Upcoming Webinar Featuring Experts From Deliveroo, Meatless Farm, Veg Capital, and More

Tuesday, February 7 at 9am EST (2pm GMT) will see new webinar series, Insider Talks launch live on Plant Based World Pulse. 

The monthly segment will feature key players in the industry as they engage in topical conversations hosted by Indy Kaur, Founder of Plant Futures and former Plant Based Strategy Lead at Tesco. 

The first topic: ‘Celebrating Plant-Based Successes and Planning for The Challenges Ahead’ features:

  • Morten Toft Bech – Founder, Meatless Farm 
  • ElenaDevis - Head of Vegan Category, Deliveroo 
  • RabinderHarrison - Commercial Director, Veg Capital 
  • MarisaHeath - CEO, Plant Based Food Alliance 
  • Simon Day – ex-Squeaky Bean and Investor 

Agenda:

  • How did Deliveroo lead the online delivery market to create a multi-million vegan category? 
  • How Meatless Farm became one of Europes fastest-growing plant-based brands available in over 20 countries, and what challenges lie ahead? 
  • How did Squeaky Bean go from £0 to £15m in under 3 years and what were some of the lessons, as well as the successes? 
  • Why plant-based has attracted so many investors, how they are fuelling change and why investment is becoming harder to find. 
  • Where did the early sales boom come from? And why this will be different going forwards? 
  • Is it only price that drives consumer perceptions of value? What role can taste, health or other benefits play?

The webinars will include behind-the scenes insights from major players in development, manufacturing, foodservice, retail, finance, and advocacy.  

The series aims to give those who work in the plant-based field a space for open and honest conversation about the most pressing topics, challenges and opportunities facing businesses. It is aimed at anyone working in the plant-based field or those who want to support and understand the issues driving success, the hurdles the businesses face and how others have overcome them.  

The series has been created by Plant Based Pulse World Product Manager Damoy Robertson and Indy Kaur, after they identified a need for timely debates about pressing issues.  

Insider Talks is free to attend. Register now to via the link below:

Insider Talks

Market Growth, Plant Based Treaty, Veganuary and More

We’ve trawled the news outlets and our inside sources for the most relevant and up to date plant-based business news. 

Alternative Protein 

The global alternative protein market is set to reach $73.9 billion by 2031, with an annual growth rate of 16.2%, according to a new report by Allied Market Research. The sector generated $16.6 billion in 2021. The report says Demand for plant-based protein is driven largely by a rise in health consciousness  

For those wanting to know more about this dynamic emerging sector and recent developments in the US the Good Food Institute is hosting a virtual seminar with cultivated meat industry experts on 31 Jan.  

Plant-Based Ham 

Plant-based ham is also soaring in popularity according to a report from ResearchAndMarkets.com. The plant-based ham market is expected to grow from $494 million to $1000 million by 2028, with a growth rate of around 12.7%. Growth was particularly marked in the US and Europe, especially Germany.  

Fast Food  

The world of vegan fast food is also heading for dramatic growth according to Future Market Insights. VegNews reports that the global fast food market is expected to be worth nearly $28 billion and is expected to rise to $28 billion by 2033. The growth is likely due to changing attitudes towards health, animals, and the environment.  

Veganuary Effect  

The annual vegan challenge has record number of participants. With global figures not yet in, in the UK with one person has been signing up every 2.4 seconds. A YouGov poll found that 71% of British adults has herd of the pledge and more than 21% have taken past since the challenge began in 2014. As for plant-based businesses, there have been some significant new launches in the sector to coincide with the campaign. The Guardian reports that a combination of Veganuary and inflation has led to restaurants cutting down on meat offerings. Figures from Lumina Intelligence show that only 20% of restaurant dishes at restaurant chains last summer contained meat, a drop of four percentage points from last spring.   

Product News  

Cell-based meat Lab grown meat could be in American dinner plates “within months”. Leah Douglas at Reuters reports that in November 2022 the US Food and Drug Administration approved one cultivated meat product, a chicken breast grown by UPSIDE Foods, as safe for human consumption. Upside is now hoping to bring its products to restaurants in 2023 and to supermarkets in 2028.  

Alt-dairy A former space scientist who worked for SpaceX, GoogleX and Impossible Foods has founded a vegan cheese company. Dr Oliver Zahn has raised $27 million and used advanced tech to develop plant-based “moonshot cheeses” that match dairy on taste texture and price.  

Spanish start-up Väcka is making plant-based cheese with fermented melon seeds. Barcelona-based company uses liquid from upcycled seeds in place of almond milk in its Mözza and Chxdder varieties.  

Alt-seafood New Zealand/US firm NewFish will be working with Cawthorn Institute to create and commercialise a fish replacement made from microalgae. The partnership hopes develop a new source of protein to combat the issues of depleted fish stocks and plastic pollution.  

Plant Based Treaty 

Edinburgh is the first European capital city to sign up to the Plant Based Treaty, a grassroots initiative to combat the climate crisis. The treaty will transition schools and council meetings to plant-based food and introduce carbon labelling in restaurants. The Treaty has been endorsed by cities in India, the US, Turkey, and the UK, where the public can email their councillors and to endorse the treaty as an individual or business.  

Public Procurement 

Also in the UK a report from Systemiq and the University of Exeter calls on the government to introduce plant-based food into prisons, schools, hospitals and other state run institutions. They identified public procurement as a “super leverage point” for creating changes in the global food system. Plant Based Treaty are calling on the UK public to email their councillors and request that their city signs up and to endorse the treaty as an individual or business.  

Funding 

Milltrust Ventures and Earth First Food Ventures are launching a new $300m Smart Protein Fund to support the development of alternative proteins, according to City AM. The new fund aims t enable the scaling up of alternative meat production to help the food industry meet net-zero goals.   

