Interviews

Loui Blake: “My Belief in This Space Has Never Been Stronger”

Loui has been busy since we last spoke three years ago, to say the least. We also heard of some exciting developments on the Miami Foods front, so it was time to catch up with Loui and hear his latest news and insights into plantbased business in 2022.

Tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to since we last spoke in 2019. Looks like you’ve been busy with Vegan Dough Co, not to mention stepping up at Miami Foods as CEO… 
I think I somehow became busier during the pandemic than before! We opened a number of dark kitchens in London with Vegan Dough Co, and we also took Erpingham House to Edinburgh and a three month pop-up in London. I invested in a number of plant-based brands, one of which is Miami, which I recently joined full-time as CEO.

Vegan Dough Co
©Vegan Dough Co

I’ve also launched a podcast & media platform called Plantrepreneur, which I’m hoping to expand to events & resources to help more people start & scale vegan businesses.

Can you reveal a little about the line of sauces by Miami? Where will these launch and what was the inspiration?
It’s been really interesting to come to Miami from a restaurant background because I’m now basically able to solve some of the problems I have as a restauranteur. One of them was quality sauces, in particular cheese sauce, that tasted great and had healthier nutritionals.

“I genuinely feel we’ve ended up with the best-tasting vegan sauces I’ve tried anywhere”

I genuinely feel we’ve ended up with the best-tasting vegan sauces I’ve tried anywhere, and we should have these to market later this year! 

What’s the latest with Erpingham House, how are sales going there since the pandemic, any plans to expand there?
We’ve scaled Erpingham House back to its original location in Norfolk. We opened our Brighton location three days before the first lockdown, and our Edinburgh location opened during the lockdown, facing tougher measures in Scotland than we were in the other sites.

© Erpingham House

In between, we had a really successful pop-up in Dubai and ran a pop-up in London, but for now, we’re taking our time to build things back up from the original site. We will grow again, but we’re going to be patient & focus on delivering the best possible product we can. The Norwich location is now over four years old and is performing well!

We also believe you have some big news about a US launch – please expand on that for us!
Miami will be presenting at the Plant-Based World Expo in New York in September, with a view to launching in the US later this year. We feel there’s a huge opportunity in the US that we’re uniquely positioned to realise. It’s a big country, which also offers abundant opportunity for scale.

Miami Foods burger
© Miami Foods

As an angel investor as well as entrepreneur with a deep involvement in the UK vegan scene, how would you describe the plant-based business scene right now in the UK?
I think we’re in a really positive place, it’s just grown so quickly over the last five years. There’s been a tangible impact on the scene by the brilliant founders and entrepreneurs we’re lucky to have in the UK, and the businesses that have been created have worked efficiently to solve the problems that were limiting growth. I think the trajectory will continue.

“There’s been a tangible impact on the scene by the brilliant founders and entrepreneurs we’re lucky to have in the UK”

Although the current recession may slow things down slightly, in the long term my belief in this space has never been stronger.

Miami Foods nuggets
© Miami Foods

What excites you most about plant-based business right now, and what, if anything concerns you about the future? 
I think what excites me most is the receptivity from the market in general. We’re not having to convince people anymore. I think we’re due a correction in the crazy valuations we’re seeing for plant-based brands. Tech valuation metrics are being applied to food companies, which I fear will cause a few that are chasing top-line revenue & brand awareness at the detriment of any model for profitability, to implode.

“I feel very fortunate to be doing what I love”

The risk here of course is that those vegan brands, which we all see, are viewed as unsuccessful because they’re plant-based, which can make it more difficult for future companies to be funded and trusted.

What’s next for you, and what would you like to achieve in the next few years?
I’d like to help more people eat a plant-based diet. My vehicle for that is Miami and the companies I back as an investor. Wherever that takes me, I’m on board with, having fun doing so and collaborating with great people, I feel very fortunate to be doing what I love.

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