One of the most important emerging trends in the food industry is plant-based food. All parties within the sector – those who still focus on animal products, but also those who are already active in plant food – would do well, according to Gwynt, to explore where the opportunities lie in the market.
Plant food has been on the rise in recent years. Where ten years ago it took a long time to look for meat and dairy substitutes in the supermarket, nowadays consumers have plenty of choice. Think of the extensive range of fast-growing brands such as De Vegetarian Butcher, Vivera and Alpro.
The quality of the plant-based products is also increasing rapidly. For example, Beyond Meat burgers are praised for resembling real meat so much. Significant for the growing popularity of plant-based nutrition was also the IPO of the American company about a year and a half ago. Immediately upon launch, the share price exploded – in three months the shares rose from 25 to 222 dollars.
Of course, the growing range goes hand in hand with increasing popularity among consumers. “The highest plant-based growth takes place among young people (generation Z), but it is mainly 55 + ers who provide the boost in turnover,” explains Pieter Lorwa of consultancy Gwynt, using data from GfK.
The engine behind growth
According to Lorwa, various reasons lie behind the rapid rise of plant-based food products: “Firstly, animal welfare plays an important role. In the Netherlands, eating less meat has become mainstream and this automatically leads to greater interest in plant-based alternatives. Secondly, plant nutrients are increasingly considered to be much healthier than animal products. Thirdly, the well-being of the entire planet also plays a role: plant food has a much smaller CO2 footprint than animal products. ”
All together, these and other factors are causing more and more people to opt for plant-based food. Moreover, the various factors reinforce each other. For example, the rapid advance is leading to a lot of positive media attention, which gives plant-based products a further boost. « This focus creates more consumer focus on plant-based than ever before, » said Lorwa. “Both the repetition of the message and the definition ‘plant-based’ (vs ‘vegetarian & vegan’ in the past) seem to have a major impact.”
Increasing sales also allow producers to invest more, which leads to improved production techniques, recipes and a better range, so that the products simply become more tasty, which of course also benefits the popularity. All in all, strategy office Kearney expects that global meat consumption will be half vegetarian by 2040.
The growing market obviously offers plenty of opportunities for parties in the food chain. On the one hand for startups who want to establish themselves as a new player in the market, on the other hand for traditional market parties who want to expand their product range towards plant-based products. Jan Zandbergen, a family business based in Veenendaal that until recently mainly sold meat products, is a good example of this. The company recently launched the new 100% plant-based concept ‘PLNT’ (via Future Food Group from Oss).
« The well-being of the entire planet also plays a role: plant food has a much smaller CO2 footprint than animal products. »
While it is important for all parties to consider the strategic opportunities, Lorwa expects that it is currently still too early for many parties to actually step in. “The volumes are still too small for many companies,” he explains. « And because the production process is very capital intensive, it is not easy to achieve attractive margins. »
For the current protein industry – meat, fish, meat products and dairy – expansion towards the plant-based segment can offer a solution for operational issues. Lorwa: « Especially parties that currently have a capacity surplus, it is interesting to explore how quickly the revolution can be made. » Animal proteins and / or raw materials are present in many different product groups, which means that the impact but also the possibilities of plant-based go much further than just this industry.
In practice, it appears to be difficult for companies to take advantage of this development. This is also something that Lorwa recognizes: “Not all initiatives are equally successful and can also be at the expense of existing activities. As Gwynt, we have recently helped various companies with their strategy, product portfolio, organization, supply chain or NPD process. It is precisely the multidisciplinary nature of the requested solutions that sometimes makes our temporary reinforcement necessary. ”
The parties that are already active in the plant-based segment cannot sit still either. Lorwa emphasizes that the rapidly changing environment requires continuous innovation: “This way the many opportunities that lie there can be seized – think of finding new niches, coming up with sharper price propositions, reaching new target groups and thus growing market potential. and improve the internal operation, which increases margins. ”