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Author: Amy Buxton

Laying the Foundations for the Plant-Based Sector of Tomorrow

RSSL is a leading food research organization operating out of Reading in the UK. Founded in 1987, the company has a proven history of innovation and excellence within the food industry and today, boasts a highly specialized team of over 350 scientists, product developers, chefs and regulatory experts. Together, these professionals collaborate with clients of varying size to regularly bring new products to market, overseeing every stage from initial concept to scale-up and final commercialization.

In order to offer clients a comprehensive portfolio of development services, the specialist technical expertise of the in-house team spans a wide range of areas, all connected to the growing plant-based sector. Pertinently, these skills include in-depth ingredient research, product development, quality and safety testing, ingredient sourcing and regulatory support. The latter has the potential to prove vital for clients as companies seek to navigate the increasingly difficult landscape of plant-based food labeling.

Already–in just 36 years of operation–RSSL has played a pivotal role in transforming the global food industry by accelerating the development and launch of sustainable and innovative plant-based products.

Supporting the plant-based sector

RSSL specifically supports clients in the plant-based sector in a number of ways, offering reliable expertise to those already established in the market and newcomers alike. Due to the growth being witnessed by the plant-based niche, speed, knowledge, and regulatory awareness are key services that secure RSSL ambitious clients.

As consumers appear to be demanding ever more plant-based food choices, manufacturers are looking to meat mimics and protein-rich offerings as a growth opportunity. To facilitate the creation and successful commercialization of new food products RSSL assists with the entire development process. This includes initial concept brainstorming all the way through to scale-up to factory production and encompasses everything in between. This includes product testing and development to meet nutritional targets.

In addition, analytical services are offered, to help clients understand the taste, texture, shelf life and nutritional value of their plant-based products. This will be key for manufacturers that want to enjoy longevity within the plant-based sector.

RSSL provides ground-level regulatory support for those in the plant-based sector. The specialist advisory team helps clients to obtain regulatory approval-by meeting stringent production and nutrition criteria for novel plant-based ingredients, including, but not limited to, those produced through cell cultivation and precision fermentation. This last point is important to note, as food manufacturers are increasingly embracing emerging technologies to create foods that have a reasonable chance at tempting even committed carnivores to convert to plant-based eating.

Observing plant-based trends

RSSL states that it has observed a number of emerging trends in the plant-based sector, all of which it has used to maintain a contemporary approach to product development.

Chief amongst the trends is increased demand for clean-label and whole food-based products. According to RSSL, consumers are increasingly looking for plant-based products that are made with recognizable ingredients. This is why there has been a steep rise in the number of companies looking to develop protein products that do not rely on mimicking meat to garner consumer interest.

Alongside whole-foods focus there is a growing interest in cell-based and precision fermentation-derived ingredients. These ingredients have the potential to deliver the taste, functionality and nutritional value of animal-derived products without the environmental or ethical drawbacks. This makes them suitable for most consumers but could be used to particularly target flexitarians, who acknowledge they want to eat fewer animal products but are not ready to say goodbye to favorite items permanently.

Preparing for future foods

RSSL is preparing for the future of the global food system by investing in research and development within key areas, namely new plant-based ingredients, sustainable processing technologies and cell-based and precision fermentation specialisms. This, it claims, will help it to remain a critical partner of the plant-based sector as it continues its growth trajectory and as the world embraces a more sustainable food system.

To find out more about RSSL, please visit www.rssl.com.

Breaking With Tradition: The Plantly Butchers

The Plantly Butchers might be a relative newcomer to the meat-free sector but its commitment to delicious, sustainable, and ethical food choices are unwavering.

Founded in 2020, the company debuted its flagship brand–Billie Green– in September 2022. In little over a year, it has rapidly gained recognition, capturing a significant market share in Germany and garnering prestigious accolades for its products.

A Passion for Plant-Based

The Plantly Butchers‘ mission is simple yet profound: to introduce superior plant-based products that offer a delightful and satisfying eating experience, to convince as many people as possible to adopt a plant-based diet through delicious taste. Driven by a passionate team of experts, the company is committed to delivering top-quality proteins for future generations.

The Plantly Butchers has the spirit and freedom of a flexible and innovative start-up and at the same time has in-depth product know-how and extensive practical knowledge of a wide range of production processes for plant-based protein sources. As a result, The Plantly Butchers developed an innovative fermentation process. This in-house developed method allows the company to produce products with high protein content (31-36%) without compromising on key considerations such as taste and texture. This means The Plantly Butchers is ideally positioned for further growth.

Sustainable business is a high priority at The Plantly Butchers. That’s why the company is proud to already source 100% of its basic raw materials sustainably from Germany and Italy via short transport routes.

Rapid Growth and Recognition

In its short span of operation, The Plantly Butchers has achieved remarkable success. Within just one year, the company has become one of the top five brands in the meat and sausage alternatives segment in Germany, capturing a market share of over 3%. Billie Green’s Vegan Bacon was also recognized as the most innovative product for everyday use in the Breakfast category by Women’s and Men’s Health last year.

Additionally, according to Kununu, The Plantly Butchers was acknowledged as one of the Top Employers. The company also revealed to Plant Based World Pulse (PBWP) that it achieved over €10 million in revenue, all in its inaugural year of operation.

A Continuous Stream of Innovation

A fully plant-based brand, Billie Green has been voracious in its pursuit of success. In 2022, just five products were initially introduced to consumers: Vegan Billie Green Salami Classic, Vegan Billie Green Salami with Pepper, Vegan Billie Green Diced Bacon, Vegan Billie Green Bacon Classic, and Vegan Billie Green Salami Whole Round Classic. Now, things are starting to ramp up, potentially in line with Germany’s widespread adoption of meat-free dining.

The Plantly Butchers is committed to continuous innovation, constantly expanding its product portfolio with exciting new offerings. in November 2023, the company launched three new products: Vegan Billie Green Snack Salami-Style, Vegan Billie Green Snack Salami-Style with Chili, and Vegan Billie Green Chorizo Salami. Further new products are planned for 2024 for also more new consumption occasions.

The overall expansion plan is predicated on launching new collections of products twice a year. The focus of each will always be innovation and catering to demands and tastes that other manufacturers have failed to capture previously. Alongside product launches, expansion into new markets throughout Europe is of serious interest, with The Plantly Butchers team currently investigating potential opportunities and auditing what is driving potential non-domestic demand.

The Growth of a Sector

The company states that plant-based food products have become incredibly popular in Europe due to consumers increasingly chosen sustainable, animal-ethical or health-conscious eating habits. The plant-based food sector in Europe specifically has experienced significant growth, with sales value and unit sales increasing by 21% between 2020 and 2022.

