Blog Description

Plant Based Revolution: Unlock the Potential of Vegan Food

Consumer Goods and Retail | Jun, 2023

The shifting consumer eating habits, driven by the enhanced awareness towards environment, climate change, animal welfare activism, and holistic approach towards diets has led to the rise of veganism around the world. Currently, 1.1% of the global population, approx. 88 million people are vegans, and the number is expected to increase significantly in the coming years. In Veganuary 2023, over 700,000 people from 228 countries and territories officially signed up globally while 400 US businesses participated in the event, breaking all previous records. From celebrities to athletes and big tech companies are supporting the movement to eat more plant-based foods. Vegan diets have been around for a very long time around the world, despite occasionally being seen as a privileged Western movement. Countries such as India, China, Japan, Greece, Jamaica, and Israel have a large vegan population due to ingrained cultural traditions and religious beliefs. With now more and more people opting for a vegan lifestyle, food manufacturers are capitalizing on the growing opportunity and providing more vegan products on our supermarket shelves.

Plant-based Foods Take Market by Storm

When health and well-being started becoming priorities, consumers started reassessing what they eat and their impact on the environment. This was the year when everyone learned about plant-based, and new goods started to arrive on the market, including pizza, lattes, dirty burgers, and bakeries and pastries. In 2021, the sales of plant-based foods grew faster than the overall food sales, according to a study conducted by the Good Food Institute. Now consumers can find plant-based alternatives, everything from vegan meat to vegan milk and cheese through mainstream grocery stores. Already plant-based and dairy alternatives account for 8% of the global “protein foods” market.

Vegans are no longer settling for substandard meals of french fries and side salads. Many vegan food outlets such as PLNT Burger, Hart House, Vegan vs Fries, Loving Hut, Flower Burger, Veganburg, Blaze Pizza, HipCityVeg, etc. have been emerging, providing more food choices for vegans. Besides, popular fast-food chains and restaurants are rolling out enticing vegan meals in their options to meet the evolving demands of consumers. For instance, two of the biggest fast-food restaurants in the U.S., Chick-fil-A and Mickey Ds are hopping on the plant-based bandwagon, offering dishes that resemble chicken but are made without chicken. Burger King started selling its plant-based burger, Impossible Whopper in 2019 while its competitor McDonald’s debuted its McPlant burger—developed with Beyond Meat—in the United Kingdom in 2021. Even KFC, widely renowned for their chicken offerings started selling Beyond Meat nuggets in 2022.

According to a survey conducted by Food Labs, restaurants that have added vegan food options have witnessed 13% increase in customer traffic and availability of options has led to a 300% increase in vegan food orders. Aramark, a major foodservice provider in United States has adopted a vegan culinary training programme to assist cooks in mastering plant-based cookery. Aramark is in charge of the food supplied in schools, hospitals, corporate cafeterias, and other locations. The action fits with the company's goal of providing more vegan foods that are heart healthy.

As more cafes and restaurants build their business models to not only accommodate vegan customers but also to deliver delectable vegan food items, vegan burgers, pizzas, and coffee are gaining more popularity than ever. The availability of meat and dairy substitutes has made it simpler for restaurants to serve a variety of vegan cuisines. Restaurants are not only serving vegan dishes, but they are also advocating for a sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle. Through vegan cuisine options, restaurants are investing in providing customers with an environmentally responsible experience.

According to TechSci Research report on “Vegan Chocolate Market – Global Industry Size, Share, Trends, Opportunity, and Forecast, 2018-2028F Segmented By Type (Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, and White Chocolate), By Category (Boxed, Bars, Countlines, and Others (Pouches & Bags, etc.)), By Distribution Channel (Supermarkets/Hypermarkets, Convenience Stores, Specialty Stores, Online, Departmental Stores and Non-Retail) By Region, Competition”, the vegan chocolate market is projected to grow at a significant rate. The growth can be attributed to the rising health awareness among consumers regarding the benefits of consuming plant-based foods and rising cases of food-related allergies.

Rise of Vegan Food Startups

The days of vegetarians and vegans having few food options are long gone, thanks to a plethora of new vegan cuisine entrepreneurs. Growing consumer demand for vegan food products has dramatically increased investor interest in the sector. Globally, there are currently 640 vegan food companies. Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, two California-based companies that produce fake meat, helped make vegan burgers popular and paved the way for related developments like vegan seafood.

Here are some of the food tech companies revolutionizing the vegan food industry.

  • Plantish

Fish consumption is being revolutionised by Israel-based vegan food tech startup Plantish at a time when the demand for seafood is at an all-time high. For individuals looking to have as little influence on the environment as possible, Plantish is working to develop fish and seafood analogues made from plants. In January, they debuted their first item, a whole-cut vegan salmon fillet. The novel "fish" product prioritises a typical - and delectable - salmon experience without taking a heavy environmental toll.

  • Benson Hill

US-based plant-based food ingredient manufacturer, Benson Hill offers sou flour, baked goods, meat extension, and other functional alternatives to meat and dairy products. Combining AI technologies such as data science and machine learning with biology and genetics, the company develops ingredients with optimized nutrition and flavour. In August 2022, Benson Hill entered into a strategic partnership with global nutrition company, ADM to diversify its soy ingredients and venture more into plant-based savory, sweet, and dairy items for meeting evolving needs of consumers.

