Vegan Arborist CEO John Creaton told FoodNavigator the online platform hopes to support businesses producing plant-based products and to inform consumer choice. “With increasing demand for more sustainable and affordable products the platform supports investment into companies scaling to meet demands and to ensure consumers are guided to more sustainable products and services with an eye to quality and price,” he said.
For businesses, the platform curates funding as well as business development services to ensure sustainable impact criteria is applied from all sides. For consumers, the platform informs on sustainability topics, buying tips and products aimed at helping decide how to make more sustainable consumption choices.
“The sustainability market can be very confusing. Even the most straight-forward products can have very complex supply chains and it is difficult to know how to make the best choice as a business or as a consumer,” added Creaton, a vegan with over 26 years experience in the financial services sector. He spent 21 years in Goldman Sachs including as Managing Director responsible for global Fin Tech platform development and support of private investment into external platforms, companies and markets.
“Our goal is to make that a lot easier in applying our principles and impact criteria to businesses and products we support. We only work with companies and products that have the ability to scale in order to serve the needs of all consumers wanting to consume more sustainably. We do this by including plant-based products from companies that come with sufficient transparency, quality, ethics and at a reasonable price.”
Challenges of price and distribution
Researching and surfacing more plant-based products at an affordable price is a core objective, he said. Key to increasing volume and making more affordable products available to the mainstream consumer is ‘guidance, involvement with retailers and producers and support of the full product development life cycle the platform can significantly increase awareness’, he explained.
"People think vegan products can be expensive but I think lots of vegan products are closer to organic in their make up and do tend to be expensive because they're new products on the market. What we're trying to do is say yes that’s a challenge but the more we can grow the market the more we can drive down the cost of products and distribution costs."
The site is backed by a network of institutional investors to help food businesses offering plant-based products help to navigate challenges relating to distribution and scaling up.
"We want to work with producers to ensure what they produce is authentic, plant-based, and that they can produce products of high quality at decent price and that they can distribute it, whether that's to retailers, hospitality and direct to consumer."
COVID and plant-based demand
The Covid crisis has accelerated consumer interest in plant-based food. A report from market research company Markets and Markets claims the global plant meat sector is projected to grow from $3.6 billion in 2020 to $4.2 billion by 2021 by value.
The report said: "The fear of an increasing number of animal-borne illnesses such as COVID-19 among consumers, rising vegan population, and consumers awareness regarding nutritional benefits offered by plant-based sources of meat are the factors that are projected to drive the growth of the plant-based meat industry.
"Furthermore, consumers are shifting toward plant-based proteins and healthier lifestyles, which is also expected to drive the market growth."
Creaton added that ‘fewer ingredients’ were needed in products that could also satisfy ‘taste and mouthfeel’. Products need to taste 'good, be fantastically presented and satisfying with a great back story and make a difference in terms of transparency,' he said.