Strategic advice for the food and beverage industry

Unilever joins the plant-based burger frenzy

Posted on:
December 20, 2018
Author:
Julian Mellentin

Unilever is staking a claim in the plant-based meat alternatives gold-rush, acquiring a quirky brand for an undisclosed sum.

De Vegetarische Slager (translation: The vegetarian butcher) is a Dutch plant-based meat alternatives company which started with one store in 2010.

By 2017, the brand was available in more than 4,000 stores in 15 countries, including major supermarket chain Jumbo in the Netherlands and Waitrose in the UK.

The brand also has its own web shop, with products available for delivery within the Netherlands. The company opened a restaurant in The Hague in April 2018, where it serves dishes based on its products.

With $20 million in sales in 2017, that number may have increased to over $30 million in 2018.

De Vegetarische Slager’s range is based on blends of soy and wheat protein and includes vegetarian meal centres (15 products), snacks (13 products) and cold “meats” (5 products) and spreads (2 products).

Despite typically having 15-20 ingredients, the brand has taken off in the Netherlands – a reminder that some consumers have priorities that rank above ‘clean label’ and a short ingredient list.

It’s an unusual brand with an unusual pack design that seems have it a polarising ‘love it or hate it’ effect on people. Unilever will likely massively accelerate the brand’s distribution – and perhaps change the name.

The market for meat alternatives – mostly based on soy or pea protein – is already a crowded one, over-supplied with undifferentiated products, all fighting for shelf-space. Unilever’s move adds to the competitive pressures of a sector that is growing, but still fails to engage more than a small number of very committed consumers.

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Meat gets a fresh face

Posted on:
December 3, 2018
Author:
Julian Mellentin

In a world seemingly obsessed with plant protein, meat is having to work harder to appeal to a new generation of conscientious meat-eaters who want producers to go the extra mile for the sake of the planet.

And 22-year-old cattle rancher Nikki Carr is leading the way in the normally staid and macho ranching industry with a fresh young perspective on raising and selling beef.

It was while studying to become a lawyer that Carr was first inspired to become a cattle rancher. She began to notice a growing awareness of food sustainability amongst her Millennial generation, and a visit to a ranch in Australia gave her a glimpse of an alternative way of raising cattle.

‘Almost all the beef sold in America,’ Carr says, ‘is raised in a feedlot.’ In Australia, the cows are free to roam the pastures. ‘Australia is one of the biggest beef producers in the world, so I felt there was a serious lapse in ways things are done here.’ The result: Hippie Cow Beef, a pioneering Texas cattle ranch and beef-delivery service she runs with partner Parker Flannery.

By connecting and selling directly to their customers online, Hippie Cow says they are able to provide an affordable means for America to enjoy beef without guilt. An 8lb (3.6kg) ‘Steak Lovers’ delivery box costs $160, a 20lb (9kg) “Cowboy Curated” box just over $200.

Hippie Cow’s methods are environmentally-sound and fair to the cattle – the animals are allowed to roam at will across thousands of acres – and the company donates a portion of their profits to a veterans’ charity, Heroes and Horses.

Astutely tapping into the trend for authenticity and provenance, their website emphasises their ‘passion and respect for traditional values’ and uses fonts and images associated with the Old American West to create a feeling of heritage.

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Devoted to dairy?

Posted on:
November 29, 2018
Author:
Julian Mellentin

If you think that young people are the next big consumers of dairy alternatives, think again.

In October this year, twitter user @shine_with_love posted a humorous observation about the tendency of lactose-intolerant people to eat dairy, despite being fully aware of the intestinal discomfort that will follow. The post, pictured, received an astounding 188,000 likes and 64,000 retweets. What is it that resonated with so many people? The humour, of course, but to be funny it has to have an element of truth about it; it has to have that modern buzzword, ‘relatability’.

What is perhaps surprising is that these dairy devotees are mostly young people; around 70% of both Instagram and Tumblr users are under the age of 35, and 40% of Twitter users are under 30. This is where these viral posts are originating: the age group that is often stereotyped as leading the vegan trend. However, a brief conversation with even a non-lactose-intolerant teenager can end in the verdict ‘I could never be vegan – I love cheese too much.’

The comments of these posts are full of apparently lactose-intolerant people and their friends saying ‘I drink soy milk but I refuse to give up cheese,’ ‘I’m here for a good time not a long time,’ and ‘What is life without cheese though? These aren’t the only examples; a quick search on Instagram or Tumblr reveals an astonishing number of similar posts, all proclaiming the author’s dogged determination to brave the unpleasant effects of lactose intolerance for the sake of dairy.

While these fearless cheese-lovers almost certainly do not make up the majority of the 65% of lactose-intolerant people worldwide, they are clearly very common, especially in the US and Europe, where most of these posts come from. There is something about dairy that people are willing to suffer for. Particularly beloved are ice cream, milk and – toughest of all to give up – cheese.

The young, it seems, have a love affair with dairy, and many are unwilling to bow down to social pressure to be vegan, or even to gastrointestinal discomfort, if it means giving that up.

 

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