Denmark is well known for its traditional non-plant-based produce, with bacon, butter and cheeses exported throughout the world. However, Denmark is fast becoming a leader in plant-based foods thanks to government support for innovation that includes investment and solution-focused partnerships between the government, the private sector and NGOs.
Danes are typically meat lovers, with less than 1% of the population identifying as vegan and only 2.3% as vegetarian. But there is evidence of a willingness to change. In November 2022 a University of Copenhagen study asked 3000 Danes about their eating habits. While 80% of respondents said they had eaten meat the night before, 43% said they were reducing meat consumption. Getting consumers to turn those good intentions into daily eating habits is a challenge that the government is taking on. They have introduced a range of initiatives backed up with funding, to help businesses make plant-based food that is tasty, convenient, and affordable for Danish families.
The government is motivated by a desire to encourage Danes to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. The political majority is in favour of a green transition and is committed to a 70% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 compared to 1990. A binding agreement was endorsed by all parties in October 2021. Promoting plant-based eating is a central element of this goal and the government has a national strategy with clear targets. It has committed €160million to support and develop plant-based food – one of the biggest public investments in the sector globally. It will give Farmers a financial incentive to grow plant-based protein crops for human consumption. The government is also funding support for fermentation and cultivated meats. Other initiatives include reduced VAT on fruit and vegetables and developing carbon labelling to help consumers choose food with a lower impact on the climate, the first country to do so. At the time of writing the labelling is in the design stage with discussions about whether a traffic light system or a best-in-class model for different categories would be most effective.
As well as finance there are structures and organisations that support the growth of the plant-based sector. The Danish Agriculture and Food Council share a vision of producing food that leaves a smaller climate footprint. The government has set up working groups that gather businesses, farmers, scientists, NGOs and consumer groups to iron out conflicts when they arise. Denmark’s influential Plant-Based Business Association, the Plantebranchen, is the largest of its kind in Europe. The ninety members include major producers such as Nestle, Alpro and Oatly as well as small start-ups.
The Danish government and a host of businesses were solidly represented at Plant Based World Expo in London in November 2022. The UK Ambassador for Denmark, Rene Dinesen, and the Minister and Minister Counsellor for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Esben Egede Rasmussen gave talks outlining the Danish approach. They explained that governmental support for the green transition is key to solving both environmental and social issues and that changing eating habits is an important part of that. With so much encouragement it is not surprising that there are some truly innovative plant-based products emerging from Denmark. Here are some of them.
The company’s organic butter alternative is already on supermarket shelves across Europe. But as we learned at Plant-Based World Expo, they make so much more, including oat, soy and rice drinks, yogurts, meat replacements, and ice cream.
Jens Moller and team caviar-substitutes out of seaweed. It comes in three varieties each with a different colour: Cavi-art, made from kelp, a replacement for fish roe ideal for tube caviar or served on blinis, Tosago, designed for sushi and poke bowls, and Food-art, unique seaweed pearls in flavours like balsamic or lemon that add taste and visual interest sprinkled on salads or desserts.
A core food ingredient made from freshwater algae. Grown in fermenters using precision fermentation techniques, the chlorophyll is removed, changing the colour and flavour of the final product. The result is Chlorella, a superfood rich in protein and nutrients that can be added to a wide range of foods. The Chlorella comes in different colours for different applications. For example, white Chlorella can be used as a vegan binder or emulsifier or foaming agents. It can be used in meat and fish substitutes and in baking. Chlorella can also be used in dietary supplements in powder or tablet form.
A food-tech start-up creating ingredients to make plant-based food taste better, by applying fermentation and other techniques to Danish-grown beans. The aim is to satisfy the umami craving that meat eaters often get when eating plant-based, making it easier for consumers to make the switch.
Nisco makes ingredients for plant-based food manufacturers from pea protein. Their research and development department helps brands create the best plant protein for their product. They produce extruded pea meals and texturized pea protein in different particle sizes for use in sausages, burgers, meatballs, and ready meals. The protein can also be used in plant-based dairy.
The company makes organic textured protein products in different shapes and sizes from peas and fava beans. They produce protein concentrates using a dry mechanical process. The textured protein comes dry and can be used in burgers and as mince in ready meals.
Birch sap has been used as a drink in Europe and Asia for centuries and is known for its health properties. The Birch Factory harvests the sap and makes organic birch water in different flavours, still and sparkling. It comes in PET or glass bottles or in ecological recyclable cardboard containers. Look out for Birch tonic water launching soon.
Foss provides analytical services to food producers. Their instruments measure the fat, protein, solids, moisture composition and other measurables in plant-based foods. This means companies can optimise their recipes for quality, texture and mouth feel and make sure they are consistently producing the most realistic and appetising food possible.