Natalie Portman Just Helped a Vegan Bacon Startup Make History

Natalie Portman split with La Vie vegan lardons

Academy Award-winning actor Natalie Portman’s investments now include a French food-tech startup that specializes in vegan bacon. 

La Vie, formerly known as 77 Foods, recently closed a historic Series A funding round totaling $28.3 million—the largest ever in the French alternative protein space.

Founders Nicolas Schweitzer and Vincent Poulichet may have officially launched the company last October, but their research into creating plant-based bacon that tastes like pork began back in 2019. Together, they developed 5,000 recipes before launching the brand’s first two products: bacon and lardons made from soy, konjac, and sunflower oil. 

The products are currently available in Carrefour, one of France’s largest supermarket chains, and in chain restaurants, including Hank and Copper Branch.

La Vie will use the funding to expand rapidly across France, the rest of Europe, and the UK, honing in on mass distribution across European supermarkets as well as partnering with major restaurant chains. It will also expand its team, and invest in R&D to launch new products.

A historic investment for a French startup

La Vie’s round was led by Paris-based venture capital (VC) fund Seventure, which has also invested in mushroom fermentation startup MycoTechnology. Other VCs that contributed include Partech, Oyster Bay, Capagro, Entrepreneur First, and Bleu Capital. 

Along with Portman, a handful of other individuals participated in the round, including Oatly chairman Eric Melloul, Vinted CEO Thomas Lodewijk Plantenga, Back Market CEO Thibaud Hug de Larauze, and BlaBlaCar CEO Frederic Mazzella.

“It is essential to switch to plant-based food and I am convinced that technological innovation has a key role to play in encouraging consumers—even the most reluctant—to make the switch,” says Plantega. “The La Vie team has created a delicious recipe and a unique brand that will make plant-based meat so appealing that it will become the norm in our societies.”

To date, La Vie has attracted more funding in a round than any other French food-tech startup. Prior to that, the accolade was held by cultivated foie gras startup Gourmey, which snagged $10 million last July, including some cash from a state-owned bank.

The age of the celebrity backer and Natalie Portman’s investments

As the world begins to realize the devastating impacts that industrial animal agriculture has had on the planet, investment in the alternative protein space is at an all-time high. The industry raised $3.1 billion in 2020, according to plant-based and cultivated meat nonprofit, the Good Food Institute. 

La Vie isn’t alone in capturing the attention of a celebrity investor. Last year saw the likes of Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Steve Aoki, Naomi Osaka, Jay-Z, Lewis Hamilton, Roger Federer, Questlove, and other stars backing vegan brands.

Portman has been an advocate for a plant-based diet for many years, sparked by reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2009 book, Eating Animals, about industrial livestock farming. 

In the lead-up to the 2018 documentary of the same name, which she produced, the award-winning actor told US Weekly: “American farmers have been really sacrificed at the expense of this kind of corporate model. Putting millions of animals into small spaces with terrible conditions and having them be sick. And then the human effect of, like, the pollution that it creates and the health problems it creates. It’s really hard not to want to change.”

The Harvard graduate’s investments also include Oatly, mycelium leather firm MycoWorks, vertical farming company Bowery Farming, and Ark Biotech, which builds bioreactors and operating systems for producing cultivated meat at an industrial scale.