Less than a year after it was launched plant-based brand GRÖNT is already on sale across the Nordics. After debuting in Denmark and Norway in February the brand, which is owned by Danish convenience food maker Tasteful Foods, has expanded into Finland and Sweden. Soon it will be available in more than 3,000 outlets in the region.
“There has been great momentum – first with the launch in Denmark and Norway, where we are available in 1,500 stores and now moving on to Finland and Sweden,” Tasteful Foods founder Anders Christensen revealed.
Tasteful has been able to step up regional expansion of its plant-based offering so quickly by feeding the brand into existing distribution channels for its conventional convenience offering.
“We have a Nordic presence. We are a Nordic company and we already do business in the Nordics through many large retailers with our conventional brands. We have the infrastructure to get listings but at the end of the day it is about the consumer,” Christensen told FoodNavigator.
“We put consumers first. For us it is about giving the consumer choice. If you want to cut meat – which is better for yourself, better for the planet - we are not afraid of [sales] cannibalisation. We think the green transition has to happen. Somebody will make it happen. It may as well be us.”
A runway for European growth
Further European growth is on the horizon.
The next target is Germany, Europe’s largest market for plant-based products. The German Federal Statistics Agency revealed the value of meat substitutes increased to €374.9m in 2020, up 37% from €272.8m in the prior year.
Tasteful Foods is currently in the process of establishing a sales office in the country, with a launch expected in the first quarter of 2022. After that, Tasteful expects to continue to aggressively build GRÖNT’s scale across Northern Europe, where Christensen believes demand is strongest.
“There’s no doubt that Northern Europe is more likely to switch more quickly to plant-based options. Southern Europe has a stronger food culture, so they are usually slower to take up new trends… That being said, young consumers everywhere are aware of the benefits of a plant-based diet,” Christensen said.
“There is a huge consumer base – Generation Z – that in 2029 will be the largest consumer base and the consumer group with the highest purchasing power. They will not want steaks. The transition will be quick.”
Standing out in a crowded category
The appeal of plant-based, particularly among younger consumers, is resulting in rapid sector growth in Europe. Plant-based consumption has increased by 49% over the last two years in the region, according to Nielsen data.
This potential has attracted food brands to the space and innovation rates are high. According to Mintel’s GNPD, a database tracking product launches, 12% of new products featured a vegan claim in Europe and North America last year compared to 7% five years before.
But GRÖNT is doing more than riding the wave of popularity plant-based products are enjoying at the moment. According to the company, GRÖNT is the fastest-growing plant-based brand in the Nordics.
How does it differentiate in this increasingly crowded space?
Christensen explained that the brand addresses the biggest barriers stopping people opting for plant-based options in the supermarket: taste, texture and price.
“We believe you have to be competitive versus conventional products when you look at taste, texture and price point. Some products are very competitive on taste and texture, but they are more expensive than the non-plant-based alternative,” he said.
Christensen pointed to brands like Beyond Meat and Oatly, noting that they are high quality products but can be up to two-to-three times the price of conventional alternatives. “Other brands can compete on price but not on taste and texture,” he said.
GRÖNT does things differently, Christensen explained.
First and foremost, he suggested, the group has developed a high quality range ready-to-heat plant-based meals with broad-based appeal, including lasagne, chili non carne, tikka masala, and green curry “We are using soy protein, which we believe gives a very good texture. We have worked to create a deep umami taste using mushrooms and spices,” he revealed.
The aim is to remove the barriers to mainstream appeal by delivering popular dishes that don’t feel like a compromise, the Danish food innovator explained.
“There are a lot of people who know they should eat less meat but don’t think they can find something that will give them a good experience. The whole philosophy behind our vegan range is to make it enjoyable. In the western world, most of us were raised with meat being centre plate… People know we should cut meat, but it is difficult to do. People see it as a sacrifice.
According to the founder of Tasteful Foods, the green battle must be won by serving familiar flavours that are accessible and convenient. "Our success in both Denmark and Norway is built on the fact that we are able to deliver plant-based dishes containing best-in-class alternative proteins that taste good and resemble well-known and loved dishes such as lasagne,” noted Christensen.
The second barrier GRÖNT believes stands in the way of mainstream consumers opting for plant-based food more frequently is price. And the brand has addressed this issue too.
How does it compete on price compared to typically cheaper animal-based products? By accepting lower margins with the ambition of building higher volumes, Christensen explained.
“We are a volume business anyway to sell to mainstream consumers [with the conventional range]. We focus on great quality at consumer-friendly prices and we do this through volumes and low costs. We are a very lean organisation and a low margin business.
“When we start something from scratch, we are a very low margin business. We believe we can bring volumes up very quickly.”