The future will be all about “plant-based eating”, according to Alpro, which is best known for its soya-based alternatives to dairy products.
While operating within what it recognises as a niche area of the food business, representing just 1.8% of the market, with rising demand for food globally and pressures on the supply chain, Alpro is confident of growing its business.
Alpro believes demand will rise for plant-based foods as a substitute for meat and dairy products, which are widely viewed as carrying environmental and health penalties.
Speaking at a meeting of the Food, Drink and Agriculture group of The Chartered Institute of Marketing last Wednesday [September 18], Alpro’s marketing director John Allaway said the company’s strategy was developing its business beyond soya milk into the wider plant-based food arena.
Alpro is growing by about 8% a year, claimed Allaway. It currently boasts a 38% market share of the branded soya milk and yogurt market.
‘Change the way people eat’
“Our mission statement is to change the way people eat food in the future,” said Allaway. “We have launched an awful lot of new product development in the past two to three years.”
Last year alone, Alpro launched a number of new products, including an almond milk, a hazelnut drink a rice milk and what it claims is the UK’s first ever luxury soya yogurt ‘Fruit and Creamy’. It is also launching a soya-based whipping cream. The company’s target market is women in the age range 25–45.
Alpro is also targeting the coffee market with plant alternative creamers and was an official sponsor of the recent Brighton Fringe Festival.
The company, which is now part of $1.98bn turnover US firm WhiteWave Foods Company, has four manufacturing units across Europe – including one in Kettering.
Environmental and health benefits
Alpro’s growth strategy is based on what it claims are the environmental and health benefits of plant-based foods, drawing on the resource efficiency advantages of plants over meat and dairy production. Education of consumers is a key element in its strategy, said Allaway: “It’s about making the green stuff seem normal … our challenge is to make plant-based normal.”
When questioned by FoodManufacture.co.uk, Allaway didn’t think the obstacle posed by the EU’s Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation and the fact that a number of health claim submissions for soya were rejected last year by the European Food Safety Authority, would prevent Alpro from achieving its growth objectives.
“It is less so than it was a year ago, as we are moving much more into a mainstream positioning now in terms of our brand, which is more about positive health choices where plant-based is really the main message,” said Allaway.
“Yes it is important to have a product that is lactose-free, but when I look at the main messages we are very much in the future in terms of a mainstream consumer where specific health benefits and health messages are less important.”