Such growth is expected to continue with market predictions claiming that 2035 will see every tenth portion of meat, eggs, dairy, and seafood consumed globally being made from alternative proteins. In order to ensure this, product development needs to continue to marry sustainability ambitions with improved taste and texture profiles, something that The Plantly Butchers states that it is keen to be a leading example of in practice.

“At TPB, we have a strong focus on research and development to become the leading force in vegan product innovation and enhancing their overall taste experience. As part of our efforts, we prioritize precision fermentation, and creating clean-label, high-protein products,” Georg Achterkamp, managing director of research and development, told PBWP.

Spreading the Plant-Based Message

Within a year, The Plantly Butchers has successfully built a community of more than 25k followers on Instagram, who it claims has provided them with tremendous support. The vegan community, in particular, has shown great enthusiasm for the products and furthermore, consumers and influential figures with large platforms have presented and recommended Billie Green products on their channels. The company states that this has been carried out with genuine conviction.

The company made over 160 million contacts within a year across various social media platforms, including Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. In addition, it visits festivals in Germany such as the Melt Festival and Superbloom as well as the Terra Wortmann Open tennis tournament with its own Billie Green food truck on over 100 days.

2024 looks set to be a huge year for The Plantly Butchers and in their own words, we need to “stay tuned.”

Plant-Based in 2023: Major Milestones, Events, and What Is Still to Come?

As 2023 starts to draw to a close, it’s time to reflect on what a bumper year it has been for the plant-based sector. From new food launches to legal woes and everything in between, the meat-free industry has experienced the full gamut of commercial successes and complications. Still, overall, things look to be ending on a positive note.

Here is a recap of some of 2023’s biggest news stories, plus a look at what we can expect before the year officially ends.

Plant-based food launches in 2023

Beyond Meat launched a new line of plant-based chicken nuggets and strips, plus much-anticipated steak pieces. All are made from pea and bean protein, but the latter received extra praise by securing approval from the American Heart Association thanks to its zero cholesterol and low saturated fat levels.

Texas-based startup Crafty Counter launched its vegan-friendly hard-boiled egg alternatives, dubbed WunderEggs, earlier this year to rapturous praise. Consumers have been particularly impressed by the taste and texture, which has been hailed as comparable to conventional chicken-laid eggs. Egg white patties followed later in the year offering more plant-based breakfast options to US diners.

Unilever-owned brand Ben and Jerry’s continued to cater to its plant-based fandom in 2023 with the release of new flavors that brought the number of dairy-free options to 19. The manufacturer also recently revealed that it is changing its recipe to use oat milk in place of almond, to improve the taste and texture of its frozen desserts.

Convenience chain 7-Eleven embraced the plant-based trend in 2023 by including grab-and-go menu items in its Canadian and Swedish outlets. The latter started slowly, by introducing oat milk as an option for hot drinks.

Impossible Foods launched its most audacious burger yet in June of this year. The Impossible Indulgent Burger is reportedly the brand’s meatiest, juiciest and most flavorsome launch to date. Earlier in the year in a health-conscious move, Impossible Beef Lite was launched, which saw a ground beef alternative debuted with 75% less saturated fat than lean animal protein.

Bad publicity for plant-based giants

The plant-based sector has continued to show growth in 2023, with many major brands increasing their presence and product catalogs. However, some have faced scrutiny that has cast a shadow over their achievements.

Swedish oat milk behemoth Oatly has experienced sector turbulence in recent years. From accusations of greenwashing to product recalls and risky ad campaigns, the once undeniable leader of the oat milk world has fallen from grace significantly. In order to stem the backlash, Oatly announced a new incoming CEO in May 2023. Toni Petersson–of ‘wow, no cow’ infamy–has since been replaced by Jean-Christophe Flatin, but some observers appear to view the move as a last-ditch attempt to get back on top.

July saw the Guardian report that numerous food items labeled as ‘vegan’ contained egg, milk, or both. More than 20 products were confirmed to contain ingredients that could lead to severe or even deadly allergic reactions, if consumed by sensitive eaters. Chocolate, pizza, and burgers were amongst the foods tested. Furthermore, investigators discovered multiple labeling inaccuracies, including misleading nutritional information.

Plant-based takeovers that shocked

One of the most surprising announcements this year was that the UK brand Meatless farm was struggling and facing administration. Perhaps more shocking still, was that fellow alt-meat manufacturer VFC jumped in and acquired the former, saving it from ruin. The takeover was completed in June, allowing supply of Meatless Farm products to restart quickly in August.

More recently, VFC acquired another meat-free brand, this time Clive’s Purely Plants. Just as with Meatless Farm, the Clive’s brand will continue under its own steam, selling its range of pies and quiches, while under the VFC umbrella.

Scientific research that supported plant-based eating in 2023

Throughout the year scientific research has revealed that plant-based diets are more than just beneficial for animal welfare and the environment. In fact, they have been proven to have a positive impact on a number of serious and life-threatening conditions.

Alongside lowering the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and suffering from heart disease, plant-based foods have also shown potential to lessen the impact of, or even prevent, PTSD. Often a trigger for critical conditions including autoimmune diseases, strokes, and early death, PTSD is often deemed hard to treat, as it centers around emotional and mental health. Now, scientists claim that eating a plant-based diet could help with treatment and prevention, though they concede that more research is prudent.

Major plant-based events

Veganuary celebrated 10 years of operation in 2023 and had the biggest global sign-up ever witnessed by the event organizers, with more than 700,000 people pledging to ditch animal products for 31 days. The figure broke down to represent nearly every country in the world with only Vatican City and North Korea not included. The Veganuary team has been edging closer to the coveted one million sign-ups each year.

Plant Based World Expo, the largest North American plant-based food and beverage celebration, was held in Los Angeles in June. More than 4,000 stakeholders came together to explore new opportunities, learn about consumer trends, and make plans for a profitable 2024.

The Vegan Women Summit was held in May, in New York, and brought together a host of industry leaders, fronted by Jennifer Stojkovic. Miyoko Schinner attended as Conference Chair and offered insight into her experiences as a brand leader. The conference was an opportunity for all genders to network and look to the future of plant-based industries with talks covering key sectors including food, fashion, and beauty.

Still to come

Europe’s Plant Based Expo event is being held from November 15-16, in London. Like its North American counterpart, it will present significant opportunities for individuals from the plant-based sector to network and gain insight into emerging trends

Global Plant-Based Giants and How They Fared in 2023

The plant-based food has continued to enjoy success and growth in 2023, thanks to consumers increasingly seeking out more sustainable and healthy food options. As a result, the world’s largest plant-based food companies capitalized on this trend, with many reporting record sales and profits.

