- John Mackey, co-founder of Whole Foods Market, plans to build a plant-based restaurant chain. Mackey is listed as a partner in Healthy America LLC, Bloomberg reports, which aims to launch vegetarian restaurants nationwide.
- Healthy America, founded in Austin, Texas, in 2020, has raised $31 million from investors this year to support its growth plans. In addition to vegetarian restaurants, the company also plans to create a national footprint of medical wellness centers.
- Diners’ increasing demand for healthy food is reflected in the growth of chains like Sweetgreen, Chopt and Tender Greens. Mackey’s concept, however, is a bit differentiated as it focuses on holistic wellness.
Mackey’s past success scaling a business promoting healthy lifestyles could attract more investor attention as vegetarian and vegan diets grow in popularity. The vegan retail food industry is projected to sustain double-digit growth through 2028, while Bloomberg Intelligence also reports the global market for plant-based dairy and meat alternatives could reach $162 billion by 2030 compared to $29.4 billion in 2020.
Several former Whole Foods executives are joining Mackey in his new endeavor, filling CEO and partner posts as well as roles in finance, development and HR departments. This cohort could also help make Healthy America’s restaurants competitive with incumbent health-focused chains.
The plant-based chain has some growing competition. Slutty Vegan has seen rapid growth since its first location opened in 2018. The chain currently has five restaurants in Georgia, with three more coming soon across Georgia, Alabama and New York, per its website. It’s expansion was spurred by a $25 million Series A funding round in May, which the company told Forbes would be used to build 20 additional restaurants by the end of 2023. Plant Power Fast Food, which has 11 locations, saw net sales rise over 50% from 2019 to 2020. It also raised $7.5 million in Series A funding in 2021.
According to Bloomberg, a job posting for Healthy America described it as “an evidence-based lifestyle company, leading the convergence of culinary, healthcare and wellness. For the first time ever, we are bringing together all three under one roof to meaningfully transform the health and wellbeing of individuals.”
Healthy America’s first outpost is expected to open in Southern California in 2023 under the brand Love Life. The company will offer a membership program for consumers interested in accessing all three offerings, as well as individual access for those interested in just trying the restaurants.
Though the concept seems to hit on major consumer trends, the business could still face challenges. Some vegetarian and vegan restaurant options have struggled to capture mainstream consumer demand. McDonald’s just ended its McPlant plant-based burger test, for example, and though the company said the timing was planned, analysts speculate that sales fell well short of expectations. Other chains, like Dunkin’, have pulled plant-based options from their menus.