The Grocery Gazette reports that plant-based brands are surging ahead in food sector crowdfunding campaigns. The Seedrs annual report says there is a 24% rise in successful campaigns in the vegan category, with plant-based businesses raising £105.1m in total. 

The Pack, a UK vegan dog food start-up has raised $995,514 in seed-funding from Vevolution and private investors. Backers include Mars, Scelta Mycofriends, Veg Capital and Kale United plus some alternative protein angel investors.  

Marketing 

Plant-based brands are well known for having the most humorous ad campaigns. With new campaigns launched by Allplants, This and Eat Just, Vegconomist looked back at the most creative ads over the past 12 months 

Want to be included in our round up? Send your press releases and updates to [email protected] 

Plant Based World Expo Europe Doubles in Size as Industry Booms

Europe’s only dedicated plant-based trade event, Plant Based World Expo Europe, returned bigger and better last week at London Olympia with twice as much floorspace as the previous year, demonstrating the huge growth and innovation that has taken place in the plant-based food sector in 2022.   

The show also welcomed a 94% increase in attendees compared to 2021, with visitors from across the food service, retail, distribution, and investment sectors, including senior decision-makers from the likes of Tesco, M&S, ALDI, Morrisons, Waitrose, Ocado, Sodexo, ISS, Bidfood, Sysco, Aramark, LEON, Papa Johns Pizza, Burger King, The Restaurant Group and Greggs to name a few.  

Future eating habits and new opportunities were at the heart of the show as the industry came together to reflect on the progress of the plant-based sector and explore what the next generation of plant-based eating looks like, with the latest innovations available on the show floor to taste.  

Image: Elena Devis, Head of Vegan Category, Deliveroo

Leaders from some of the biggest food brands in the world, including Deliveroo, Wagamama, Sainsbury’s, and Quorn, offered their insight on how plant-based ingredients are transforming consumers’ view of food and presenting significant business growth opportunities during the conference programme. 

With a unique take on how businesses can convert the masses, Emily Weston, Head of Brand Development at Wagamama, joined the ‘Persuading consumers to try plant-based’ session: “Launching vegan dishes and menus isn’t just about appeasing vegans. We want more people to try vegan foods and when we introduce new plant-based dishes to our menus we see participation spike.”  

The Culinary Theatre was also a hive of activity with live cooking demonstrations using some of the most innovative plant-based products available. Ten sessions took place across two days, including an interactive demonstration from BOSH! which offered visitors an exclusive preview of its new sauces to make an authentic and delicious lasagne. Unfished also took part to demonstrate the progress in the fish-less category by creating tuna rolls, whilst Redefine Meat showcased how plant-based foods can be incorporated in fine dining using its tenderloin and new premium cuts.   

Alongside the interactive show content, over 150 exhibitors from around the world showcased the products capturing the attention of a wider pool of consumers to bring plant-based eating into the mainstream. The show floor included a broad range of brands, from household names to innovative new start-ups including Verdino, Moving Mountains, Mock, Meatless Farm, Redefine Meat, Thanks Plants, The Raging Pig Company, unMeat, Wicked Kitchen, Quorn, Tiba Tempeh, MozzaRisella, and Shicken.   

Hosted Buyers Programme

To give buyers exclusive access to exhibitors and help participating brands forge new connections with decision makers also hosted a buyers programme. Over 400 meetings took place across two days, helping the industry to form new business relationships and bring more plant-based foods to shelves and menus.  

One buyer who enjoyed the show was Heerum Flearly, Procurement Consultant at Tickeat Ltd, who said: “The hosted buyer programme has been really beneficial. The show has been so busy, and I’ve been surprised by the breadth on offer. Plant Based World Expo has created a very strong plant-based community and I definitely want to be part of it next year.” 

Having experienced exponential growth in its first two years, Plant Based World Expo Europe has announced that the show will take place at the ExCeL, London’s biggest venue, for 2023. The event began in London’s Business Design Centre in 2021, before moving to London Olympia for this year’s edition.  

Jonathan Morley, Managing Director of Plant Based World Expo Europe, concludes: “We are thrilled that support for our show has been so strong this year, so much so that Plant Based World Expo is moving to an even bigger venue in 2023. We are proud to provide the perfect platform to facilitate collaboration across the industry to realise the business opportunities that further integrating plant-based foods into the mainstream represents, all whilst improving both our health and the environment. We can’t wait for next year!”  

About Plant Based World Expo Europe 

Plant Based World Expo is the only 100% plant-based event for trade professionals – retailers, foodservice, hospitality, distributors, manufacturers, and investors. This unique show combines a world-class conference with an international exhibition of the most innovative products on the market, as well as high-level networking and product tasting opportunities.  

The mission of Plant Based World Expo is simple: connecting and empowering businesses to successfully develop, source and distribute plant-based products.  Plant Based World Expo Europe is arriving at ExCeL London on 15th and 16th November 2023, be the first to hear when registration opens by joining the mailing list: https://mailchi.mp/jdevents/subscribe-to-plant-based-world or visit https://www.plantbasedworldeurope.com/ 

How Plant-Based Businesses Can Survive The Cost-of-Living Crisis

The cost-of-living crisis, whether caused by low wages, austerity, rising costs of energy and ingredients, COVID-19, Brexit, or all the above, poses a threat to food businesses and especially plant-based ones. According to a UK Office of National Statistics report from July 2022, around half of adults are buying less food, and around three quarters were very or somewhat worried about the cost of living. So how well will plant-based businesses weather the storm, and what can they do to survive these multiple crises intact?  

