There is no doubt about it, vegan food products are here and rapidly growing in popularity. But how are retailers responding to this growing appetite for all things plant-based?
It has been one of the key trends over the past year and it's not just new players to the category, with existing manufacturers researching and developing new avenues for its ranges. Popular and well-known brands receive great publicity for the reformulation of products to be inclusive of veganism and plant-based, as well as gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, reduced sugar, no added sugar, the list goes on.
Despite the trend originally being associated with the earth-loving hippies, the diet is now trending in the mainstream and often looked to following consumer concern for sustainability and the environment. Go back even a decade and there were hardly any products on offer to consumers that catered to this trend other than in the small urban independents. Today, anything meat can do, veggies can do too, if not better.
It has been touted as the fastest-growing culinary trend with a market worth in the multi-millions. While just three percent of Kiwis call themselves 'vegan' it is thought that over 90 percent of plant-based meals and products are consumed by non-vegans and consumers who fit in the 'flexitarian' group.
In the USA, Tesco was one of the first grocers to launch its own private-label vegan range in 2018. In the first eight months of its launching, it sold four million vegan meals from the range. With the introduction of the ready meal range, it is set to increase its vegan offering by 900 percent.
The search bar on Waitrose's e-commerce platform has seen the keyword vegan searched more than any other and its range of home brand vegan products has increased 110 percent.
Pioneers in the category include Quorn which seeks to improve consumer choice. The revolution in the way consumers eat continues today as the team at Quorn Foods develop new, meat-free meals that do good for people and the planet alike. It all started with one man’s vision to protect the world back in the 1960s. Lord Rank stepped in following identifying food shortages as a serious issue as the population continued to grow rapidly. The brand has recently released Quorn Battered Fish-Free Fillets, Quorn Crumbed Fish-Free Fillets and a Quorn Gourmet Burger. Its newest innovations are not only delicious, but the vegan alternatives are a tasty solution to a quick mid-week meal.
Consumers are more often than not having meat-free meals during the week, and for whatever reason, this may be for, grocers should be allocating more shelf space to this rapidly growing appetite for plant-based products.
At Ceres Organics, vegan means whole-food, plant-based goodness. Their 100% organic savoury mixes combine nutritious ingredients with a little bit of kiwi-foodie-ingenuity. Invented to help consumers create quick easy meals without the need for oils, soy, gums, numbers or preservatives – often found in vegan meat alternatives.
Made in NZ, the three mixes Burger, Fritter and Omelette are made of shelf-stable, dry ingredients that just need to be mixed with water to be brought to life. They’ve utilised pulse flours as the base of these unique quick-meals, this means the protein per serve is naturally quite impressive too.
Most products in the convenience category are chilled or frozen, whereas these mixes save energy by hanging out on a regular shelf. There’s also less likelihood of food waste, consumers can make exactly the right amount, then seal the bag and pop it back in the pantry for later.
Herbalicious Fritter Mix has been the standout so far - The Outstanding New Zealand Food Producer Awards awarded it a high bronze. It was also a finalist at the Massey University NZ Food Awards.
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Denise Bree, owner and general manager of Heavensent Gourmet, chose to stop eating meat in her late teens and has adopted a vegetarian diet for nearly forty years now. As the owner of Heavensent, her goal has been to make it easier for people to access good quality, tasty, vegetarian foods. The inspiration for Heavensent MEATLESS was a reaction against the synthetic meat products that have recently entered the market. “As a vegetarian, it can be difficult to find easy, tasty, healthy foods that you and the family can enjoy. Many of the products available rely too heavily on synthetics, soy derivatives, wheat, sugar and salt to make them edible”. Denise set herself the goal of producing a range of products that are 100% animal-free and 100% natural while also being suitable for vegans, vegetarians and their friends and families. “Our mission is to help people to eat less meat so the products need to tick a number of boxes”.
Heavensent MEATLESS mixes comprise dried pulses, legumes, vegetables, mushrooms and other natural ingredients that can be ready to cook within 20 minutes of adding water. Even meat-eaters enjoy them as they are very tasty and versatile. They are currently available in around 30 supermarkets nationally and growing well. “Consumer acceptance has been very positive and we are steadily building a loyal fan base”.
The Beyond Burger is available to the NZ grocery market, after receiving huge media attention in mid-2019.
Beyond Meat’s explosive growth across the globe mirrors a growing consumer appetite for plant-based proteins, with the market growing 42 percent in the US alone, from 2016 to 2019. Beyond Meat has positioned itself at the forefront of this plant-based revolution, thanks to the Beyond Burger’s meaty texture and taste, designed to satisfy both meat-eaters and vegetarians alike.
A study showed that 93 percent of customers at US grocery chain Kroger who bought Beyond Burger, also bought animal meat during the same period, indicating that the demand for plant-based meats is definitely not limited to vegetarian or vegan consumers. With ‘Meatless Monday’s’ and flexitarian diets becoming more and more common in New Zealand households, Beyond offers customers the ability to enjoy a juicy, high-quality burger at home, while still feeling good about sustainability and animal welfare benefits of plant-based protein.
Over 10 years of research and millions in investment from the likes of Bill Gates went into developing the technology required to turn simple, non-GMO ingredients into a product that provides the protein, heft and juiciness of a traditional beef patty without the use of animals. The bulk of the patty comes from 4 main ingredients – water, pea protein, canola oil and coconut oil - with extracts of natural ingredients like beetroot, apple and pomegranate providing its meat-like colour and texture. Beyond is also free of all major allergens, like gluten, soy and dairy, making it accessible to a wide range of customers.
For more information contact Ken Wilson Meats on 04 471 6716.