ProVeg's Holly Doran talks about the topics surrounding the sector, such as market trends, global initiatives and what innovations to expect for 2019.
Held from the 21-23 March 2019 at the Kalkscheune venue, ProVeg International’s New Food Conference is a two-day event filled with industry experts talking about the developments of the plant-based protein and cultured meat sectors.
The conference is expected to welcome around 350 guests, with tickets still available to purchase through its website.
Here’s what Doran had to say to GlobalMeatNews:
1. Tell me about some of the market trends in the global plant-based protein sector?
“Some of the trends include diversification in terms of raw materials (i.e. a shift away from soy and wheat), emphasis on recognisable, clean-label ingredients and the quality of the protein, and positioning which appeals to non-vegans and non-vegetarians.
“Brands are increasingly dialling up taste, ease of preparation and familiarity, as well as being placed alongside their animal product counterparts, which is leading to a shift in the way consumers categorise plant-based protein and define the protein category as a whole.”
2. The meat alternative sector has rapidly intensified over the past few years. Why do you think this is?
"Companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have changed the face of meat alternatives. Through dedicating time and resource to R&D, they have developed products that look, taste and feel similar to consumers‘ all-time favourites, breaking down stereotypes and tempting those who may have had a disappointing experience to give plant-based meat another go.
“They have raised quality standards in the sector and, to an unprecedented degree, successfully appealed to meat-eaters. Their success has attracted investment in alternatives to animal products, inspired big companies to expand into plant protein and start-ups to focus on plant-based innovation. This has not only led to the meat alternatives sector growing rapidly, but has had a ripple effect, influencing plant-based growth in other sectors too.”
3. What meat alternatives in particular have performed well over the past year in terms of sales?
"Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are doing very well everywhere their burgers are available. In the UK, Quorn continues to grow, having recently opened the world‘s largest meat production facility for meat alternatives, while Naturli’ is rapidly expanding beyond its home market of Denmark with its wide selection of alternatives. In Germany, Rügenwalder Mühle, a major meat company with which ProVeg worked closely in developing its plant-based range, including local favourites such as sausages and cold cuts, holds the title of market leader, and LikeMeat are enjoying strong year-on-year growth. Vivera, which sold 40,000 of its plant-based steaks in just one week at Tesco, and The Vegetarian Butcher, which is likely to increase its presence further now that it has been bought by Unilever, are also experiencing high levels of demand and success in several markets."
4. Does the European market have similar initiatives such as ‘Veganuary’, which is very popular in the UK at the moment, and how has that affected the sector?
“There are comparable campaigns in Europe, e.g. Meat-free Monday in Belgium (and several other countries), Vegan Challenge in January in Finland, Veggie Challenge in the Netherlands and, undoubtedly, others too. These initiatives are incredibly important in driving plant-based innovation across the food value chain and in increasing the likelihood of people trying out plant-based eating by offering the opportunity for them to ‘try before they buy‘, so to speak.
“Of course, the increase in delicious, affordable and readily available plant-based products released on the occasion of such initiatives, as we‘ve seen more prominently than ever in the UK for Veganuary this year, also contributes to making the switch seem less daunting. These initiatives lead to a scenario whereby an increase in demand creates an increase in supply.”
5. Do you think the plant-based trend will keep on growing or will it die down?
“Plant-based eating is here to stay. It is not a trend, with 2019 having been touted the year of the vegan in several publications. Plant-based foods have already gone mainstream in a number of markets and are in the process of going mainstream in plenty of others too. In the most advanced markets, they can be found in every product category, from cookies to protein shakes and are becoming much more competitive in terms of taste, price and availability.
“The business environment is also changing in a way that favours plant-based raw materials, which is likely to further accelerate their application and the consumption of plant-based products. In addition, if you look at the demographic breakdown of those consuming plant-based foods, it is clear that younger generations are overrepresented, suggesting this growth is unlikely to show any signs of slowing and that food companies spanning all categories would do well to future-proof their portfolios by tapping into the plant-based market.”
6. Research analyst firm Mintel recently revealed that the UK is now the leading nation for plant-based food launches, overtaking Germany. What are your views on this? Are you surprised?
“I wasn‘t surprised to hear the UK had overtaken Germany in terms of product launches as, over the last year, I‘ve read countless articles about retailers, foodservice operations and manufacturers in the UK bringing out exciting new value propositions, which resonate with diverse consumer segments (Greggs, Wicked Healthy, Pizza Express, Wagamama, etc.).
“It‘s important for companies not to assume those who purchase plant-based foods form a homogenous group, which they used to have a tendency to do. Instead, the heterogeneity of the end-consumers should be reflected in the range of plant-based products/dishes made available to them. What I‘ve observed in the UK market is a lot of friendly competition. When one company announces a launch, competitors follow suit shortly after. Perhaps that friendly competition will extend to a country level now, with German companies working hard to regain their long-standing title of leading nation for plant-based innovation.”
7. What do you expect to be the next big innovation in meat alternatives?
“Lately, there has been an increase in fish alternatives which, up until now, had been a fairly neglected area. I see a lot of potential in well-positioned fish and seafood alternatives that are nutritionally comparable to conventional fish and look forward to seeing further growth in this category.
“I think the real disruptor will come in the form of Impossible Foods‘ steak alternative, though. Their understanding of meat at a molecular level combined with their tireless commitment to quality and improvement leaves me confident the product will be a game-changer. Creating an authentic alternative to the holy grail of meat would be symbolic and have a far-reaching impact on the food industry at large.”
8. Why do you think consumers are turning to meat alternatives over traditional meat products?
“Besides environmental, ethical and health concerns, consumers are purchasing meat alternatives because they want to try something new, because they prefer the taste, they are more widely available and they are marketed more effectively than they used to be.
"Five to ten years ago, meat alternatives rarely delivered on consumers’ taste, availability or price expectations, meaning purchase decisions were almost exclusively underpinned by individuals’ moral leanings. Nowadays, they often do deliver on expectations in those three areas, reducing the criticality of an individual’s ethical stance in driving purchase, which, in turn, opens up new consumer segments to companies producing meat alternatives."
9. How will ProVeg aim to promote the rise in meat alternatives?
“We assist companies in identifying lucrative gaps which offer differentiation opportunities and meet consumers’ unmet needs. We also connect companies along the food value chain by providing consultancy services at the product development and marketing stages, and promote high-potential meat alternatives on our social media channels.
“Our incubator allows us to shape the future of plant-based and cell-based products by giving those we judge to have the most potential a head start through providing them with access to industry experts. This allows them to test their products among consumers and connect them with investors, retailers, foodservice operations and end-consumers.”