Now, we take a look at who looks set to close 2023 as major plant-based players and what in 2023 has secured them their continued success.

US plant-based giants

Beyond Meat

Investment in 2023 (according to Crunchbase): $0

Sales in 2023: Predictions state that Beyond Meat will make between $360 million and $380 million in sales in 2023. This is according to the company’s revised revenue forecast which clearly states that such figures would represent a 9% to 14% decrease when compared to 2022. This is largely attributed to rising inflation and interest rates, in conjunction with the increasingly competitive plant-based meat market.

Notable achievements: Continued partnerships with large QSR partners including McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and KFC and an increased distribution network that now encompasses more than 85,000 global outlets. Beyond Meat also launched new products in 2023, notably Beyond Chicken Nuggets and Beyond Meatballs, plus Beyond Steak in the UK following a successful unveil in the US.

Fortune Magazine named Beyond Meat as one of the “Most Disruptive Companies in the World”, while Fast Company magazine also named it as one of the most innovative.

Known future plans: Sustainability appears to be a chief concern. The company has revealed that it is working to reduce the environmental impact of its product range and is focused on developing plant-based meat items that require less water and energy to produce.

Impossible foods

Investment in 2023 (according to Crunchbase): $0 (though the company has previously raised more than $1.9 billion.)

Sales in 2023: Impossible Foods has not released its sales figures for 2023 yet. However, in 2022, it declared sales of $460 million. This was 50% up on the previous year and experts claim that this trajectory could continue in 2023 with predictions of sales in excess of $500 million being made.

Notable achievements: Key partnerships with Burger King, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s came alongside heh launch of new products. These releases included Impossible Chicken Nuggets, Impossible Pork, and Impossible Meatballs. The company also launched a new line of plant-based burgers called the Impossible Signature Burgers. As a result of product innovations, Impossible Foods is now served at more than 40,000 restaurants worldwide and sold at 80,000+ global retail locations.

Impossible Foods was lauded for its achievements in 2023 by multiple organizations, including the World Economic Forum and the TIME100 list.

Known future plans: Like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods has cited a desire to up its sustainability credentials. Alongside, the company plans to explore new markets, such as Africa and South America. To cater to such markets plant-based meat products that are tailored to the specific needs of different cultures are being developed.

Confirmed new products in the works include a new plant-based chicken breast product that is expected to launch in 2024, as is a fresh plant-based beef patty that is hoped to be juicier and more flavorful than its current flagship product. The company is also looking at ways to make its plant-based meat products more affordable and accessible to consumers. In practical terms, this involves Impossible Foods considering selling its products in bulk and offering discounts to low-income households.

European plant-based giants

Oatly

Investment in 2023 (according to Crunchbase): $425 million in post-IPO equity funding on March 15, 2023. JamJar Investments and LionTree led the round with Temasek, Baillie Gifford, and BlackRock (not to be confused with Blackstone, which caused Oatly controversy in 2020) also participating.

Sales in 2023: Oatly’s sales in 2023 are expected to be between $1.1 billion and $1.2 billion, according to market analysts. This would be an increase of 20% to 25% on 2022’s figures.

Notable achievements: Overall, Oatly has had a very successful 2023. The company is predicted to have increased sales and market share, while also expanding distribution to more than 30 countries. It also launched new products–including cheese– and partnered with major retailers (including Walmart and Target) and restaurants.

Known future plans: Oatly is currently constructing a new factory in Singapore that is expected to be operational next year. When the doors open, it will be the largest oat milk factory in the world. Oatly is also developing a new oat milk ice cream product that is expected to launch in 2024, while making sustainable oat production a priority. The company is working to develop optimal farming practices by partnering with farmers to reduce the environmental impact of oat production.

The Vegetarian Butcher

Investment in 2023 (according to Crunchbase): $0. The Vegetarian Butcher was acquired by Unilever in 2018, making it both extremely well-funded and no longer a privately-held company.

Sales in 2023: Estimations are coming in at between €250 million and €300 million, according to market data. If realized, this will represent a growth of 30% to 40% from the previous year. Such uptick is largely attributed to the growing popularity of plant-based meat as a whole, coupled with the successful expansion into key markets including China and India.

Notable achievements: Being considered the leading European plant-based company and enjoying a global footprint in more than 30 countries. New product launches included plant-based chicken nuggets, plant-based bacon, and plant-based ground beef, all of which received a positive reception from consumers. The Vegetarian Butcher also partnered with a number of major retailers and restaurants in 2023, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Burger King.

Known future plans: The Vegetarian Butcher made significant progress on its sustainability initiatives in the last year. Critically, the company reduced its water consumption by 50% and its greenhouse gas emissions by 30%. The Vegetarian Butcher is also working to develop more sustainable farming practices and to reduce its waste, initiatives that will permeate all other plans.

New products are in the pipeline with a reported focus on seafood and fish analogs. To support the development of new lines, the company is building a new factory in the United States that is expected to be operational in 2024. Claims suggest that it will be the largest plant-based meat factory anywhere in the world.

Heura

Investment in 2023 (according to Crunchbase): €3,400,000 in equity crowdfunding on May 22, 2023.

Sales in 2023: 2022 was a record-breaking year for Heura with its sales increasing on the previous 12 months by 80%. Experts predict that 2023 could see this trend repeated, leading to a €100 million sales period.

Notable achievements: Expansion into new markets proved successful with Heura moving into the United Kingdom, France, and Italy in 2023. Such moves were supported by the launch of new products with plant-based chorizo, sausages, and fish all proving popular. Heura also secured partnerships with a number of major retailers and restaurants in 2023, including Waitrose, Domino’s Pizza, and Burger King.

Known future plans: Following profitable expansion in 2023, Heura is planning to reach into Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden in 2024. Asia and Latin America are expected to follow suit.

APAC plant-based giants

OmniFoods

Investment in 2023 (according to Crunchbase): $100 million from a Series C funding round that closed on March 8, 2023. The round was led by EDBI, with Temasek Holdings, Horizons Ventures, and Blue Horizon Ventures participating alongside.

Sales in 2023: Sales figures are not yet available but experts predict that they will represent up to a 50% increase on last year’s figures. It is likely that significant consumer uptick in the US, China, and Japan would be major contributors.

Notable achievements: OmniFoods expanded into Japan and South Korea in 2023 while also launching a number of new products. These included plant-based chicken nuggets and plant-based ground beef. OmniFoods was also named one of the “Most Innovative Companies in the World” by Fast Company magazine.

