Drew Barrymore is not the kind of woman to lend her name to a brand and consider the job done.
In fact, in the year since becoming Quorn’s Chief Mom Officer she’s been the company’s biggest champion and collaborator.
“I love the product,” Barrymore tells me, emphatically. “I also think that a lot of vegan brands are specifically marketed to men as a very meaty, weight train-y, abundant thing and that’s not exactly how I eat.”
As a vegetarian she stopped eating chicken fifteen years ago, but was hesitant to use alternatives that contained soy.
“I know soy doesn’t process well in the body and, medically, I’m completely dubious of it, so I love the mycoprotein,” she says.
Said mycoprotein—a source of protein that is high in fiber and low in saturated fat—is featured in all of Quorn’s chicken alternatives, produced by fermenting a natural, nutritious and soil-grown fungus (Fusarium venenatum).
“Chicken is the easiest protein to incorporate in a diet, but when you take it out, it’s really, really lacking, so I love meat alternatives,” she says, “and Quorn, in my opinion, is the best one out there.”
But this partnership is not simply about being a spokesperson.
Initially, the partnership coincided with several new product launches for the brand, including Quorn Meatless ChiQin Cutlets and Quorn Meatless ChiQin Wings. The type of launches other celebrities might consider an easy, one-off pay day. But for Barrymore, it was just the beginning.
“I was like, I want to like work on marketing! I want to shoot a commercial!” she says.
As well as raising two children, hosting The Drew Barrymore Show, and co-running Flower Films, Barrymore has been working with Quorn every day, helping them develop new products, create recipes (with the brand’s executive chef Stephen Kalil) and produce and star in a range of commercials and explainers.
“We work prolifically. We text every day, all day long,” she laughs. “We’ll discuss what’s in the marketplace, what can we do next, what’s our philanthropic angle…I love it.”
As someone who has seen many meat alternatives come and go over the years, she feels her work with the brand is also an important part of a wider environmental and sustainable story.
“I think not eating meat used to be, like, ‘only if you love animals’, and now we’re realising it’s better health-wise, environmentally—the information we have available is much better.”
Quorn, to its credit, is also more sustainable than typical animal protein source production, using roughly 90% less land and water.
And Barrymore wants to see it everywhere.
“I would love to have this be at a fast food restaurant, honestly,” she says. “I know that sometimes I pull over in the drive-thru with my kids and I just wish this was there as an option.”
At the moment, she’s working with the brand on introduced its Pineapple Chipotle flavor into a nationwide sandwich shop, and is particularly excited its potential availability and ease.
“People are busy, they’re working. They need to feed their families. So, I’m always thinking about how easy we make this…
“There’s a lot of plans that I have and dreams I want to realize with how this brand functions and where it functions,” she says.
Stopping herself before sharing too many details on another upcoming collaboration, coming in the Summer of 2023, Barrymore says “it’s one of the smartest and best moves we’ve done as a team. I think it’s going to be epic. I’m really really bullish on that one.”
Undoubtedly, it’s an important time for the brand to try experiment.
Recently filed accounts for Quorn’s parent company, Marlow Foods Ltd (a subsidiary of Monde Nissin Corporation), showed a turnover of £224.9 million ($275.8 million) in 2021 compared to £236.2 million ($289.9 million) in 2020.
Pre-tax profit was £7.36 million, down from £8.46 million, but was most noticeably affected in retail sales. Food service and quick service restaurant sales actually increased to £23.4 million from £17.3 million.
Reassuringly, increased new product development (NPD) investment supported six out of the top ten best-selling new launches in UK retail.
In June 2021, Monde Nissin Corporation completed an IPO on the Philippine Stock Exchange, raising roughly $1 billion. Of this, circa £240 million has been allocated to Marlow.
Clearly, it’s a priority for both the brand and Barrymore alike. Even with the celebrity clout to partner with just about any brand.
“This is my focus for the foreseeable,” she says. “I don’t drink alcohol, so I love that drinking alternatives are on-trend right now, too, and I’m curious about that category, but I want to stick with things that are true to me.
“I can’t fake anything so I’m not really in love with it or I don’t really use it in my real life, I’m I’m not the right person for it.”
A sentiment best exemplified by the fact that she’s rocking a scar, the result of burning her arm while making Quorn nuggets on set a few weeks ago, and smiling at it.
“It makes me happy because every time I look at it I think ‘Quorn!’, she laughs.