For established vegan consumers there are plenty of ways to spend less. The Vegan Society website has lots of tips on how to make the most of affordable ingredients like lentils, oats and chickpeas. There are also recent studies showing eating plant-based can be more affordable than eating animals. An Oxford University study from 2021 found that in the US, UK, Australia and Western Europe eating more plant-based dishes could cut food bills by a third. It has also been reported that in the Netherlands plant-based meat has become cheaper than the animal equivalent. The research shows that in the Netherlands discount supermarket options at Aldi and Lidloffer great benefits for those who exchange meat for meat alternatives, with savings of €6 per kilo.   

Image: Indy Kaur

However, in the UK, with many plant-based products coming from younger, less-established businesses, and plant producers getting less government support than meat producers, the uncertain economic climate is likely to cause issues. We spoke to Indy Kaur, plant-based food consultant, founder of Plant Futures and former plant-based food strategy lead for Tesco. She says the area most likely to struggle is chilled meat-alternatives: “There is no real incentive for somebody who’s not currently buying plant-based meat alternatives to now start buying it when they’re facing a cost-of-living crisis. We know from Kantar consumer data that consumers are also now struggling to afford to eat healthily, which is one of the key drivers in switching to plant-based food. I think we need to be sensible and understand that there are a lot of people that don’t earn a lot of money and they are going through a hard time. I think getting new people to buy chilled meat-alternatives is going to be difficult right now unless brands can invest in promotional mechanics and leverage Veganuary’s campaign where plant-based sales always spike. It must also be said that veg-led products like pulses, lentils and legumes may do better if consumers can learn how to cook with them.”  

There has been a flurry of innovation in the chilled meat-free category in recent years, with companies competing to produce the most realistic and tasty substitutes. Indy Kaur believes it will be a difficult time for these products. “Compared to the chiller space given to meat, the room for plant-based meat alternatives is small. This means retailers are having to arrange many brands and formats into just two or four chiller bays. Over the past four years there has been a strategy from retailers to embrace new product development, but with sales starting to plateau as consumer demand flattens, retailers are having to reassess and justify the space against retail sales. Ultimately, the consumer will decide which brands and products will thrive. It will be a turbulent year, and I expect next year is going to be difficult too. This is not triggered just by the cost-of-living crisis. It is the natural dynamic of an emerging market but made harder by the cost-of-living crisis.”  

Just as retailers are creating value meat ranges to ride out the cost-of-living crisis, there is a need for more value plant-based items. This has already emerged within supermarket own labels. Tesco Plant Chef, Aldi and Lidl have successfully pushed down the price of vegan ranges. Another example is Alpro, widely available and relatively affordable yoghurt, which for a large pot is the same price as its dairy equivalent.  

Indy Kaur believes there is an appetite for more value mainstream ranges: “There is a need for more commodity-style unbranded components. Dehydrated textured vegetable protein chunks are cheap but are mainly found in health food shops. Canned jackfruit and banana blossom are good base ingredients that could be used to create new dishes, but they’ve not been adopted by the mass market yet. There are also opportunities for more frozen bulk-buy ranges. Quorn does well with its big bag format that is ready the freezer when needed, and there is room for more value pack options.”   

A look at the demographics of plant-based shoppers suggest that they tend to be more affluent than average. A 2021 survey published by the Good Food Institute found that compared to the average consumer, buyers of plant-based products tend to be younger, higher earning and are more likely to have a college or graduate degree. Indy Kaur says there are still some market segments that could be better served: “Products tend to be aimed at single or double higher-income households, young professionals, and empty nesters. There are fewer branded products targeted at families and children at affordable price points. That’s the whole area that hasn’t been explored at all.”  

Despite the harsh economic climate Indy Kaur believes it is right for mission-driven innovators to focus on meat-alternatives: “animal-free proteins are key to getting where we need to be in the long term. In 2020, the market share of meat substitutes in European retail was just 0.7% of the meat market. If we want a more sustainable food system in which, let’s assume, 50% of meat is from plants and 50% from animals, we’ve only just scratched the surface. I think we’ve benefited in the industry with a short-term boom that saw real growth very early on, driven by vegans and flexitarians. To get those products into the mainstream is a whole different ballgame. We need to understand it is a long-term transition not a short-term win.”  

Supermarkets are still crying out for new products and one necessary area of innovation is around costs. One area to explore is the use of by-products as ingredients. This has been done by Israeli company More Food that makes a white label high protein meat-alternative from by-products from sunflower oil production. Integrated supply chains is something that the meat industry does well, with by-products routinely become ingredients. Indy Kaur says this is not yet embedded into the plant-based industry: “We still have a long way to go. It’s difficult because there’s such a buoyancy in innovation. We’re still learning and developing new products all the time. But it absolutely needs to be part of the strategy.”  

One thing needed for plant-based businesses to thrive is a consolidated voice to push for government support, like the way the meat industry lobbies for support. The UK Plant-based Food Alliance campaigns on behalf of the sector. The coalition, whose members include Oatly, Alpro, Upfield, The Vegan Society and the Good Food Institute, are calling on the government for recognition in policies around food production. The organisation’s CEO Marisa Heath says supporting farmers to shift to producing more ingredients for plant-based food would help to reduce costs and prices: “Government subsidies have supported the production of meat and dairy and now that the objectives are changing around public funding for farms to try to support biodiversity and other environmental goals there is an opportunity to support more regenerative systems where there can be multiple outcomes. Being able to source ingredients close to the manufacturer should help to reduce costs.” 

The group would like to see the government set targets for the public sector procurement of plant-based food, which would help producers: “It would give the sector some financial stability in receiving a proportion of the £2b+ spend on food for schools, prisons, local authorities, and the NHS. Scaling up is important as the bigger a business gets the costs per unit should reduce. Government support through foreign investment and export opportunities would also help with this.”  