Known future plans: Omnifoods has announced plans to expand into India and Brazil in 2024.

Tindle

Investment in 2023 (according to Crunchbase): $0

Sales in 2023: Tindle‘s sales in 2023 have not been released, however, the company did announce that it had tripled its store count in Germany since its retail debut in January of 2023. This–plus global footprint expansion–suggests that sales are positive and on an upward trajectory.

Notable achievements: Tindle enjoyed a particularly positive 2022, branching out into the US and securing what was the largest Series A funding amount for a plant-based meat brand to date. 2023 appears to have been a relatively quiet year that has continued to build on the foundations already laid for global success.

Known future plans: Further expansion into Europe and beyond is expected to be a major priority for Tindle, alongside the diversification of products, potentially including beef and seafood analogs.

V-Label Awards Shortlist Revealed Featuring 45 Plant-Based Brands

The 2023 International V-Label Awards shortlist has been announced, revealing the most innovative and impactful plant-based products from around the world.

“From upcycled mayonnaise to leather made from tea or olive waste and everything in between, the diverse range of plant-based products submitted to this year’s Awards proves yet again that the plant-based landscape is flourishing with innovation,” Nikolett Konkoly, Awards Program Manager at V-Label, commented.

The Awards recognize plant-based products in three categories: sustainability, innovation, and marketing & branding. The sustainability category rewards products that minimize their impact and carbon footprint, take an active stance on water conservation and waste management, and place high priority on sustainable sourcing.

Meanwhile, the innovation group honors products that push the boundaries of plant-based food and beverage development, thereby shaping the future of the sector. Entries were open to not-yet-licensed as well as launched products with the judging criteria centered around novelty value, technical complexity (embracing of newer technologies), and fiscal viability, amongst other considerations.

Finally, the marketing & branding category celebrates effective and groundbreaking communication techniques to transmit the benefits of plant-based products to consumers. Here, judges will be looking at brand image and messaging, design aesthetics, social media utilization, campaigns, transparency, and customer experience.

“To my delight, the marketing & branding category entrants featured a diverse mix [of brands] who are all making a tremendous impact in bringing plant-based products to a wider audience,” Abigail Stevens, Marketing Director at Plant Based World Expo Europe said in a press statement. “Their creativity, commitment to nurturing community, and passion was palpable. It was an honor to read them and be a part of the jury process.”

The 2023 shortlist includes a diverse range of brands including established players, challenger brands, and heritage favorites. Confirmed shortlist entries are:

Sustainability:

  • 2CV by Bodegues Sumarroca
  • Cactus-based leather by DESSERTO
  • Almond Brownie by Farm Brothers
  • Fred’s Vegan Mayo by Fred’s Vegan
  • GROW Unmilky Flow range by Taucherli
  • F’sh Filet by Heura Foods
  • Burger and Ćevapčići by O’Plant
  • Olive waste-based leather by Oleatex
  • Meatless Bacon by Plenty Reasons
  • Proteína ReVeL by ReVeL Foods
  • Doc Loureiro 2022 and Doc Rose 2022 by Stilla Pura
  • PlantFish White Fillet by Unfished
  • Vegan Burger by Aivia
  • Complete dog food by VEGDOG
  • Veganer Streichgenuss and Vemondo Range by Lidl

Innovation:

  • Compleat Plant Protein 1.6 by Nestlé
  • Beef Flavoured Seasoning by Dasida
  • F’sh Fillet by Heura Foods
  • Fred’s Vegan Mayo by Fred’s Vegan
  • Bio Plant-Based No.1 by Goldblatt
  • Gourmet Vegan Mayonnaise by Grapoila
  • Pea Protein by Herbivore Protein
  • Almond Based Yogurt by Jooma
  • Lipid Care Probiotic Nourishing Cream by Lanbiotic
  • Oasis by Vegtus
  • Pineapple Mattress Ticking by Boyteks Tekstil
  • Plant Based Stripes (Bio Impressed Vegan Bacon) by Foodys
  • Leather Alternative Made from Tea Waste by WASTEA
  • Soft Blanc by Mondarella
  • chicken Filet Natur by Planted

Marketing & Branding:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil by 8:26 Histories Charilaos Gounaras
  • Heura Foods Range
  • Goldblatt Range
  • Bio & Vegan Biscuits by Kambly
  • Meatless Cold Cuts by Plenty Reasons
  • MEGGLE Vegan Range
  • Milder Bio-Naturschnaps by Schladerer
  • Food For Future Range by Penny
  • Range Of Traditional Vegan Ready Meals by Surinver
  • Ritter Sport Vegan Range
  • TiNDLE Range
  • Plant Based Collagen Shampoo by Tresan The Earth
  • Vegan Coffee Pods by Natur All
  • Baguettes by You Vegan
  • Vemondo Range by Lidl

Benson Hill: Leading the Pace of Innovation

Benson Hill is a food technology company on a mission to modernize and improve the current food system. Founded in 2012 by former CEO Matt Crisp and the late Todd Mockler, Ph.D., the company has developed a proprietary technology platform called CropOS®, which aggregates data on the genetic information of plants, the formulation needs of customers, and field data from farmers to develop food and feed ingredients that are better from the very beginning. It’s an audacious move but one that stands to contribute positively in a competitive sector.

The driving motivation behind Benson Hill is to build a healthier and happier world by unlocking nature’s genetic diversity within plants. . In essence, the company strives to work symbiotically with the building blocks that nature has provided, and its own technological advancements. By providing more thoughtfully designed ingredients–such as plant-based proteins that deliver tailored consumer benefits–Benson Hill can create “novel sustainable savings” and, ultimately, deliver more nutritional value from seed to plate.

“Our food system produces a handful of crops extremely well, yielding millions of calories. And we have made significant strides toward achieving food security.” Deanie Elsner, interim CEO of Benson Hill told Plant Based World Pulse.

“However, it is time to go beyond what’s currently possible and strive for something better—a future where innovation and nature work in harmony to create nutrition security with healthier, more sustainable food options that help mitigate climate change.”

Addressing the changing alternative protein sector

Assessing the global food system, Benson Hill claims that its focus is transitioning from food security to nutrition security thereby prioritizing nutrient-rich diets over basic caloric needs.

This shift–the company says–is driven by a consumer-led “food is health” movement and further bolstered by organizations including the United Nations, which are currently advocating for healthier and sustainable food choices. However, consumers are not only seeking out more nutritious foods, they are also demanding heightened traceability and transparency throughout the supply chain. This is seemingly being mirrored by food manufacturers which are in turn looking for greater reliability, sourcing transparency, and environmental, social and governance (ESG) quantification from their supply partners.

