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Jackfruit-based meat-alternative producer Jack & Bry has raised £1.25m in investor funding as the business plans to launch a range with a new retailer to help meet soaring UK demand for plant-based food in 2021.

The start-up said it plans to use the money to invest further in artificial intelligence technology to help it develop more jackfruit products and ingredients that closely mimic the texture of meat using a proprietary manufacturing process.

It will also put the funding towards boosting brand awareness with a marketing push and maintaining current rapid growth, it said in a statement.

Jack & Bry was founded in 2019 by Bryony Tinn-Disbury with the launch of jackfruit pepperoni slices, which the business claims as a world first.

It now supplies 138 Zizzi restaurant and 450 Papa John’s outlets across the UK, with its jackfruit pizza ingredients also used on Zizzi’s retail range of pizzas in more than 300 Sainsbury’s stores.

The business has also launched a retail range of jackfruit burgers, sausages and mince.

Tinn-Disbury said: “We know consumers are seeking out meat alternatives in ever greater numbers, but they also seeking higher quality plant-based foods. Our ambition is to launch with a major supermarket in 2021 to help meet the booming demand in the category.

'We predict the Veganuary effect will last throughout the whole of the year, not just for January, and backed by our new investors and non-executive directors we are excited for the next stage of the journey at Jack & Bry.”

The £1.25m investment follows the recent appointment of a team of heavyweight fmcg industry veterans to the Jack & Bry board, with former Quorn chairman Clive Sharpe joining as non-executive chairman and Singha Europe MD David Flower as non-executive director. The pair join Jack & Bry co-founder Jennifer Pardoe, who was appointed as chief operations officer last year.

The meat-free market in UK supermarkets is worth £527.1m [Nielsen 52 w/e 5 September 2020], with The Vegan Society forecasting the global market to be worth $7.1bn (£5.2bn) by 2025.

Almost 600,000 people around the world signed up for this year’s Veganuary, making it the biggest in the event’s history. Tesco said Veganuary helped sales of plant-based products to soar by 35 per cent last month.