According to Nielsen data, Norway's frozen meat alternatives category grew by "a phenomenol" 76.6% in 2014, making it the fastest growing category in the country's grocery trade.
Sally Renshaw, partner and designer at Vegan Norway - a company which has designed an app to help people find veggie-friendly restaurants and supermarkets in Norway - told FoodNavigator the interest in meat alternatives draws on the nation's eco-friendly consciousness.
“Whilst Norway is a country which is very taken with traditions like hunting and fishing and with meat and fish being such a massive part of their diet culturally, it is also a lot more environment and health focused than other countries in Europe.
"Appealing to the need to cut down on the meat we consume for environmental and health reasons has been a major key in the success of meat free Monday's here in Norway and even the parliamentary offices [...] now apply the meat-free Monday concept to their canteens."
She says it is relatively easy to buy vegetarian products in most mainstream Norwegian supermarkets, and the availability of vegan products has increased since the rise in the gluten-free trend, but there is a marked gap in the market for veggie ready-meals.
“I guess this is because everyone assumes that vegans are obsessed with health and would never eat a ready meal, but that's a common misconception about vegans and vegetarians - they actually like junk food too!”
Honesty and transparency are key
In terms of product innovation, however, Sweden seems to be leading the way in the Nordic region, and honesty and transparency about ingredients as
well as a clear commitment to green values throughout the supply chain and production process are at the heart of the companies' branding.
Swedish company Embrace Foods, which manufactures the Anamma brand, is the Nordic region’s largest producer of vegan meat substitutes. It says its products have a low carbon footprint not only because they are made from plant-protein but also because two of its factories operate on wind power.
Meanwhile, newcomer Oumph! has a soy-based ingredient which can be sautéd, boiled, grilled or fried. Available in different sizes and flavours such as jerk, thyme and garlic or plain fillets, its most popular product, Pulled Oumph! is the company's take on pulled pork (see main picture).
The company is completely honest and transparent about the raw ingredient it uses. Its website tells visitors: “Our suppliers guarantee that the product, in legal terms, doesn’t contain genetically modified ingredient. This means that the percentage of GMO-soy doesn’t exceed 0.9%. Since we’re nerdy like that we’ve taken a special interest in keeping Oumph! as GMO free as possible. The first analysis we did came back at 0.2% GMO.”
It sources its soy from North America – not South America where there have been links between deforestation, it says – and although it is not certified organic (yet), the soy is non-GMO.
Other leading Swedish brand Halsans Kök offers soy-based kebab meat - perhaps responding to vegan consumers' craving for junk food? - bacon, sausages and meatballs.
Nielsen data also shows that sales of meat products are declining in Finland.