“After a year or two of eating Impossible [Foods] and Beyond [Meat] and being really excited to eat their vegan products, consumers have become more educated and now understand that just because something is vegan doesn’t mean it is good for you. They’ve started to look at these ingredients and want something that has clean ingredients that is healthier for them just as they are for the planet,” Braelyn Davis, CEO and co-founder of Planet Based Foods, told FoodNavigator-USA.
He explained that increasingly consumers “honestly want a product that is made of plants that isn’t trying to be an animal.”
But, he adds, that doesn’t mean they are willing to give up craveablity, flavor or unique texture and experience, which is where he says Planet Based Foods can deliver by offering what the start-up describes as “a consciously crafted line of plant-based proteins that embrace not only the highest taste and nutritional standards, but represent a sustainable solution for the future of plant-based foods.”
‘Hemp is a superfood’
At the center of Planet Based Foods strategy for “owning this part of the plant-based market” and delivering on the demands of uncompromising taste, health and environmental sustainable is hemp.
After decades of being misunderstood and dismissed as “weed” or more recently pigeon-holed as a source of cannabinoids, hemp is finally coming into its own as an untapped source of protein and nutrition that can also help heal depleted soil, support the production of other crops and sustain farmers in between harvests of more traditional ingredients as a cover crop, Davis said.
“Hemp is a superfood,” but it is also underdeveloped in terms of product innovation that will make it appealing and accessible to mainstream America, Davis said.
And this, he says, is where his father, a food scientist and industry veteran with vast experience in the plant-based segment shines.
A far-reaching, fast-growing line-up
Tapping into his experience first as a tofu maker and the innovator of the first tofu hot dog, and his later experience at Good Karma Foods, Robert Davis helped create an innovative and efficient production process to blend hemp seed, pea protein and brown rice to create a “high-performance nutrition” plant-based meat packed with protein, fiber, omega 3- 6- and 9-fats but without commonly used soy, gluten or GMO ingredients.
Robert and Braelyn Davis first tested their meat in hemp burgers at select restaurants and based on consumer feedback developed a full line of convenient, versatile and nutrient-dense plant-based protein products that Robert describes as worthy of the center of the plate.
These include two hemp burgers – original and Green Chili Southwest, two crumbles – an original made with garlic, onion and smoked paprika that is ideal for tacos and stir-fry, and an Italian version with fennel and herbs – and a breakfast sausage hemp patty, all of which debuted early this year at the Winter Fancy Food Show.
This week at the company’s booth #N838 at Natural Products Expo West, the company is expanding into what Robert Davis described as craveable and convenient comfort food with the launch of two frozen taquitos – original and Southwest.
Also in the pipeline is a breakfast sandwich, which Robert Davis said was the best he has ever had in his 40 years of experience with meat analogues and even animal-based meats. He is equally excited about a line of burritos that he described as part of the “new Americana” the company is creating.
Broad appeal from college students to parents to athletes
The convenience, nostalgia and comfort of the line-up likely will appeal to younger shoppers, especially those at universities, who are hyper-aware of the environmental impact of their diets but also want something easy to prepare and delicious, Robert Davis said.
The products brightly colored and playful packaging, which explains the benefits of hemp for people and the planet in easy-to-understand language, also likely will appeal to the younger shopper as well as parents of young children who are worried about future generations, he added.
Beyond these groups, the products are aimed at performance athletes and fitness-focused shoppers, who may not appear to be a natural pairing for a packaged convenience food, Braelyn Davis said.
“Hemp is one of the few plants that we can really hone in on for its nutrient density and really target people who are looking for performance foods … We have a clean label that pushes performance above the rest and that is a key differentiator for us and we think will open a whole new market of millennials into this space,” he explained. “We offer healthy complex carbs, six grams of fiber, 21 grams of protein and not to mention we are the only guys out there with the full spectrum of omega-fatty acids.”
Ultimately, the duo hope the brand will be successful not just from a selfish business perspective but so that it can lead the industry by example – showing other players in the space that plant-based products can be craveable, convenient and healthy for people and the planet.