  • Oatly

Sweden-based food tech company, Oatly uses patented enzyme technology to produce dairy products from oats. The company's unique enzyme technology mimics a natural process that transforms high-fiber oats into nourishing liquid nourishment that is designed for people. The first step includes crushing oats in hot water to expand the starch found in oats. The next step involves mixing natural enzymes with the oat starch in the enzyme tanks. The subsequent breakdown of the oat starch into smaller components, such as maltose or malt sugar serves as a natural sweetener. In 2021, Oatly collaborated with Deutsche Bahn to offer the Oatly Barista Edition as the first plant-based dairy replacement product in the intercity trains. This helped to provide the passengers an experience of plant-based milk alternative. In 2022, the company expanded its partnership with Espresso House, wherein coffee is made with oat milk.

  • Eat Just

US-based food tech company, Eat Just leverages innovative tech to make eggs using mung bean protein isolate. The isolate is combined with expeller-pressed canola oil and natural extracts of carrot and turmeric. Mung beans use 98% less water and 84% less land than what the production of traditional chicken eggs require. The finished product is non-dairy, cholesterol free and is non-GMO. In 2022, Eat Just partnered with Mikey’s and Crepini to launch plant-based breakfast pockets and eggless wraps for consumers. The same year, Eat Just launched its first-ever 100% plant-based menu in collaboration with Caribou Coffee, one of the largest coffeehouse chains in United States. Just Egg garnered an “People’s Voice Winner” under the Food & drink category at the Webby Awards in 2022.

  • NotCo

Chile-based food tech startup, NotCo leverages AI-based Giuseppe technology to replicate animal products using 100% plant-based components. It accomplishes this by identifying plant-based substitutes for animal proteins among the thousands of accessible ingredients. Giuseppe starts by formulating a number of potential recipes that are similar to the product that the company wishes to copy. The process then looks for similarities across a range of properties, including flavour, appearance, nutrition, and function. In 2022, LSG Group collaborated with NotCo to expand its offering with plant-based meals using the firm’s components. In 2021, NotCo had partnered with the Kraft Heinz Company to build plant-based aversions of co-branded items that match demanding preferences of customers.

Investments Pouring in Vegan Food Brands

Venture capital firms are investing heavily in vegan startups. Not just businesses are eager to profit from the plant-based food industry. Tech billionaires, athletes, and celebrities have all made sizeable investments in businesses like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, and many more are continuing to do so to support the expansion of new businesses.

Leonardo DiCaprio, American actor well renowned for his environmental activism has opened Neat Burger, a network of vegan fast-food restaurants. Additionally, he has invested in Beyond Meat, Califia Farms, and the British vegan business HIPPEAS for chickpea puffs. Additionally, DiCaprio serves on Perfect Day's sustainability committee as a supplier of plant-based dairy ingredients. Natalie Portman, American actress has financed Boston-based start-up Tender Food, which produces whole muscle cut plant-based meats. Portman is previously an investor in Oatly and the vegan bacon firm La Vie. The start-up's use of spinning fibre technology enables it to produce a texture that is comparable to that of animal meat. In the seed round, Tender Foods raised £12 million (USD15 million), which it would utilise to boost production and broaden its product offering.

Plant-based dairy and meat start-up, NotCo achieved unicorn status after receiving funding of USD235 million from Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos. Chris Smalling, a former Manchester United player, established the venture capital firm ForGood in 2022. The VC firm only finances entrepreneurs and start-up businesses addressing important environmental issues. The company has already supported a number of well-known food brands, including allplants and Matthew Kenney Cuisine. After investing in the plant-based business THIS, which won the Food Matters Live 2020 Awards, Smalling made an investment in the Spanish vegan meat firm Heura in June 2021. American Rapper, Jay Z backs dairy-free cheese brand Misha’s Kind Foods through his company Marcy Venture Partners.

Robert Downey Jr.’s venture capital firm FootPrint Coalition poured USD15 million in seed funding in Israeli food tech startup Chunk Foods, which would be utilized to construct one of the largest plant-based whole-cut meat factories in the world.

Increasing acceptance of veganism by celebrities has a crucial role to play in promoting the lifestyle among masses. Celebrities like Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, Jason Marz, Zac Efron, Beyonce, Bill Clinton, Madonna, Natalie Portman, Jessica Chastain, Ellen Pompeo, etc. are promoting vegan diet culture and people have shown acceptance, which has added to the rising adoption of vegan foods.

The elite of Silicon Valley are beginning to see that animal agribusiness is the fundamental problem with our food system and that it needs to be drastically changed. Venture capital firms have invested billions in food technology businesses over the last few years, helping them to create cutting-edge new products, some of which are plant-based. Millions of dollars are being staked on businesses like Beyond Meat, Hampton Creek, Impossible Foods, Lyrical Foods, Muufri, Modern Meadow, and others to create the foods of the future by companies like Obvious Ventures, Google Ventures, Khosla Ventures, SOSventures, and Horizons Investors.

Technologies Used for Vegan Food Production

A major shift in interest in the alternatives to traditional animal proteins has been witnessed due to availability of a wide range of meat and dairy products. Plant-based foods are not just restricted to soy as new technologies are enabling market players to create new and innovative products that are now rapidly becoming mainstream. According to Plant Based Foods Association, the plant-based protein alternatives pegged USD7 billion in sales in the United States in 2020 as more products with better texture, taste, and nutrition forayed into the market. For encouraging the greater adoption of plant-based protein alternatives, food tech companies are investing for increased research to understand the relationship between the chemical, physical, and functional properties of plant ingredients. More R&D is focused on the manufacturing new alternative proteins leveraging advanced technologies.