According to data, Millennials and Gen Z are driving the call for dietary change. It is thought that 90% of US consumers are looking to purchase foods that contain ingredients they recognize or regard as healthier. In addition, 65% want their food to be functional, thereby acknowledging that what they eat has a fuel-function and a direct impact on their personal health.

With such a shift in mind, Benson Hill notes that instead of focusing on producing calories at scale, innovating inside the existing food system is essential. In short, developing healthier, tastier, and more sustainable ingredient options needs to be the first priority.

A pragmatic approach to protein

The plant versus animal protein debate continues to rage on, and while the environmental and health impacts of the latter are frequently used as an argument for plant-based eating, Benson Hill makes it clear that the truth is more complex.

“There was never going to be a single silver bullet to meet the growing demand for protein,” said Renee Beall, Global Director of Product Marketing. “This is supported by the fact that many of the larger meatpackers are branching into plant-based analogue protein products, in addition to traditional protein sources.”

The demand for plant-based protein is growing rapidly and as consumers become more aware of the benefits of reducing their meat consumption, Benson Hill is well-positioned to fill the protein gap with its innovative plant-based ingredients. The company’s CropOS platform allows it to develop customized ingredients that meet the specific needs of its customers, whether they are looking for improved taste, texture, or nutritional value. In practical terms, this could result in more authentic meat mimics–alongside other protein-rich sources–entering the market.

Specifically, Benson Hill is leveraging new developments within the soy sphere, something it claims is seeing perpetual demand for innovation and improvement. While the company states that it firmly believes that there is space for everybody within the burgeoning plant-based protein sector, it still aims to stand apart from competitors through rigorous development of viable new food ingredients.

“Using our CropOS technology platform, we’ve been able to identify ways to reduce bitterness levels in yellow peas while boosting protein and yields,” a company spokesperson confirmed. “Benson Hill is on track to commercialize yellow pea varieties for meat alternative products and pet food ingredients, which we believe are enormous and largely untapped markets where we have an opportunity to replace animal protein with plant protein.”

Sustainability always in mind

Speaking about the company’s proprietary soybean ingredients, Benson Hill notes that they produce less greenhouse gas emissions and use less water during production than accepted benchmark alternatives. Remarkably, data shows that its soy protein products can can require up to 90% less water and up to 88% less CO2e to produce, when compared to South American-sourced soy protein concentrate (SPC), while delivering less processed protein. The question is, how?

Benson Hill’s approach to sustainability is based on two powerful ESG concepts: sustainable design and systems thinking. The company believes that by applying sustainable design principles, it can deliver new livelihood opportunities for farmers, quantifiable ESG metrics for food companies, and more healthy and sustainable food choices for consumers.

In 2022, Benson Hill became one of the first U.S.-based soy ingredient providers to achieve the much-coveted international ProTerra Certification. The standard is predicated on rigorous global standards that set the bar for sustainable agriculture, deforestation-free manufacturing, non-GMO identity preservation, tangible biodiversity efforts, fair labor practices, and more.Benson Hill also joined the ProTerra Network, a group of companies dedicated to sustainable practices and continuous improvement. Concurrrently, the company became a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) in support of its customers’ objectives and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

A final word on plant-based eating for human and pet health

On average, Americans spend $1.7 trillion per year on food compared to almost $2 trillion on illnesses related to diet and nutrition including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. More than 65% of American adults are either overweight or classified as obese and–according to the CDC–many do not eat enough fresh produce. Benson Hill states that developing better tasting, more nutritious options for both food and animal feed products will play an important role in reversing these trends.

Food is health, and the work Benson Hill undertakes contributes to healthier people, pets, and a more sustainable planet.

What’s Trending In Plant-Based? Seafood Growth, Fast Food Availability, Ingredient Innovations and More.

As the plant-based food sector settles into a groove after the 2019-2020 sector boom, the landscape of meat-free manufacturing has changed.

Once dominated by beef and chicken analogues, the plant-based industry is seemingly moving towards less conventional products, experimenting with advanced technology, and gaining more governmental support than ever before. The result will, hopefully, be a varied menu for global diners–including flexitarians and curious omnivores–that supports a shift towards a more sustainable food system.

Building on trends observed this year, 2024 and beyond look set to witness the following within the meat-free market.

Plant-based seafood will continue to boom

The fastest-growing plant-based food niche in 2022-2023 is alternative seafood. Current predictions state that the global market is expected to reach a value of $2.9 billion by 2025, representing a CAGR of 23.5% between 2020 and 2025.

Reasons for the boom in seafood analogues are varied but are thought to mainly pivot around growing ethical concerns about the impact of commercial fishing, health concerns stemming from fish consumption, and the consumer uptick in seafood-heavy regions, such as Asia.

In addition, plant-based seafood products are becoming more sophisticated than ever, allowing businesses to target a wider gamut of consumers. These include sashimi connoisseurs, who can now swap out unsustainable tuna and salmon for ultra-realistic fish-free alternatives that have been classified as sushi-grade.

Refined dairy analogues

Plant-based dairy has seen steady growth in recent years, with sales increasing by 19% between 2020-22 alone. Now, the sector could be gearing up for even bigger expansion thanks to a number of major players looking to advanced technology to create the most dairy-like products possible.

Focussed on replicating the taste, texture, and nutritional values of conventional dairy, outfits such as the US’ Perfect Day, Israel’s Imagindairy, and Mighty in the UK are using precision fermentation to progress their product lines. The process allows dairy-specific proteins and enzymes to be replicated without the use of animals. These can then be used to create more faithful reproductions of various dairy lines–including yogurt and cheese.

As the technology becomes more widely available and cost-effective, it is likely that more alternative dairy companies will invest, leading to a widespread and general improvement in the quality of plant-based products.

Increased plant-based fast-food options

The fast-food industry is expected to place a higher importance on sustainability initiatives, as consumers have made it known that such factors affect their buying habits. Alongside chains looking to switch their packaging options to less impactful alternatives, plant-based menu items are likely to increase in number and availability.

Global QSR leaders–including McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC–have already experimented with meat-free menu items, with most adding at least one to the permanent menu. However, as consumer demand for plant-based options increases, it stands to reason that more dishes will be added to a bigger selection of restaurants.

Such offerings will likely be the result of collaborations with plant-based meat manufacturers, including Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, The Vegetarian Butcher, and more. Proprietary plant-based meats could be on the horizon as well, as they will allow brands to retain greater control over their recipes and end products. Taco Bell is already exploring this avenue in a bid to stand out from the QSR crowd.

