Natural Products Expo East

What will it take to bolster plant-based protein? Meatless Farm says innovation

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: plant-based, plant-based meat, Protein, expo east, Innovation, vegan

While plant-based is still one of the hottest trends in food and beverage, sales and consumer engagement with alternative proteins have slid in recent quarters – prompting some players in the space to rethink their strategy.

For Meatless Farm this means offering a full line-up of proteins – not just patties and grounds, but also a new chicken breast alternative – and expanding into the adjacent category of packaged pasta with the launch of two raviolis that both complement its existing portfolio and bring it into a new part of the grocery store.

Meatless Farm marketing director Kavita Shah explained at Natural Products Expo East that innovations like these will be essential for the long-term success of plant-based products – especially as the constricting economy pushes consumers to be more selective about where they spend their money and how much they deem a product to be worth.

“Inflation is definitely a huge cause of people maybe not purchasing what they used to in the last year or two, and its really affecting all of the different categories, but plant-based in particular,”​ Shah said.

“And I think within the plant-based industry, what we can do to combat against that really ties to innovation and offering consumers things that are different – so not just burgers and grounds, but really offering different things like chicken and plant-based pasta … so the consumer feels good about spending a little bit more money because they are getting something that is different, that they cant get with other brands.”

Shah explained this idea is fundamental at Meatless Farm, which prides itself on offering alternative proteins across consumer needs and day parts with products ranging from breakfast patties, sausages and breaded chicken breasts.

“We want to be that offers them a solution no matter what they’re trying to eat,”​ Shah said.

Ravioli take Meatless Farm into a new segment of the store

The company recently added to its already diverse portfolio with the launch of two refrigerated raviolis – one stuffed with a roasted vegan chicken and garlic and the other with a meatless Italian sausage and fennel.

“Ready-made pasta in general is a huge segment – it’s about $182m in retail. And there isn’t a lot of innovation there when it comes to plant-based. So, it’s usually either cheese or vegetable based, but there are not a lot of players that are doing plant-based protein – and so we really thought this was a white space opportunity, especially as people continue to cook more at home,”​ said Shah.

Meatless Farm also wants to offer consumers an option no matter where they seek their next meal – and the launch of its plant-based refrigerated pasta takes the brand into a new segment of the store and, possibly soon, foodservice and quick-service restaurants.

“Right now, typically our current products are in the frozen aisle or the refrigerated aisle, but with pasta it is a whole different section. It is usually in the deli aisle. So, it is definitely incremental space for us within the retail environment,”​ said Shah.

Versatility that mimics home cooking is key to Meatless Farm’s growth

In addition to the past, Meatless Farm also launched an unbreaded chicken cutlet that underscores another key pillar of the company’s innovation strategy – offering items that are versatile.

“People can use it in salads and wraps and stir-fry and it really mimics the type of meals that our consumers are making on an everyday basis,”​ versus products like burgers that are purchased more in the summer for grilling, Shah explained.

Looking forward, she said, the company is eager to expand distribution of its new products and expand its presence in food service and at quick service restaurants where many consumers try plant-based products before buying them at the store.

 

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