Veg of Lund was founded in 2016 with the aim of commercialising the patent-protected research developed by Professor Eva Tornberg, a food scientist at the University of Lund.
“It all started with Professor Eva Tornberg’s research,” Veg of Lund co-founder and CEO Thomas Olander reflected.
“She is a professor in food tech at the University of Lund. Historically, she has been doing a lot of work with emulsions. She came up with this emulsion where she used potato and rapeseed oil.”
This combination carries a number of functional benefits that Tornberg wanted to combine – such as satiety and high levels of omega 3s – in a plant-based solution. “The feeling of being satisfied comes from the potato. Nutritionally [the base is] rich on omega 3 from the rapeseed oil. This is very good if you are into green food. If you want to reduce your intake of animal origin food you sometimes have a problem with your consumption level of omega 3. That is automatically taken care of in this food base.”
However, the mixture of potato and rapeseed oil in a heat-stable vegetable emulsion was not easy to achieve. It is something that the company likens to mixing oil and water. When Professor Tornberg succeeded in finding a process that worked, she filed a patent and called Olander to discuss commercialisation.
From university to industry
Professor Tornberg had collaborated with Olander some 15 years previously to develop a “healthy sausage” which was subsequently picked up by Weight Watchers. “It was Eva and I who developed the Wight Watchers sausage in Scandinavia,” Olander recalled.
“In 2015 she told me about this patent she had, this heat-stable vegetable emulsion. I could see the vegetarian trend I knew about the health properties from a consumer perspective. There were two exciting dimensions in this patent.
“We spent some time discussing what we could do with this food base…. I wrote a business plan and with that as a base we started the company…. In 2017 I took the product from the university into an industry environment… with the launch of our first product, the Foodie.
“They are not smoothies but they are quite similar. A smoothie is a thicker juice but our product is more than that – it is a healthy in between meal snack. You can actually drink your snack.”
In one 250 millilitre serving of Foodie you receive 10% of your recommended daily energy and around 50% of your omega 3 RDA. “It is a very healthy, tasty and filling snack. It is a very convenient option.”
Thanks to the unique properties of the emulsion base, the Foodie is “naturally filling and nutritious”, Olander told FoodNavigator.
‘We are for everyone’
While Veg of Lund’s range feeds into growing trends for meat-free alternatives, Olander insisted that the group’s appeal is more broad-based.
European consumer interest in alternative protein sources is on the rise, with a growing number of shoppers mindfully working to reduce their meat consumption.
According to forecasts from research firm Allied Market Research, the global meat substitutes market is expected to grow by around 8.4% through to 2020.
Europe is the largest market for meat substitutes accounting for 39% of global sales.
“Vegetarians and vegans of course can have this product… but we are really aiming beyond this niche. Our product is not only a vegetable product, it is also an allergen free product.”
When developing the Foodie Veg of Lund decided to exclude the 14 allergenic foods identified by European food regulators.
“We decided to keep all these 14 allergens out. The product is plan- based and allergen-free, which is why our USP is everyone is invited.
“No matter what your intolerance I,s you can have this product. We really want to reach out to everyone. We don’t want to [label] ourselves as a vegetarian thing – we are or everyone.”
Flavour is also crucial for Veg of Lund as it differentiates from other plant-based options on the market. “There are quite a lot of plant-based alternatives in the market – even though I still bel there will be a lot more to come. When you look at the category today it is soy, almond, rice, what have you. They all have one thing in common – a specific taste profile. Our base is taste neutral so when you add a blueberry or raspberry the taste is the berry. We think taste is one of our strengths.”
Convenience is another important aspect, Olander added. “We think the product is suitable for retail and foodservice. And within retail both the convenience sector as well as large hypermarkets because people are on the go even in their homes.”
Within foodsevice, Olander believes institutions like nursing homes, hospitals and schools are particularly promising customers. “For the elderly that might have lost their appetite, this product would suit perfectly to get them back to eating. In schools where you have issues with food intolerances.”
But Veg of Lund’s primary target is young adults. “Our primary consumer focus I would say is younger adults just about to take a step into their next phase in life. Youthful consumers at the fresh hold of greater responsibilities in their personal and professional lives.”
Veg of Lund is currently in the process of building out its distribution in Scandinavia. Beyond this, the company is also looking at export markets like Germany and – in particular – the UK. Olander said that he hopes to hit shelves in the UK “as soon as we can”, no later than 2019.
The business model also leaves space for the licensing of the patent-protected emulsion to companies. Veg of Lund has already had “a number” of queries from interested parties in the US and Asia, Olander revealed.
In the longer term, Veg of Lund plans to leverage further innovation to fuel growth. “With this base we can produce a lot of different food products,” the CEO noted.
Already the group has soups and sauces in the innovation pipeline, while in the longer term it is looking to develop products like milk replacements and dairy-free ice cream alternatives.