Ingredient innovations 

Plant-based meat has evolved in recent years. Once dominated by soy-based products, the sector is now awash with more realistic options that utilize ingredients such as pea protein, wheat gluten, and jackfruit. In a bid to make ever-more juicy and satisfying bites, manufacturers continue to look for ingredients that will deliver the most realistic meat analogues, with two seemingly taking priority.

Mycelium–the complex root structure of mushrooms–is an up-and-coming star of the plant-based world. Sustainable, healthy and capable of mimicking the texture and taste of meat, manufacturers are excited about the possibilities. Moreover, consumers have already given mycelium products their nod of approval, with limited releases (where the ingredient has been declared safe for human consumption) selling out in record time.

Another focus appears to be the development of suitably umami and juicy plant-based fats to be used in alternative meat products. The Good Food Institute has already spoken out about the importance of fat development, in connection to the continued growth of the plant-based meat sector. Precision fermentation, bespoke emulsions, and fungi are all being experimented with.

Traction into new global markets

Asia, Europe, and the US have all witnessed growing consumer interest in plant-based products. However, the Middle East and Africa are expected to experience a surge in meat-free popularity.

Traditionally, both regions have been meat-centric but are now seeing the potential for explosive growth in the plant-based sector. It was reported last year that the United Arab Emirates has cottoned on to the alternative meat trend and as such, has sought to import popular products from around the world. This will likely continue and increase in the coming year as the Middle East has been shown to be necessarily influenced by global dietary trends, due to the region needing to import around 90% of its food. As plant-based eating becomes more mainstream in food-producing regions–such as the US and Europe–the availability of relevant products will increase and filter out into export trends.

Likewise, Africa is expected to more widely accept and experiment with plant-based products, as a route to food security. Driving the change in tastes are Gen Z and Millennial consumers, both of which are cited as being concerned about personal health and the climate, thereby looking to meat alternatives as a sustainable solution to both. It is likely that appetites will be satiated with both imported and domestically manufactured products, though there is ongoing litigation surrounding the labeling of plant-based items in South Africa specifically. This could impact the availability of lines and therefore, consumer awareness about them.

Government subsidies for plant-based producers

The meat and dairy industries have been subsidized by US and EU governments for decades. Current estimations state that the animal-based industries are in receipt of around 1,000 times more financial support than their plant-based counterparts. In turn, this is actively blocking what experts refer to as a crucial shift towards a more sustainable food system, if we are to avoid total climate catastrophe.

To meet net zero targets and fulfill COP pledges, governments around the world will likely need to start showing support for meat and dairy alternatives. Largely proven to produce far fewer emissions than animal-based counterparts in their production, plant-based foods are being touted as a valuable resource in the fight against climate change. As such, they need to be affordable and accessible for as many people as possible, making subsidies necessary. The political landscape also stands to support a shift.

With the US electing a new president in 2024 and the UK holding a general election in 2025, political pledges to support climate action are likely from most candidates and parties, to win support from increasingly environmentally-aware voter bases. This could facilitate greater subsidies for plant-based manufacturers.

The Future of US Foodservice: 5 Key Predictions

The US foodservice industry is facing a period of major transformation and it is set to impact every sector player. Key to this upheaval is the rise of consumers becoming more cognizant of the environmental and ethical impacts of their diets. As such, they are demanding more plant-based and sustainable options, which need to be fulfilled by foodservice companies.

Demonstrably, the foodservice industry is already increasingly incorporating meat and dairy-free options into their menus. However, the sector needs to be prepared for ongoing dietary shifts and growing trends.

A new white paper from the Good Food Institute (GFI) offers a comprehensive overview of the future of foodservice and identifies at least five key trends that are set to irreversibly alter the industry:

Plant-based eating will continue to rise

Plant-based foods are becoming increasingly popular, as consumers seek out healthier and more sustainable options. According to GFI, the plant-based food market is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2030. This ties in with an increasing number of consumers adopting flexitarian, vegan, and plant-based diets.

Overall, global consumers are expected to significantly reduce their meat and dairy intake. This is being encouraged by climate experts, who have previously stated that a shift away from animal agriculture is one of, if not the most significant steps that we can take to reduce climate damage.

Animal agriculture is thought to contribute 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions, more than all forms of transportation combined. Breaking this down further, it has been found that meat and dairy account for 57% of all food production emissions. Conversely, plant-based food production is responsible for 29% of all food-related emissions.

Consumers are increasingly aware of how their food choices directly impact the environment, their own health and the wellbeing of animals. This is why all three have been cited as major motivations for people choosing to ditch meat and dairy or at least reduce their intake significantly.

GFI specifically reports that 2022 was a high-performance year and marked a noticeable shift back to pre-pandemic popularity levels for plant-based meats. “U.S. broadline distributor sales of plant-based proteins reached $304 million in 2022, growing 8% from pre-pandemic levels in 2019. Meanwhile, unit sales declined very slightly by 1% over the same period, in line with animal-based meat sales declines,” the report reads.

Growth of fast casual dining will be tangible

Fast casual restaurants offer a more convenient and affordable alternative to traditional sit-down restaurants. They are a valid choice when consumers are pressed for time and they have been shown to be more likely to offer plant-based options than their conventional counterparts.

This presents chains–including QSR giants–with an opportunity to tap into the burgeoning popularity of their dining genre while also catering to a growing market. It is likely that fast casual dining spots will begin to roll out more choices for meat-free eaters and that those who spotlight such consumers will benefit from an increased customer base.

This has already been witnessed as McDonald’s and Burger King vyed to tempt plant-based consumers with their meat-free menu additions in recent years. Where McDonald’s chose to debut the McPlant, and later the Double McPlant, Burger King went further and developed a range of plant-based options including ‘chicken’ sandwiches, nuggets, and signature burgers. As a result, Burger King is deemed the more popular chain and its food, better received.

It’s not just burgers that need to be prioritized though, as GFI confirmed,

“In 2022, products including plant-based chicken, plant-based pork, and plant-based seafood emerged as small but mighty segments, demonstrating that operators are leaning into new product offerings beyond the traditional plant-based burger. Analog products made up 53% of pound sales in plant-based proteins in 2022, up from 39% in 2019,” findings revealed.

Delivery and takeout services will need to step up

As consumers become more time-pressed, home-delivery and takeaway food services are continuing to see a boom in popularity. This is therefore creating new opportunities for plant-based foodservice businesses.

One thing to be aware of, however, is the rising cost of plan-based ingredients. The average price per pound of plant-based proteins grew 9% from 2019 to 2022. While this appears concerning, it is vital to note that animal meat prices increased by 26%. As foodservice companies attempt to protect their margins, these increases will necessarily be passed onto consumers, potentially supporting a further shift away from animal protein.