The organisation would also like to see food included as a key factor in net zero planning.  Marisa Heath adds: “If the government made that the case, all food strategies being developed across the country by large business, local authorities, universities and so forth could include plant-based in their sustainability plans. This would boost plant-based companies and help with scaling up. It would be great to see the Government come out with a public campaign to nudge people to think about their diet and indicate their faith in the plant-based sector to deliver good, nutritious food through wider policy. Other countries are doing this, and it is proving successful.” 

Opportunities for Plant-Based Brands This Christmas

With Christmas fast approaching many plant-based businesses are wishing for a seasonal sales boost to help with the uncertainties of recent years. The festive season is traditionally a time for feasting and vegan brands in retail and foodservice are hoping for increased spending on the big dinner, home gatherings, office parties and evenings out.  

For retailers the busy Christmas season is not mid-winter but July. That is when their Christmas ranges are finalised and launched, in time for the crucial October-December shopping period. Given that products generally need a twelve-month lead in period, now (December 2022) is a good time for food suppliers to think about Christmas 2023.    

Plant-Based Dishes on the Table  

A report from the Vegan Society last year found that 20% of Britons were planning on including vegan dishes in their Christmas meal. 16% said they would eat meat, but with some vegan options, 3% said they were eating vegetarian and 1% said they would eat a fully plant-based dinner. The top three items were meat-alternatives (such as seitan, tempeh or plant-based chicken), nut roast and roast potatoes. 11% said they were looking forward to making a plant-based dessert, while 13% admitted they were worried about serving a vegan cheese board. When asked for reasons for consuming these items at Christmas, 52% said taste, 42% said price and 27% said carbon footprint.  

The supermarkets know that many people want to reduce meat consumption and have steadily improved meat-free options. This year’s festive items in the UK include M&S mushroom parfait and plant-based turkey, Tesco’s maple & bourbon no-gammon joint, Asda’s breaded vegan brie, sweet chilli bites and soya-turkey crown, Aldi’s no-turkey crown, and Sainsbury’s nut roast with orange and cranberry glaze. Most offer meat-free ‘pigs in blankets’. OGGS, the aquafaba egg replacer, has plant-based mince pies in Tesco.  

Gaps in the Market 

Indy Kaur is the founder of Plant Futures, a UK plant-based food advisor and consultant, and former plant-based strategy lead at Tesco. She says she has noticed huge changes to plant-based offerings over the past four years: “Base ranges have got bigger across all retailers, spearheaded by Tesco and Wicked Kitchen in 2018/19 and paving the way for the rest of retail. The big trend over the past two years has been carve-able centrepieces, and we’ll see more of that this year, as well as fun and quirky party food.   

There are still gaps in the market like the classics, Yorkshire puddings, infused cream, and panettone but I am assured products are on the way! What I am most excited about is seeing premium nut-based cheeses hit supermarket shelves for the first time in the run up to Christmas. Previously available online only, almost all sites would sell out in the weeks up to Christmas and I’m glad to see retailers are taking note. Cheese-alternatives has been the one major category lacking in taste, something that nut-based cheeses are able to deliver on. They are made using a handcrafted, artisanal process, mastered by start-ups in the UK. These aren’t cheese-alternatives, they are nut-based ‘cheeses’ adding a whole new dimension to traditional cheeseboards everywhere.” 

Surprise and Delight 

Indy says supermarket buyers are always on the look-out for something new and special: “They will have development teams for their own brand products, working alongside suppliers, so from outsiders they are looking for exceptionally creative and innovative items. As well as the traditional items that people buy every year, they are seeking an element of surprise and delight. They want to entice consumers into their store with a really great product. They want to offer new culinary experiences, new formats, new flavours but importantly, create memorable moments.”  

Indy Kaur warns hopeful suppliers against pigeonholing themselves as ‘vegan’: “As soon as you say vegan or plant-based you risk narrowing down your audience. Only a small proportion of consumers are vegan, so you need to appeal to the mainstream and talk about how great your product tastes. I think it is important to be careful on the messaging and to focus on indulgence. Because at Christmas time people don’t really want to think about health. They want to spend their money wisely and indulge.” 

Beyond the Christmas Dinner 

Claire Roper is a marketing and innovation consultant for the foodservice sector who was previously Head of Marketing at Quorn. She agrees that Christmas is all about indulgence: “Families and groups of friends want enjoy food together, so retailers and other outlets need plant-based options. Christmas also offers several different occasions for businesses to focus on, from the big meal on the day, to party food, to festive snacks and sandwiches. They need credible alternatives that taste good and offer a comparable experience to the non-plant-based version. Nobody wants to be let down at Christmas. Using flavours that taste good will ensure there is an option that sells well because it makes the customer feel they are being treated to something special.” 

One trend Claire Roper has noticed in recent years is premiumisation – the segmenting of ranges by price: “Something that is now common in supermarkets is the tiering of offerings and Christmas is no exception. It is an opportunity for brands to produce higher end items, alongside more affordable ranges. We’ve seen added value as well, such as M&S’s musical biscuit tins that are useful as a gift. Flavours can be presented as higher end too, with rich indulgent tastes, like truffle, that add something different.” 

For plant-based brands Claire Roper has the following advice: “Embrace Christmas! It’s a great opportunity to showcase something different and allow new customers to experience how tasty plant-based food can be. There are lots of opportunities so see what works for your brand and put some thought into how you can make something tasty and special.”  

Rhythm 108 – Re-imagining Swiss Chocolate for the 21st Century

Siddhi Mehta has done what many food businesses dream of – taken her plant-based business from kitchen table to global distribution. She is the founder of Rhythm 108, a bakery and chocolatier that produces vegan, gluten-free, organic chocolate, biscuits, and cookies in decorative home-compostable packaging. Siddhi’s original idea of traditional Swiss treats with a twist is now an established brand available in numerous UK supermarkets.  

