London — Surrounded by some of England’s most fertile farmland, the town of Boston will become Europe’s fake-meat capital next month with the opening of a giant factory making plant-based burgers and sausages.

Plant & Bean’s new factory, the largest in Europe, will eventually churn out 55,000 tonnes a year of alternative protein products. That will provide the faux-meat industry with the scale to narrow the price and quality gap with conventional meat products, according to CEO Edwin Bark.

“We need to reduce the cost and that comes by increasing scale,” Bark said in an interview. “The gap with animal meat is really too big in key markets. You can completely understand that for families to buy plant-based products regularly is still a challenge.”

Alternative-protein demand has boomed in recent years as climate change and health concerns drive consumers to products such as fake burgers or nuggets. The industry has attracted huge venture capital investment, while food giants from McDonald’s to Nestlé are rolling out their own product ranges. Still, sales remain a fraction of the $1.4-trillion global meat market.

Plant & Bean, formerly known as the meat-free division of The Brecks Company, is seeking funds to open more plants. That includes a large-scale facility in the US next year, with others to follow in China and Thailand in 2022. After that comes Brazil, a hub for the traditional meat industry.

The Covid-19 pandemic has hastened the adoption of plant-based meat in people’s diets, said Bark, a former European MD at Nestlé’s plant-based food division. Plant & Bean is working with its partners to cut the cost of peas and beans by 50% as it seeks to increase the appeal of its products.

“There is a long way to go but the potential is immense,” said Bark. “If we really overcome these consumer barriers in terms of price and quality, I think it will accelerate tremendously.”



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