Delivery and takeout services stand to benefit from loyal consumer bases by offering more plant-based choices, guarantees of no cross-contamination in kitchens that are not exclusively meat-free, and showcasing the better value of animal-free menu items. Carbon neutral delivery options will also likely sway purchasers.

The demand for transparency

Consumers are increasingly demanding transparency about the food they eat. This is driving demand for plant-based foods that are made with high-quality ingredients and with traceable footprints.

This has seen some food manufacturers taking steps to print their carbon footprints on their product packaging while foodservice providers have been experimenting with displaying environmental impact information on menus. There’s no denying that this will incur additional costs, at least in the short-term, but conscious consumers are a valuable customer base.

GFI claims that plant-based meat fans make around 30 more trips to foodservice locations every year than their animal protein counterparts. The result is an average extra spend of $400 annually, demonstrating the commercial viability of catering to this specific consumer genre.

As more individuals experiment with plant-based foods and manufacturers produce increasingly indistinguishable meat analogs, foodservice businesses are on the precipice of being able to capitalize on high-value shoppers, while also catering to their dietary and ethical preferences.

The focus on sustainability

The environmental impact of food choices is becoming a driving factor for consumers when choosing between meat and plant-based protein packed foods. GFI estimates that around 10% of all US consumers bought plant-based meat products at a foodservice location in 2022.  However, most only did so just once.

If foodservice companies can marry consumer curiosity with sustainability concerns, through informed marketing and clear labeling, the plant-based meat category would be well positioned to gain a greater foothold within the foodservice sector. It would not be a stretch to assume that consumers would return more than once, creating greater consumer loyalty to brands and outlets.

These five trends are–according to GFI–shaping the future of foodservice. The main takeaway has to be that as the industry continues to evolve, plant-based foods are likely to play an increasingly critical role.

In addition to these main observations the white paper also discusses other factors that are impacting the future of foodservice. These include the rise of food allergies and intolerances, the increasing popularity of ethnic cuisine, and the growing demand for personalized dining experiences. All of these can also be tied to an intrinsic need for greater plant-based provisions across the global–not just US–foodservice sector.

If you are interested in learning more about the future of foodservice, you can find the original white paper here: https://gfi.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/foodservice-whitepaper.pdf.

4 Vital Steps for a Successful Plant-Based Retail Rollout

US retail sales of plant-based foods alone grew by 6.2% in early 2021, reaching a total market value of $7.4 billion. 2 years on, reports that overall retail sales in plant-based have slowed.

Brands now face new challenges, including increased competition from competitors and retailers alike, who have heavily increased production of own-label products. These challenges have placed extra pressure on retail rollouts to be successful. But what dictates a company’s ability to make a splash in a demanding marketplace?

Read on to find out.

Step 1: Brand identity is everything

A genuine commitment to sustainability and equitable food security are the driving forces behind many independent plant-based brands. Unlike other markets, which are often driven by strategic gap-filling, plant-based manufacturers appear to be frequently motivated–and defined–by their founders’ personal ethics and dietary habits.

These deeply personal investments create a unique value proposition in the plant-based retail space, forming the foundations of a brand identity that will resonate with like-minded consumers. This will prove vital to the success of any retail rollout, as consumers have been found to form an opinion about a brand within just 0.05 seconds, which will impact whether they chose to buy or not.

Studies have shown that the chief motivations for consumers choosing plant-based products include animal welfare, personal health and well-being, and environmental stewardship. Any brands that seek to position themselves alongside the same concerns should be able to foster long standing relationships with said buyers.

Case study: Heura Foods.

Founded in 2017, Heura Foods is a Barcelona-based company that has been clear about its mission from day one. The founders, Marc Coloma and Bernat Ananos Martinez, call themselves “agents of change” and seek to create a more sustainable and healthy food system. They draw consumers in by inviting them to become “good rebels” and to join in the fight against meat and dairy-centric nutrition.

Combined with vibrant and cheerful branding and well-conceived product launches, Heura is now thought to be the fastest-growing plant-based operation in Europe.

Step 2: Planning and promotion must be unique

To launch in the plant-based market, thorough planning is essential, but remember that no universal rollout methodology will guarantee visibility and success.

Leveraging accessible and cost-effective consumer insight tools–including Google Analytics and Google Trends–provides valuable information about target consumers and should be utilized early, to shape promotion strategies. This is important as around 65% of a company’s business comes from repeat customers, so gaining insight into what they are looking for and bagging that first purchase could lead to lasting brand loyalty.

The uniqueness of a company is a valuable tool for standing out from competitors and should provide a jumping off point for campaign development. On the flip side, emulating strategies used by others in the sector will likely draw comparisons, which is inadvisable. This is especially pertinent for independents when looking for inspiration at major players, such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.

Engaging promotions, strategically aligned with key calendar dates and supported by effective marketing content, are still considered a recipe for brand awareness success. Playing to the individuality of a company will only further enhance this.

Case study: THIS Isn’t Streaky Bacon

UK plant-based manufacturer THIS chose to unveil its streaky bacon analogue in December 2022, creating buzz ahead of Veganuary 2023. It launched into almost 3,000 supermarkets across the country and was squarely aimed at existing plant-based eaters, flexitarians, Veganuary participants, and vegan bacon naysayers.

The launch was supported by in-store promotions and tongue-in-cheek social posts that tied in with the brand’s wider image. Earlier in the year, THIS released a limited edition bacon-scented perfume, just in time for Valentine’s Day. The stunt saw the fragrance sell out in just 20 minutes and raise the profile of its existing bacon products.

Step 3: Launching online, in-store or both?

Choosing the right launch strategy can make or break a market debut, which means thinking carefully about where to sell products.

For many new plant-based brands, a 100% online retailer offers an ideal platform to gain recognition, test products, and gather feedback. This differs from D2C as online retailers already have the infrastructure to market products and provide sales data, without further investment. In addition, setting up an effective logistics chain can prove costly and difficult for challenger brands that are not experienced in the delivery of products straight to consumers.

Alternatively, brands might look at launching in-store and finding dependable distribution partners. This is crucial to securing a spot in the market, but it is not always easy. Even when a notable partner is confirmed, it offers no guarantee that others will follow nor that the products being supplied will be given good visibility. Responsiveness, flexibility, reliability, and a strong focus on quality control are sought after characteristics of any distribution partner.

A third option is to launch unilaterally; however, this can be costly and requires exemplary organization, including careful stock control and allocation. Launch strategies depend greatly on a brand’s goals, the types of products being manufactured (affecting hope they need to be stored), and budget.