Siddhi admits she didn’t know much about the food industry when she started, it was a move to Switzerland that piqued her interest: “I was fascinated by the slower pace of life and the culture of craftsmanship. At the same time people were starting to talk about sustainability and the ethical implications of animal agriculture. I was shocked to learn that animal farming is a primary driver of climate change.” 

Rhythm 108
Image: Rhythm 108

Rhythm 108 launched in 2015 as a one-woman project running from a shared kitchen.  After experimenting with more ethical recipes, she started selling items at a local market and found that people were interested. She remembers: “I met two Swiss pâtissiers who were fascinated by what I was trying to achieve. They wanted to work with me and apply their traditional craft to reinvent Swiss chocolate for the 21st century, with better values. We worked hard to replace butter, sugar, and eggs in biscuits and cookies, and milk in chocolate. As soon as we developed our signature vegan milk-like chocolate, it became a big hit.”  

For the first couple of years sales grew by word of mouth. The products appealed to health conscious, environmentally aware early adopters, who quickly took to the range. The first sellers were yoga studios and organic stores. “Switzerland has one of the largest networks of independent organic stores of any country. It also has one of the highest values of organic food consumption per capita. I think consumers were already in the mindset of wanting to make a difference through their choices, so it caught on and that’s how we grew. It was through word of mouth that we got into our first supermarket in Switzerland.”  

Siddhi Mehta Rhythm 108
Image: Siddhi Mehta

In 2016 the company began exporting their most popular items. “At first, we were with independent wholesalers and in independent stores in the UK. We built up a network before we went to bigger supermarkets.”  

Their best seller was, and still is, a vegan praline chocolate bar in a 33-gram size. It remains one of the market leaders in the vegan confectionary space: “What made us stand out was that we were plant-based, gluten free and organic. We were also one of the first companies to experiment with plastic-free packaging, so we were in a unique position. What stood out was our emphasis on conscious craftsmanship. The feedback we got on taste was exceptional. Our online reviews were almost all five-star. People said they couldn’t tell it was vegan. I think there are still some people who expect vegan chocolate won’t taste good because they’ve had disappointing products before. Chocolate is such an indulgent experience that when it’s disappointing it’s heart-breaking. That’s why word of mouth is so important.”  

Siddhi describes the transition to supplying supermarkets as incredibly challenging, but she was able to draw on skills gained earlier on in her career: “You need to be ready for the volume, and for changes and cancellations to orders. Luckily my degree in engineering meant I understand the technical aspect of production. We were smart about finding the right machinery and adapting it for our use. Our factory landlord, who is quasi government, supported us in repurposing the factory. We put processes in place and learned as we as we went along.”  

The company also invested heavily in training and paid for staff to qualify in skills that were essential for dealing with supermarkets, such as production quality control.  

 Making a success of any food business is a challenge, but Siddhi never doubted that her mission was the right path: “Sometimes buyers can be risk averse and want to know that a product will sell. We were all taking a huge bet that this market would grow. Some investors and senior businesspeople I approached for mentoring didn’t believe I was serious about building a global brand. But I’ve always wanted to build a company where we’re making an impact. If we’re going to spend time on it, it needs to be something meaningful.” 

Today, the company has a team of eighteen and Siddhi’s working day is very different to the early phase. “I used to spend seven hours in production and do all the admin. There was no time for strategy. Today my job is looking at the next six month and opening doors and growing the business.”  

 Siddhi says that in her experience the most productive thing plant-based start-ups can do is focus on the thing that they do well: “Think about what unique angle you are bringing to the table, and why. There are lots of creative ways you can finance your business. In today’s environment when things are tough if you can focus on revenue and margin you can build a business without large fundraising rounds, and grow a sustainable business for the long term.” 

Plant-Based Interest Booms in the UAE

Interest in plant-based eating has grown dramatically in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over the past five years, with new products arriving on supermarket shelves and menus every month. According to Global Data the value of meat-substitute products in the UAE rose from $8.2m to $12m in 2019 and is predicted to reach $15m in 2023. Many vegan brands familiar in the West are now available in the UAE such as Beyond Burger, Meatless Farm, Impossible Burger, V-Bites, Violife and Quorn.   

Divyesh Bhatia, Co-founder, Vegarian

Divyesh Bhatia is the Co-founder of Vegarian, a Dubai-based vegan food distribution operation in the Middle East, South East Asia and the UK. He partners with vegan brands across Europe, helping them grow their businesses by supplying their products to retailers and foodservice companies, and handling distribution, logistics, warehousing and sales and marketing. Vegarian’s current portfolio includes Meatless Farm, VFC, Mr Freed, and Fellow Creatures. He explains: “When a plant-based company is looking for someone on the ground I’m here to help them distribute and promote and their products, whether for retail or foodservice. We have contacts with the relevant retailers, hotels, restaurants, and cafes. I act as a partner on the ground who represents their best interests and helps grow their brand.”   

The UAE’s interest in plant-based food is driven by several factors. Due to limited arable land, climate issues and water shortages, around 90% of food is imported, with produce coming from South Africa, India, Europe and beyond. The market is heavily influenced by dietary trends overseas.   

The UAE’s unusual demographic lends itself to an openness to different foods. With a population of 9.8m, around 90% of inhabitants are expats. The community is multicultural including many Europeans and South Asians who bring their culture and food preferences. South Asians bring a tradition of vegetarian cooking, with around 35% of people in India estimated to be vegetarian and many more avoiding meat on certain days.   

The most populous city, Dubai, is a popular destination for social-media-influencing visitors, whose posts enhance its reputation as a foodie destination. There are more than 150 vegan-friendly restaurants in the city. This includes fully vegan places like Seva, Bounty Beets and Soul Sante. In addition, Emirates airline has recently announced a multimillion-dollar investment to improve vegan options in its onboard catering.  

