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- How Plant-Based Brands Can Thrive in 2024, According to 8 FoodTech Founders
How Plant-Based Brands Can Thrive in 2024, According to 8 FoodTech Founders
As the year begins to unfold, plant-based brands are hitting the headlines.
With a fresh wave of world-first products, nationwide retail partnerships and fundraising-fuelled announcements this Veganuary.
Yet, there’s still a lot of work to be done before consumers see plant-based foods as superior (or at least equal) on price, taste, and texture to their non-vegan counterparts.
Will 2024 be the year we can get consumers coming back for more?
Here at FoodHack, we caught up with 8 founders behind breakthrough plant-based brands across Asia, USA and Europe to see what it’s going to take to get there.
How can plant-based thrive in 2024? Let’s hear from 8 founders…
Enticing Shoppers with New Product Lines
Jean Madden, Co-Founder and COO at TiNDLE Foods points out ‘The biggest challenge the sector faces today is repeat and sustained consumer adoption – enticing shoppers to reach for plant-based foods on a regular basis, not just one time. Even as the number of consumers who are aware of plant-based foods grow today, there is still a mental barrier when it comes to selecting them habitually.
This means we must continue to excite the shopper and improve the existing category by introducing innovative and new formats, encouraging them to choose plant-based repeatedly. Innovation to us not only means deliciousness, but also making consumers aware of all the benefits from the complete TiNDLE experience to help set us apart from the less sustainable, animal-based options – this includes everything from packaging to convenience to taste and nutrition.’
Already in 2024 🍗 TiNDLE Foods made its retail debut in Switzerland, with an exclusive launch into more than 440 Coop stores nationwide.
Achieving Price and Taste Parity
Darko Mandich CEO and Co-Founder at MeliBio says ‘I see the biggest opportunities in the plant-based sector centering around achieving price and taste parity. At MeliBio, we've proven this balance through our notable launch with ALDI. We've showcased that our sustainable, plant-based honey alternative not only matches the affordability of traditional options but also delivers a delicious taste, marking a significant stride in winning over consumer preferences.
So far in 2024 🍯 MeliBio has rolled out its bee-free honey in the UK, Switzerland, and Austria, in partnership with Slovenian food maker Narayan, marking the first stage of a $10 million, four-year deal to reach 75,000 stores across Europe.
Prioritising Consumer Education
Deniz Ficicioglu, Co-Founder at BettaF!sh tells us, “We are still facing two main challenges: the price of our TU-NAH is too high in comparison to regular tuna, which deters a lot of buyers. And even if we onboard the buyers, many consumers are still reluctant to purchase plant-based fish, either because they don't understand it ("what is vegan fish?") or because they don't see a need for it ("meat is fatty and carcinogenic, whereas fish is a lean and healthy source of protein.") What we need to do is educate about the environmental need for a reduced global seafood consumption and bring our price point down.”
This Veganuary🚆 BettaF!sh is available on Deutsche Bahn for the month of January to offer sustainable fish alternatives on their menu.
Winning Over Mass Majority
Joe Hill, Co-Founder at One Planet Pizza points out “The latest research suggests that we (plant-based brands) have only got two shots at winning over new consumers. If we can’t deliver on price and taste then non-vegans may not come back to the category again. To win over the mass majority we need to absolutely nail the eating experience, both surprising and delighting new customers. Once this is achieved we need to give people a reason to stick with the animal-free alternatives.
If we can offer a complete solution (a plant-based pizza that’s affordable, delicious and healthier) and successfully aim this at plant-curious consumers, then we believe our sector can still achieve adoption at speed and scale. The sector needs to effectively demonstrate and educate consumers on the many benefits of eating more plant-based foods, both for the individual and the planet.“
This month 🍕 One Planet Pizza and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream teamed up on an exclusive Veganuary meal deal at Asda.
Going Beyond Plant Based for Humans
Mahsa Vazin, Founder and CEO at PawCo Foods notes that ‘as the plant-based market grows, PawCo Foods will address the increasing demand from consumers who are seeking healthy, tasty, and nutritious plant-based options for their dogs. Consumers are looking for plant-based options that are "healthy" for their dogs. PawCo is utilising AI to unlock an infinite number of healthy and optimised products for different tastes and budgets.’
Launched in 2024 🐶 PawCo Foods, founded by former Impossible Foods employee Dr. Mahsa Vazin, launched what it says are the “very first” fresh shelf-stable plant-based dog foods, developed using AI for nutrition optimisation and palatability.
Adopting a Conservative Approach
Hiroto Yamazaki, CEO at Umami United says "Instead of replacing "visible eggs" like egg omelets or scrambled eggs, we should focus on substituting "invisible eggs" in products like sweets or bread.
The same applies to meat. It's challenging to suddenly change Wagyu beef, but what about the mince inside dumplings? Not many people eat dumplings just because they want meat; they want dumplings. We need to offer a substitute that is competitively priced, quality, and provides health benefits. While it's a conservative strategy, in a conservative country like Japan with a rich food culture and history, this approach is practical.
Simultaneously, we need to educate the next generation. Younger people have the potential to understand and choose plant-based options on their own. They may consume those products “consciously”.’
New in Funding 🇯🇵 The Japanese government awarded grants worth $19.6 million to two alternative protein startups: plant-based egg company Umami United and cell culture technology firm IntegriCulture.
Redefining the Category
Andy Shovel, Co-founder at THIS™ explains "The plant-based sector's biggest opportunity lies in players like us redefining the category and launching new innovative products. As well as enjoying meat alternatives, consumers crave whole foods, and we've seen a lean towards health-focused choices, and an ingredients list people recognise. We get that and we've been hard at work for the last year working on a range that fits their needs and we'll be launching something super super exciting later this year."
Earlier this month 🍗 THIS joined forces with brewery and pub chain BrewDog to launch hyper-realistic skin-on plant-based chicken wings.
Highlighting the Nutritional Benefits
Elin Roberts, Co-Founder and CMO at Better Nature told us: "Customers are more interested than ever in gut health, fibre and "plant points", and there's a huge opportunity for the plant-based category to capitalise on this.
Plant-based foods like tempeh tick all of these boxes (as well as being high-protein) and can support customers in meeting their health goals - whether meat-eaters or vegans.
We're already seeing the shift - tempeh is getting a lot more attention this year as a gut-friendly, versatile and all-natural protein staple. We're excited to double down on this messaging and promote the benefits of adopting more nutritious plant-based whole foods, like tempeh, into your diet."
Now in retail 🔥 Better Nature launched a new smoky tempeh made with naturally fermented whole soybeans and seasoned with smoked salt.
The plant based sector will face many highs and lows over the coming months.
As runways dry up, new products flop or fly off the shelves and our local supermarkets (hopefully) stock more vegan brands from the FoodTech Founders we know and love.