LIVEKINDLY Collective acquires The Dutch Weed Burger: What does consolidation mean for the plant-based sector?
LIVEKINDLY Collective was founded by Blue Horizon Group with a vision to ‘make plant-based living the new norm’. As part of that ambition, the group brings together global founders, entrepreneurs and business leaders to create a ‘robust ecosystem of plant-based brands’ targeting ‘impact with speed, at scale’.
The company recently closed a growth funding round, bringing the total of funding received in its first 12 months to $535m and making LIVEKINDLY Collective one of the top three highest-funded and fastest-growing plant-based food companies globally.
Since LIVEKINDLY Collective’s inception in March last year, the company has been on something of an acquisition spree, picking up local brands in target geographies that it believes it can leverage for growth. Deals have included the No Meat brand developed by UK retailer Iceland, German brand LikeMeat and Sweden’s Oumph!
LIVEKINDLY Collective announced the addition of another string to its bow yesterday, with news that it is acquiring ‘iconic’ Amsterdam-based brand The Dutch Weed Burger.
Diversifying plant protein: 'We expect seaweed farming to grow significantly'
The Dutch Weed Burger uses seaweed as its hero ingredient, providing LIVEKINDLY Collective with an additional plant-based protein source in its portfolio.
Kees Kruythoff, CEO and chairman of LIVEKINDLY Collective, noted the deal will ‘expand the types of plant-based protein we can offer our consumers’.
Seaweed is a high-quality source of protein cultivated using minimal fresh water and no agricultural land. The ingredient offers an appealing nutritional profile. While content varies between species, seaweed features a high protein and mineral content, including iodine, magnesium, calcium, riboflavin, folate, iron and potassium. It is a good source of vitamins A, C, E and K and is typically rich in fibre and polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6).
“Using seaweed as plant protein source is quite new to the food industry. Our seaweed is sourced from local farms in the Netherlands for now. The seaweed farming is called seagriculture, in contrary to agriculture. We expect seaweed farming to grow significantly once people discover health and taste benefits of the protein from the ocean,” Kruythoff told FoodNavigator.
Mark Kulsdom, CEO and Founder of The Dutch Weed Burger, added that the environmental benefits of seaweed cultivation align with LIVEKINDLY Collective’s stated aim to transform the global food system.
“Seaweed farming is highly sustainable because it grows profusely in the ocean and it breathes out oxygen while it grows. The plant is nutrient-rich and healthy while bringing a unique umami flavour to people’s taste buds. These ocean greens mix perfectly with protein-rich beans and other innovative textures we use,” Kulsdom – who will be joining the collective – noted.
For Mintel Food and Drink Analyst Kate Vlietstra, extending the types and formats of protein available in the plant-based space is crucial to increasing consumer appeal. "Improved variety in plant-based proteins is key for continued market growth. Among the 33% of US plant-based protein consumers who are eating these foods more often than a year ago, nearly half are doing so for variety in their meals,” she told us.
"Types, formats and sources of plant-based protein innovation will also continue to diversify in order to meet consumer demands for realistic alternatives to both meat and dairy,” the industry pundit predicted.
To this end, LIVEKINDLY Collective continues to drive innovation and extend its approach to product development in plant-based, Kruythoff revealed.
“Our business is focused on developing the best meat alternatives out there with a special focus on chicken, and we are constantly exploring how to innovate with taste, structure, and protein source in order to make plant-based diet available to anyone.
“We grow our own yellow peas in South Africa and invest in new sources of protein that can help us to accelerate our mission of bringing delicious and nutritious food to people worldwide. Next to seaweed products from the Dutch Weed Burger, we are currently developing products for the Chinese market, where we will be launching soon, based on a local mushroom protein as an example.”
Consolidating a fragmented plant-based category
Innovation is increasing the variety of plant-based options on the market. According to data from Mintel, vegan food and drink innovation continues to increase. In North America and Europe, 7% of food and drink launches featured a vegan claim five years ago, rising to 12% of launches in the last year.
“The trend towards vegan innovation is expected to continue as consumers demand products offering both health and environmental benefits,” Vlietstra predicted.
The innovation landscape portrays the picture of a sector crowded with brands. Large companies are innovating at a faster rate than challenger brands, however corporates still only account for one in every 10 vegan launches.
"Looking at the last five years to May 2021, we see that the top ten companies that have launched vegan innovation globally are Danone, Aldi, dm-drogerie, Lidl, Tesco, Sainsburys, Unilever, Marks & Spencer, Woolworths and Kellogg. These companies account for around one in ten launches of vegan products globally, which shows how fragmented the vegan sector still is. Interestingly, these top 10 companies have not increased their share of launches over the past five years, evidencing that smaller start-up brands are still playing a prominent role in driving vegan sales,” Vlietstra told us.
But even in a high growth segment like plant-based, there is only so much shelf space available. Ultimately, as multinationals work to increase their market share through innovation and M&A, the F&B expert expects an increase in consolidation.
"As more of the multinationals seek to improve their plant-based offering by developing vegan innovation or acquiring vegan brands, such as Danone's recent acquisition of the Vegenaise brand, we can expect to see the market consolidate in the future,” Vlietstra forecast.
LIVEKINDLY Collective intends to play a full and decisive part in this trend. The group’s strategy is to act as a consolidator picking up brands and helping bring them to global scale.
“The fragmentation of protein market allows each segment to grow and develop. All those segments coming together create a real shift in consumer habits which contributes to saving more animals and creating less environmental damage which is what our Collective stands for,” the Collective’s chief executive told us.
On the one hand, the acquisition of The Dutch Weed Burger extends LIVEKINDLY Collective’s reach in strategically significant markets. On the other, the group also expects to leverage sales synergies to support global rollout of the brand.
“LIVEKINDLY collective sells in 40 countries across the world allowing us to tap into that reach almost immediately. So far, we have tested resonance of our brand internationally and received positive responses, so we are excited for the future.”