Divyesh Bhatia explains that interest in plant-based food is driven largely by health and environmental concerns: “I’ve noticed a change in attitude since the pandemic started. People want a healthier diet. Many consumers are taking a more conscious approach in what they choose to eat. People are aware of the links between Covid and animal agriculture, and that eating meat can cause health problems. There is also a strong interest in sustainability and there are initiatives from the government and retailers to support sustainable choices, such the banning single use plastics. The government is also supporting the manufacture of cell-based meats and non-dairy cheese.” 

A recent example of this is government support from the Ministry of Economy’s NextGen FDI initiative, which is enabling the development of a new production facility for animal-free dairy in Abu Dhabi. The innovative US/Australian company Change Foods will be scaling up production of animal-free casein milk protein at the plant. This will speed up the production of dairy-alternatives that are bio-identical to their dairy equivalent, resulting in more realistic vegan cheese in shops.  

Divyesh Bhatia points out that making vegan food appealing to non-vegans is crucial for the success of the sector: “There are not so many pure vegans here, but plenty of consumers who are leaning towards being flexitarian. One of the tasks for us is educating local consumers. In the past there has been a stigma around vegan food. People didn’t expect to like it. That’s why whenever we onboard new products we are very selective regarding quality. We are always looking to bring in new products to fill gaps in the market. For example, we don’t yet have enough vegan creams and plant-based honey alternatives. Consumers here like variety and to try new things so we would love to see new innovative products.”   

For brands looking to enter the UAE market Divyesh Bhatia is keen to point out that just like everywhere else, price is an important factor: “When people hear about Dubai and expats they assume that everyone wants luxury brands. But contrary to popular belief consumers are price sensitive. I tell potential brands that we want to price products close to the non-vegan counterparts. For example, we are working with Fellow Creatures who produce vegan Swiss chocolate and we explained our thinking to their team when signing them and priced it in the range of other non-vegan chocolates. We want everybody to try it so we set a price that will encourage consumers to take a chance to explore vegan and plant-based options.”  

As demand grows and plant-based food scales up, he is optimistic about the future growth of sector: “When products become more appealing because they taste great and are a reasonable price retailers and restaurants really take an interest. In terms of eating out – in the last six months we’ve seen a lot of chains adding plant-based options and several new plant-based restaurants. That is a big indicator of how consumer tastes are changing, and it is very nice to see as someone who supplies solely vegan and plant-based products in the UAE.”  

The Continuing Evolution of Plant-Based Milk Alternatives

There’s no denying that plant-based milk alternatives have a big presence. From dairy cases to artisanal coffee shops, customers can choose from a growing variety of replacements for cow’s milk. A recent report, the Good Food Institute 2021 U.S. Retail Market Insights, Plant-based Foods, notes that plant-based milk accounts for 16% of all dollar sales for milk in the US, with a 4% one-year dollar growth and a household penetration of 42%. North America is the third largest market globally for plant-based milk. Innova Market Insights reports that North America accounted for an 11% share of dairy alternative drinks launches between July 2021 and June 2022. Launch activity was more robust in Europe and Asia – each region contributed one-third of new dairy alternative drinks over the same 12-month period.

Several factors are driving innovation in North American dairy alternative drinks. In its analysis of the marketplace, Innova identifies varied factors around clean products (crafted using 100% natural, carbon neutral packaging), enhanced protein content, nutrient parity with cow’s milk, reduction of inherent and added sugar, and functional ingredients (ginger, green tea extract, other immune-boosters and antioxidants). Innovation is likely to continue as new companies enter the marketplace and all products compete for consumers.

Production methods

Production of dairy alternative milk, sometimes spelled “mylk” to differentiate it from traditional milk, involves several steps. The cell structure of the plant base – typically nuts, seeds, grains, or legumes – is disrupted through soaking and grinding, or other methods. The resultant base mixture requires heating to deactivate enzymes, filtering to remove unwanted material, and heating to destroy pathogens. What differentiates one brand from another is the chosen base or bases, ingredients that enhance sensory properties, masking agents to cover up any bean or pea flavor notes, and added nutrients.

Types of bases continue to expand

Years ago, soy was the dominant base in dairy milk alternatives. Consumer sentiment, particularly in the US, then turned away from soy as questions arose regarding genetic modification of soy beans and health implications of soy consumption. Despite the lack of scientific evidence to substantiate these concerns, US consumption of soy milk dropped. Today, almond is the number one base in plant-based milk and accounts for about 60% of product bases. Oat is a fast-growing number two base, even in Asia where soy products are readily embraced.

Many leading brands offer a portfolio of products with varied bases and flavors to appeal to a broad range of consumers. Danone’s Silk line includes soy, cashew, almond, and coconut milk products. Beverage products from Blue Diamond Growers, an agricultural cooperative for California almond growers, feature an almond milk base alone or combined with coconut milk or bananas. Elmhurst Milked produces a wide range of clean label nut milks, including almond milk, cashew milk, walnut milk, and hazelnut milk. Most are made from only the signature nut plus water. Other brands in the US include Ripple (pea protein), Seeds of Wellness (chia seeds), Good Karma (pea protein with flax oil), and Califia Farms (almond milk, oat milk with pea protein, almond plus coconut milk). Companies typically offer both unflavored and flavored varieties, and many produce thicker products for use in coffee beverages.

Seeking nutrition parity  

Plant bases for dairy alternative drinks do not match the nutrition profile of cow’s milk. That is why many products are fortified to better replicate key dairy nutrients. Because almonds and cashews are relatively low in protein – and their milks are even lower – almond milk and cashew milk brands that feature a protein claim have added a source of protein, typically pea protein. Pea protein-based Ripple adds enough protein to match the level in dairy milk; the brand’s products also are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Hope & Sesame enhances its sesame protein base with either pea protein or chickpea protein. Dairy alternative bases also lack the key vitamins and minerals of dairy milk, so many brands fortify with the hallmark dairy milk nutrients calcium and vitamin D. Ripple, for example, adds calcium and vitamin D in amounts that exceed the nutrient content of an equivalent volume of cow’s milk. Several brands also add vitamin B12, which is found naturally in dairy milk but not in plant-based products, to serve as a source for vegans. Still, fortified soy milk currently is the only plant-based dairy alternative drink included in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and permitted in school meals programs as a nutritional equivalent to cow’s milk.

