We are in the middle of a plant-based products revolution

05 June 2020

plant-based products

Moving toward a slaughter-free world is under the spotlight as the coronavirus pandemic pushes the needle on plant-based products versus traditional meat and dairy diets. Henrik Lund, CEO of Naturli’, a Danish plant-based food brand, declares “we are in the middle of a dietary revolution,” driven by Millennial and Gen Z consumers who actively pursue the health benefits of a plant-based diet and reducing their meat intake. “This is a very positive trend, and will grow stronger,” Lund tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

He expects to see pea protein dominate plant-based products in three to five years. In the future, protein from peas will be a primary plant-based alternative in, for instance, chicken and beef replacements. Every year, 45 billion chickens are slaughtered, he says. “Many consumers are aware that plant-based foods have far less climate impact than animal products. Plant-based foods will consequently be in even greater demand in our future. We are expecting significant growth in plant-based foods in the next few years – in all our markets.

New launches with vegan claims have seen a substantial rise and are becoming mainstream, in line with Innova Market Insights’ number two trend for 2020 “The Plant-Based Revolution.” The market researcher notes a 21 percent annual growth of food and beverage launches tracked with vegan claims (Global, 2015-2019). Moreover, the demand for vegan food is becoming more significant, with more than one in four global consumers saying vegan alternative food launches are most sustainable (Innova Market Insights Survey Global, 2019).

As for Naturli’ products, the right positioning for plant-based products is vital. “We aim deliberately to have our products displayed beside the animal-based products that our plant-based products are intended to replace,” notes Lund. “We succeeded, for instance, in having our Minced offering in the supermarket cold counter next to minced beef. The same applies to our Vegan Spreadable and our refrigerated plant milk. The correct positioning is often the decisive factor when choosing which chains have the opportunity to launch our products first.”

Pea and grass protein

Meanwhile, alternative sources of protein are a large and important area for Naturli’. “We focus primarily on two areas; peas and grass. Naturli’ is currently carrying out research – together with universities – into using grass in food production, and Lund expects to see great results from it. “In the course of two or three years, I am expecting grass to be included in our foods as an important source of protein,” he says.  “In 2019, together with Nakskov Mill Foods A/S, a manufacturer of Private Label breakfast cereals, we developed a unique protein from peas, which can replace soya in a large number of plant-based products,” continues Lund.

“When we introduced pea protein at ANUGA, we came home with 700 inquiries to follow up. We are in active dialogue with the world’s largest restaurant chains, international meat producers, and retail chains, who are all highly interested in buying this protein,” he explains. Naturli’ is now ready – not just with the pea protein – to pass on the recipe and ingredients and to allow competitors and others to make a plant-based alternative to chicken meat.

“We are prepared to do that because our goal is not simply to make money. We have a higher aim, which is about making the world a better place to live in,” notes Lund. “Plant-based foods play an important part in it because they are far more climate-friendly than animal products, which often have a four to ten times greater CO2 footprint. An important theme is strong climate awareness and the role of our foods and food production to create a better balance between humans and the earth.”

Strategic moves in plant-based

According to Lund, Naturli’ has demonstrated its potential as a first mover with plant-based foods for consumers, on an international scale. “We were the first with a fresh, plant-based mince product in the cold counter. As suppliers of pea protein, we can be in an equally strong position with green raw ingredients. The newly developed pea protein is the world’s strongest option with regard to consistency and structure, simply a ‘must have’ if the aim is to create an uncompromisingly green food product such as plant-based ‘chicken.’ Globally, the potential market is enormous,” he stresses.

Strategically, it is a huge and essential step for Naturli’ to go from simply being a food manufacturer to taking possession of the rights to an essential protein, together with the recipe for how everyone else can produce top-quality plant-based foods. Looking ahead, the company expects to see the most significant expansion in plant-based alternatives to the major essential foods such as butter, milk, eggs, cream and cheese. “We will see increasing consumer demands for locally produced raw ingredients, instead of transporting them over great distances,” comments Lund. “We are seeing this now with soya used on farms, and it will spread to the food industry.”

With flavour becoming a more significant focal point in plant-based foods, the demand for solutions in this space will increase, Lund envisions. “For many years, consumers were used to more neutral flavours in pasteurised products, but now they want food to taste good again – flavour rules – so we are focusing strongly there.”

Published by foodingredientsfirst.com on May 26, 2020
Image by Shutterstock


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