What happened to the Very Good Butchers? Plant-based meat company closing most B.C. operations

The company opened its first official store in the Victoria Public Market in 2017 after leaving Denman Island, B.C. (CTV News)

A British Columbia company that was once at the forefront of the booming plant-based meats industry is shuttering stores and production plants as it struggles to survive.

The Very Good Food Company, which operates core brands The Very Good Butchers and The Very Good Cheese Co., is pulling out of its flagship shop in Victoria and putting the opening of another flagship shop in Vancouver on the chopping block.

The company is also closing three production plants in Victoria, Vancouver and California, while consolidating production in its remaining facility in Vancouver.

First-quarter financial results released last week show the Very Good Food Company lost more than $15 million in cash and cash equivalents between Dec. 31 and March 31, 2022, threatening the sustainability of the company.

"While the company has been successful in the past in obtaining debt and equity financings, there is no assurance that the company will be able to do so going forward," the management said in the quarterly update.

"The existence of these conditions indicates that there are material uncertainties which may cast significant doubt on the company's ability to continue as a going concern," the company noted.

FOUNDERS LEAVE COMPANY

The Very Good Butchers rose from humble beginnings as a "bean butcher" stand at a farmers' market on Denman Island, B.C. The operation eventually moved to Victoria and the founders made a successful appearance on the TV show Dragon's Den.

The company began trading on the Canadian Securities Exchange in June 2020 and raised more than $4 million in an initial public offering, sending its stock price soaring.

But founder Mitchell Scott was ousted as the company's chief executive in April, followed by the resignation of co-founder James Davison from his role as chief research and development officer.

Weeks later, the corporation announced the appointment of a former Nestlé executive as interim CEO starting May 2, and revealed that its president and interim chief financial officer had also resigned.

The company's share price hit record lows on the release of the quarterly results last week. Management says it expects to further reduce its workforce, streamline operations and sell off equipment as it cuts expenses to the bone.

The Very Good Food Company did not respond to CTV News requests for comment on the closures and staff layoffs.

Interim CEO Matthew Hall said in a statement accompanying the quarterly report that the company is also scaling back its online sales as it refocuses on its wholesale and food services business in the United States.

"During the very short period of time that I have been with the company, I have made great strides in identifying the problem areas and have developed a strategy to put the company back on the right track," Hall said in the statement on May 17.

"My strategy focuses on stabilizing, right-sizing, and optimizing the business," he added. "While it will take some time for the financial results to catch up with the progress we are making, I am confident that we will start to see great improvements in future quarters."

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