Products also may contain nutrients and ingredients not found in dairy milk, such as fiber, medium-chain triglyceride oil for followers of the ketogenic diet, omega-3 fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid, and functional ingredients.

One ingredient to watch for is animal-free whey protein. Cultivated through precision fermentation, animal-free whey protein offers high quality dairy protein that is identical to the whey protein found in cow’s milk. While not strictly plant-based, it offers an option for consumers looking for animal-free products.

Drinking to sustainability

The sustainability messaging found on dairy alternative packaging can appeal to consumers who shop with the environment in mind. Sustainable products are highly prominent in Europe, where approximately half of 2021 new food and beverage launches carried a sustainability-related claim, according to Innova Market Insights. This compares to 17% in Asia and 8% in North America, although the prevalence of claims is growing in both regions.

Consumer interest in sustainability is helping drive growth of plant-based dairy alternatives. As reported in a 2020 article in the Journal of Dairy Science on consumer perception of the sustainability of dairy products and plant-based alternatives, consumers who purchased plant-based dairy alternatives along with dairy products were more likely to say that sustainability is important, as compared to consumers of dairy only. Consumers who participated in the study defined sustainability as minimal carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions, few or no preservatives, animal happiness and welfare, and simple ingredients. Many plant-based dairy alternatives call out their sustainability credentials on their website. Common claims include reduced carbon footprint, lower water usage, less plastic used in packaging, restoration of land and water, and alignment with organizations committed to sustainability.

Coming next – products made with upcycled ingredients such as spent barley grain, proteins left over from starch and oil production, and “ugly” ingredients that combine nutrition with sustainability messages.

Curry Fresh Launches Freshly Packaged Vegan Indian Food in the U.S

The first freshly packaged vegan and gluten-free Indian food range has launched in the US. The manufacturers use high pressure processing (HPP) to keep the meals nutritious and tasty for longer. The process uses pressure to eliminate harmful bacteria and the need for preservatives. It comes in sealed BPA-free containers and unlike most deli/fresh items, the food stays fresh for up to six months.   

The company, Curry Fresh, began its food journey with an Indian restaurant in Michigan in 2009. When they moved into the packaged food business in 2020, they decided to make vegan and gluten-free options to expand their customer base and reach people who might not have tried Indian food before. Their goal was to make Indian food accessible and affordable for all.   

Indian cuisine has a strong tradition of vegan and vegetarian dishes. Around 39% of people in India identify as vegetarian, the highest percentage in the world. Average daily meat consumption in India is 13 grams compared with 330 grams in the US. 

However, Americans tend to associate Indian food with a limited range of familiar meat dishes such as chicken tikka masala and tandoori chicken, white naan bread, with spinach paneer as the most well-known vegetarian dish. Curry Fresh set out to change that perception.  

The founders are firm believers that by eating more Indian food, Americans can reduce their meat consumption and in turn reduce obesity and associated health problems. With Curry Fresh Indian food becomes more affordable, as they no longer have to go to a restaurant to eat it.  

A unique innovation of Curry Fresh is their development of Turmeric Assisted Pressure Sterilization (TAPS) which enables flavor and nutrients to last a year if refrigerated below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.   

For Q4 2022 Curry Fresh is launching a chickpea masala in two flavours: tomato and coconut. The dish is high in protein and fibre and has a low glycaemic index. In 2023 the company will launch vegan Thai red and green curries.  

The company hopes to expand into other world food ranges including Jamaican and Chinese sauces, hummus, salsa, vegan meats, burgers, and vegetables. The TAPS process can be used add extra shelf-life to almost any food, reducing food waste and reducing the energy and transport costs associated with frozen food. 

How Superfoodio Created a Scalable Plant Based Snack Business

Superfoodio’s Nirali and Jagir Mankodi Speak to Pulsed About All Aspects of Developing a Scalable Business from a Unique Idea.

Some of the greatest ideas come off the back of life-changing experiences, and this is absolutely the case for Nirali and Jagir Mankodi, who devised the basis of Superfoodio following a high-energy backpacking trip around South America.  

Superfoodio now produces a range of unique, colourfully packaged, and healthy peanut butter-based snacks that are inspired by the natural foods consumed during their backpacking adventure. This includes their hugely popular Peanut Butter Chunky Buttons which provide high levels of protein and contain only four natural ingredients. Recently, the founders took time to speak to us about initial inspiration, scaling without funding, and tips for anyone wanting to start up their own business.  

What you’ve achieved so far has been hugely impressive.  In particular, launching and scaling an Amazon-first brand isn’t something we see every day. How has this been going and what have you learnt from the process? 

NM: When Covid-19 hit the UK, we knew that entering the retail market was going to be incredibly difficult. There were too many uncertainties and unforeseen challenges at that stage, so this made our decision to focus and grow as a digital first brand a simple one.  

As a challenger brand creating a value-add product range, we knew that Amazon was the perfect platform for us to launch. By harnessing the power of Amazon we were able to get our products in front of millions of customers in an instant.  

We quickly learnt that by focusing on one route to market, we were able to make our product and proposition perfect for the customer. Also, the fact that we are a small business meant that partnering with Amazon allowed us to keep our operation streamlined. We would make our delicious peanut buttery treats in the kitchens, wrap them up, and deliver them to the Amazon warehouse in small batches. After this, we would let Amazon logistics do the heavy lifting to deliver the orders to customers all over the UK. In most cases, this would be on Next Day service with Amazon Prime.  