Case study: One Planet Pizza

“When looking for a dependable distributor, lean into your network and your community. Some of our best partnerships have come through word-of-mouth, often a recommendation from another founder over LinkedIn,” Joe Hill, co-founder of One Planet Pizza says. “Let your community know you’re looking and make it very clear what it is you hope to achieve and what type of partner would help you do this.”

Hill is currently trying to interest Waitrose in becoming a distributor, to follow in Asda’s footsteps.

Step 4: Create buy-in from consumers

While becoming increasingly competitive, the plant-based market remains dominated by established brands. This means that challengers must differentiate themselves and carve their own niches to create a loyal customer base or ‘consumer buy-in’.

Alongside an established brand identity, factors such as taste, texture, appearance, affordability, a wide product portfolio, and prepared meals can create consumer buy-in. Companies can align their releases by identifying what consumers want (convenience plus easy access to healthier food choices that will work with their budgets). Once customers feel connected to a brand, they will likely buy into new releases. Data supports this, with findings claiming that 43% of consumers will spend more when they feel loyal to a manufacturer.

Case study: Impossible Foods

Impossible Foods has revealed that it has reduced its wholesale prices by 15%, in order to remain competitive in the market and to be an appealing option to consumers. The move proves that even the major players are not able to rest on their laurels or their 2020 sales booms.

The plant-based food sector is expected to reach over $162 billion in value, by 2030. With such growth will come increased competition for shelf space and visibility. Both established and challenger brands will need to double-down on their unique selling points and tailored consumer engagement to claim market share.

How Can Foodservice Companies Meet the Demand for Plant-Based Options?

Research shows that plant-based popularity will continue to rise through 2030 and beyond. To stay ahead of the curve, companies need to consider how they can up their game and the benefits of embracing, not resisting, the call for less meat and dairy.

Continued demand for plant-based foods

It’s no secret that consumers have been increasingly adopting flexitarian and vegan dietary habits. In the majority of cases, these are attributed to a growing environmental awareness or a vested interest in personal health. However, the scale of the plant-based sector’s growth appears to be somewhat underplayed.

Data from Mintel Global New Products Database reveals that growth has not only been consistent but also vast. The research found that, in line with a shift in consumer demand, new meat-free products launched with a clear plant-based message increased by 302% between 2018 and 2022. Moreover, this expansion is predicted to push through to 2030 to make the industry a multi-billion dollar sector.

Alongside environmental and wellbeing motivations, consumers also appear to be swayed by the increasing quality of meat and dairy analogues. In recent years, plant-based meat companies in particular have focussed their efforts on creating the most realistic animal protein mimics possible. Such endeavors have resulted in hyper-realistic whole-cut products launching in mainstream grocery stores around the world, thereby granting consumers easy and affordable access to cutting edge developments. This is a far cry from the days of soy-based meat-like products that bore little resemblance to their animal-based counterparts.

Demand for sustainable food options is demonstrably not in decline. This places the onus of accessibility firmly on foodservice operations, across an array of supply niches. These will include QSR outlets, catering companies that supply businesses, the education sector, and health services, and more.

How foodservice companies can step up to the plate

The foodservice sector needs to find a way to satisfy a range of consumers. It isn’t practical to expect sector leaders to ditch meat and dairy altogether, but likewise, they can’t afford to ignore the call for more options that don’t feature them. As such, there are small but meaningful steps that can be taken.

Offer a variety of plant-based options

Developing and serving more plant-based options will allow consumers to recognize that companies are aware and willing to embrace a shift in dietary demands. While it would be a challenging move to immediately provide equal numbers of meat and meat-free options, slowly tipping the balance is achievable.

Global catering giant Sodexo is doing exactly this. Currently, its plant-based menu options make up 36% of its educational supply chain. By 2025, there will be an even 50-50 split between meat and vegan meals.

In the QSR sector, Burger King appears to be leading by example. While competitor McDonald’s stalls with a limited number of plant-based menu items, Burger King has gone so far as to launch fully vegan restaurants and a much larger meat-free menu. Like Sodexo, the fast-food chain aims to be 50% plant-based, but by 2030.

Up the visibility and accessibility of meat-free dishes

Foodservice companies not only need to offer plant-based options, they actively need to promote them. By reinforcing that they are not a specialist alternative but a readily available alternative to conventional menu items, the novelty factor can be negated.

A key step will be labeling foods as vegan or plant-based on menus and highlighting the environmental benefits of them. This has been shown to increase the uptick of such options, even with traditionally meat-eating diners. In addition, meat-free dishes will also need to be included in promotions–such as meal deals– and special events. Tapping into consumers’ desires to be sustainable but not fiscally penalized for being as such is key.

Partner with popular and prolific plant-based food brands

Piggybacking on the success and popularity of an existing plant-based brand is a commercially astute way to garner new customers and meet the growing demand for meat-free foods.

In recent years, there have been a number of key collaborations that have allowed companies to put their best plant-based foot forward. Though McDonald’s has been slower to develop meat-free options, it chose to work with one of the most popular meat mimic companies, Beyond Meat. Likewise, Burger King works with the Vegetarian Butcher to create its meat analogues, which have been deemed indistinguishable from their meat items.

By identifying which brands have garnered their own loyal followings, foodservice outfits can benefit from a readymade consumer base and cross-promotion activities.

Benefits of jumping on the plant-based shift

The upsides of embracing the demand for plant-based foods arguably outweigh any cost needed to do so.

Alongside attracting legions of new customers, businesses can also benefit from positioning themselves as sustainability champion. This issue will only become more important as the climate catastrophe continues to evolve. Additionally, consumers will be impressed and feel ‘seen’ by companies willing to adapt their menus. But it’s not just customer perceptions that stand to improve.

By incorporating more plant-based foods–and subsequently reducing meat and dairy options–foodservice companies can positively alter their operational impact. As pressure grows for the companies to start aligning with net zero ambitions, those that take the leap and actively slash their carbon emissions by reducing the amount of meat and dairy in their supply chain will get a head start.

It would be churlish to ignore the fact that gearing up for a plant-based shift will likely be a costly endeavor for foodservice companies. From training staff to cook with new ingredients to marketing fresh options, there will be significant outlay necessary but the potential benefits are clear to see: more customers and better environmental credentials.

The demand for plant-based foods is growing and as menu items become more sophisticated and satisfying, this will likely only increase. Those companies that can acknowledge and accommodate the major dietary shift that is in progress will be well-positioned for success. Conversely, those who cling to archaic menu development themes will struggle to stay in business.

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