Leonardo DiCaprio, Lewis Hamilton Up the Vegan Ante with Big Investments

From fashion to food, celebrities are increasingly investing in sustainability. And when brands partner with influential celebrities, their combined efforts, reach, and impact have the potential to make notable change. 

In the fashion world, leather is becoming a faux pas as consumers learn about the cruelty and environmental impact of turning animal skins into shoes, handbags, and jackets—and Academy Award-winning actor and longtime environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio is supporting a brighter future.

LØCI

DiCaprio’s latest investment is in LØCI, a vegan and cruelty-free footwear brand based in the United Kingdom that just raised a £4 million ($4.6 million) seed round. It will use this funding to further its “impact-driven mission” with the ultimate goal of redefining the footwear industry. 

“I am a proud investor in LØCI, a brand dedicated to minimizing its environmental impact, and centered around creating cruelty-free, ethical footwear,” DiCaprio says in a statement. 

DiCaprio is a seasoned investor in sustainably minded ventures. Earlier this year, the actor helped biotechnology startup VitroLabs raise $46 million in a Series A round to fund its scalable tissue engineering platform for leather production using only a few animal cells. DiCaprio also counts Beyond Meat, HIPPEAS, and Califia Farms among his sustainable, vegan investments. 

Sustainable vegan footwear 

Founded just 15 months ago, LØCI has already set itself apart from its competitors in the fashion sector. Instead of sourcing new materials for its sneakers—which are frequently worn by celebrities such as Mila Kunis, Ben Affleck, Jessica Alba, and vegan Twilight star Nikki Reed—the impact-driven brand repurposes recycled plastic to create its footwear. 

Each LØCI shoe is made from 20 plastic bottles and drives plastic materials away from landfills and oceans. To date, the brand has removed nearly 1 million plastic bottles from being dumped in landfills and oceans, where they pose threats to the environment and to sea life. 

LØCI

LØCI’s industry-changing impact goes beyond just its choice in materials (all of which are sourced locally within Europe, to reduce environmental impact). Unlike other fashion companies, which produce items seasonally, LØCI prides itself on its monthly production cycle. By producing footwear via this monthly cycle, the brand is able to further reduce its environmental impact and minimize waste. 

Waste production in particular is a problem that has plagued the fashion industry for decades as fast fashion has become increasingly popular. In fact, an estimated 92 million tons of textile waste are produced every year.

Through its unique production cycle, use of recycled plastics, and donations to organizations committed to ocean conservation (among them See Turtles, Sea Shepherd, Mission Blue, and British Divers), LØCI is making strides toward true sustainability in the fashion industry.

“Today, sustainability is one of the most used buzzwords,” Philippe Homsy, LØCI’s co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer, says in a statement.

“We want LØCI to cut through the noise and be judged by our impact. Through education, innovation, and donations, we’ve built a business model that is driven by our passion. With [DiCaprio], we could not have hoped for a more genuine and committed partner.”

Lewis Hamilton gets into sustainability with vegan burger chain

LØCI is just one of many celebrity-backed vegan brands working toward sustainability. 

Neat Burger

Neat Burger, the plant-based quick service chain co-founded by vegan Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton and backed by DiCaprio, recently announced its long-term plan for a retail launch. And its driving motivation, according to co-founder Zack Bishti, is sustainability.

“Humans are inherently selfish,” Bishti tells Food Navigator. “Whilst we have the best intentions, sometimes because of convenience, or because we don’t like trade-offs, our spending habits say otherwise. We [want] to ‘trojan horse’ sustainability.” 

To help consumers make more sustainable choices, Neat Burger is focusing on a three-pronged approach involving product taste, customer acquisition, and a long-term retail strategy. 

The quick-service restaurant chain is already enticing consumers with the taste of its vegan fast food. Last year, Neat Burger announced its plan to open an additional seven outposts across London, England. Today, the chain operates eight locations in its home city of London and one location in New York City’s Manhattan neighborhood. 

Neat Burger

Neat Burger hopes to continue focusing on expansion as it opens its first restaurant locations in Dubai and Italy. At the same time, it is hoping that its quick-service restaurants will help draw retail consumers once it moves forward with a retail launch.

“For us, restaurants really represented a [means of] customer acquisition, where they could come and try the product in its best light, feel the brand, and like it,” Bishti explains. “It’s [a] part of the bigger picture of building a community. If we can build that community long-term, I think we’ll have success.”

This approach doesn’t just help set the stage for Neat Burger’s retail launch, it will also help consumers—who already know and love the chain’s vegan products—make more sustainable choices when shopping. With built-in customer recognition, Neat Burger hopes to position itself as a competitive player in the crowded alternative protein space. 

Heura’s vegan meat gets $20 million boost

In Europe, plant-based brand Heura is another key player in the vegan sector making monumental strides with help from international athletes and celebrities.

Launched in 2017, the brand recently announced its most successful six-month period after reaching €14.7 million ($14.5 million) in turnover during the first half of 2022—an increase from €7.6 million ($7.5 million) during the first half of 2021. 

Heura

The news comes after Heura’s partnerships with a number of retailers in the United Kingdom, Italy, France, and Switzerland—which led to major growth of its retail footprint. The brand’s vegan products are also increasingly finding their way onto restaurant menus. 

Last month, Heura raised a $20 million bridge funding round to support its momentum. Backed by Spanish NBA star Ricky Rubio (who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers) football players Sergi Busquets and Sergi Roberto, and comedian David Broncano, Heura is already teasing a Series B funding round which it boasts could be Europe’s largest B round within the vegan meat sector. 

These recent developments are just a few celebrity investments helping pave the way toward a sustainable future. Last year, Ashton Kutcher became a collaborator with Steakholder Foods (previously known as “MeatTech”) when his venture fund committed to work alongside the cultivated meat company in an effort to accelerate the development and commercialization of its products. 

More recently, Natalie Portman-backed vegan bacon brand La Vie made headlines when Burger King locations across France added the plant-based bacon to its menu. And earlier this fall, actor Woody Harrelson helped vegan food company Wicked Kitchen secure $20 million in a new funding round to further accelerate its growth. 

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