You recently launched with the Co-op’s Accelerated Support Scheme – from your experience on this, we’d love to hear your insight for any up-and-coming brands. 

JM: After the phenomenal response from customers online, we knew we could carry this momentum and accelerate our growth into retail post-Covid! Having the opportunity to pitch our Peanut Butter Buttons snack range to Co-op was an incredible opportunity to showcase our innovation and passion for bringing better-for-you snacks to the UK market. 

 We have always admired how the Co-op team truly champions and supports small, mission-led businesses in the UK. Therefore, being accepted into The Co-op apiary scheme has been a major milestone for Superfoodio. From the support and mentorship to the market insights that we have access to, it all allows us to grow our business from a start-up to a scale-up.  

 Having just launched into 196 Co-op stores nationally, we are excited that our mission of making healthier snack options more accessible has just been realized at a national level.  

Scaling without funding is rare to see and a brave move – how has it been going? 

NM: We are incredibly passionate about building a mission-led business that will change the world for good. Being a self-funded start-up, we have grown within our skin in a sustainable manner. Sure, this has meant that we are not setting any world records (yet)! But it has also given us the space to learn and grow organically. 

Having grown up in working-class families, we were always taught the true value of a pound. Looking back, this is a lesson that you can’t put a price on! No pun intended. This mindset has allowed us to think creatively instead of just throwing money to see how something will go. Every decision we make about spending money is thought through and considered. This will not change even when we take on investment.  

Many people have the ambition of starting up their own business, what were the first few things you did to initiate this venture? 

JM: From our experience, there are a few key points that helped us get the ball rolling with Superfoodio: Don’t be afraid to start! 

It is not necessary to have vast amounts of experience in a sector before you can start a business. We certainly didn’t! In fact, having fresh eyes plays to our advantage. By challenging the norm, and asking why, we were able to disrupt the nut butter category and create a product range that adds value to customers’ lives. 

 It sounds cliche, but it’s so true – you must be passionate about what you do. You must live and breathe your business, and therefore it helps if you are passionate about it. 

By setting a goal and objective for your business helps you to focus, plan, grow and reflect. We found that the goal-setting process itself is therapeutic which puts structure to each and every day. In turn, you are able to measure progress, hit milestones, and even course correct when required. 

And finally, networking is a must! The power of networking is so important as it allows you to learn from other people’s experiences and builds a community that you can surround yourself with. 

Entrepreneurship can feel like a lonely journey most of the time, so why not connect and share it with like-minded founders! Whether that is online on platforms such as LinkedIn or in-person events, it is important to put yourself out there and make meaningful connections. Business is actually all about relationships! We have made great friends along the way and love supporting and cheering on each other’s successes. 

In hindsight, is there anything you’d change from your current business model? 

NM: We are getting comfortable with the fact that building a business is all about evolving. You will always have areas that you can change and improve. We started Superfoodio as an online gifting service a few years ago. Today we have evolved into a better-for-you snacks brand. The one thing that hasn’t changed is our ethos, values, and mission.    

It is easy to look at another business and think “Ooh, I should also do that!” or “I wish I had thought of that!” However, what you can see on the surface is rarely the full picture. What is right for one business may not be right for another. 

Your marketing hashtag #nomorebutterfingers is great – how did you decide which marketing channels are most important to you to create these campaigns? 

JM: The full tagline is “No Jars, No Spoons, No More Butter Fingers”. It gives a nod to our love for peanut butter and at the same time tells an intriguing story about our latest product range, the Peanut Butter Buttons.  

We wanted to be able to tell our story coherently across all platforms and mediums whether that is Instagram, TikTok, email, print, or digital ads. That is why the #NoMoreButterFingers hashtag allows us to share our USPs in a fun and simple way through our marketing campaigns. Each platform is unique and the content created has to suit the audience. That is why having an overarching marketing strategy allows you to tell a story in a consistent manner, instead of creating bespoke messages and content on each platform. 

From our experience, email has been a very powerful channel to engage and communicate directly with our community. This is closely followed by our social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok. We build our marketing and comms strategies as a two-way street, giving our customers and followers an open channel to engage with us rather than a one-way street. 

What made you choose the current range that you sell, and do you think there will come a time when you need to diverge away from peanut-based products? 

NM: As a family, we are peanut butter obsessed! We spread it on toast, swirl it into porridge, dot it on banana slices, and drizzle it over yoghurt! 

It was in COVID lockdown 1.0 that Jag had an ‘ah-ha’ moment! He asked himself, why is peanut butter and all its goodness stuck inside the jar in the breakfast spread category? Surely there should be a convenient way to enjoy it throughout the day! That’s when Jag decided to get into the kitchen and started experimenting! 

After nearly 20 months of testing and tweaking hundreds of recipes, we’d created the world’s first Peanut Butter Button! A delicious peanut buttery snack that you could enjoy anywhere, any time. No jars, no spoons, no more butter fingers. As the saying goes “Necessity is the mother of invention”! 

It’s incredible to think how far we have come in 10 months of launching the Peanut Butter Buttons. Launching into the Co-op is a huge step for our business, and we couldn’t have done it without the support of our customers, the Co-op team who love supporting mission-led businesses. For this, we are forever grateful.  

We are passionate about innovation with simple, natural ingredients, whether that’s with peanut butter or without. We invest a lot in NPD and are looking forward to bringing to the market new and exciting products with a WOW factor in the next 12 months. We can’t wait to excite and delight taste buds all over the UK. 

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Plant Based World Pulse is a go-to resource for the plant-based industry. Offering high-value insights, educational content, and the latest information year-round, it compliments the annual industry events Plant Based World Expo North America in New York City and Plant Based World Expo Europe in London.