Heather Mills’s vegan food business, VBites, has collapsed into administration after failing to secure fresh funding amid rising cost pressures.
The entrepreneur and former model, who founded the company in 1993, said the collapse was “extremely distressing” and had been forced upon her by a “combination of corporate greed and poor management, the cost of living crisis, price rises in the global ingredients and utilities markets, and the current state of the manufacturing economy in Britain”.
The former wife of Sir Paul McCartney added: “Brexit has been an utter disaster for the supply and maintenance of the sector and the government doubtless has a lot to answer for.
“So do the opportunistic utility companies and their broker networks, that through an array of nefarious practices now under investigation have hiked up prices so that companies simply cannot afford to operate.”
Mills, who expanded her empire with the 2009 purchase of Redwood Wholefood for an undisclosed sum, said that although she “offered every solution I feasibly could to keep it going, sadly, VBites ultimately fell victim to the galvanised misinformation currently being undertaken by the meat and dairy industries as well as the corporate greed in our market”.
In a lengthy statement, Mills said she and her team had put “blood, sweat, and tears” into the business over 30 years for “the sole purpose of furthering the plant-based movement”.
“This is extremely distressing for me on a personal level but also for my wonderfully loyal and hard-working staff,” she said. “My team and I have undertaken 30 years of product creation and evolution as well as personally investing tens of millions of pounds into the business and offering every solution I feasibly could to keep it going, but sadly mine and my staff’s efforts have been thwarted by a demand that I stepped away from day to day management, in order to secure essential investment.”
VBites, which operates from two manufacturing sites, one in Peterlee, County Durham, and the other in Corby, Northamptonshire, on Monday appointed Interpath Advisory as administrators.
The administrators said they would continue to trade from the site in Peterlee while they sought a buyer. They said 29 members of staff based at the Peterlee site had been retained, as well as 25 at the Corby site to fulfil outstanding orders. However, 24 employees across the business have been made redundant.
James Clark, the joint administrator and managing director at Interpath, said: “VBites is one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of vegan food products but unfortunately, and in common with many other companies across the food manufacturing sector, had seen trading impacted by rising commodity and energy prices.
“Our immediate priority is to provide support and assistance to those employees impacted by redundancy, as well as seeking a buyer for the business and its assets. We would encourage any interested parties to make contact with us at the earliest opportunity.”