worldwide. As sustainability becomes a primary concern for consumers and investors, companies including La Vie will flourish as plant-based pioneers.
“La Vie is a UFO that aligns 100% business and impact,” de Larauze said. “It has the capacity to massively reduce the CO2 emissions of the food industry without requiring the slightest compromise from the consumer, quite the contrary! "
La Vie’s latest funding round also accompanies a food renaissance happening within France as well. The meat-and-cheese-dominated country is shifting towards a plant-based cuisine. Last year, Environmental Minister Barbara Prompili urged French citizens to reduce meat and cheese consumption, planning to remove meat from school lunches at least once a week.
“[About] 15 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and 91 percent of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest are linked to livestock farming,” the minister said last July. “So developing a vegetarian offer means acting for the climate, against deforestation, while giving canteens more room to purchase high-quality, locally produced meat that is better for the environment. Everyone wins.”
Natalie Portman’s Vegan Ventures
Jimmy Fallon featured Portman’s vegan recipes on the Tonight Show during the 2020 quarantine, pleading that she start a plant-based cooking show. While her tutorials have yet to hit the big screen, Portman continues to support and invest in plant-based companies. Portman joined Oatly as an early investor alongside big names including Oprah and Jay-Z, helping push the dairy-free milk company into the mainstream.
Portman also joined John Legend in the vegan leather brand MycoWork’s Series B funding round. The sustainable leather company raised $45 million dollars, closing one of the most successful investment rounds for a vegan leather brand to date.