Welcome to the Plantbased Food Revolution!

Food trends come and go and, during my career of consulting to the food sector, I have seen many. Most trends have been consumer driven – those looking for a healthier food alternative or by a desire to try new Global food experiences or flavours. Some of those happen to be on trend at that given time, often triggered by a specific media event, or a celebrity chef (think Rick Stein, Jamie Oliver, or the ever-crusading Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall).

The consumers of today are well educated when it comes to food, and often been influenced by the media. I think we genuinely care about what we eat and have an interest, if not a demand, to know exactly where our food came from. Children and young people are now far more informed, aware, interested in food, and health conscious. The consumer of the future cares not just about healthy eating, but also about the ecological impacts of food production. This inevitably influences buying decisions which are increasingly based on perceived positive (or negative) environmental impacts.

The Plantbased food movement has taken this to another level in terms of consumer consciousness. Over the last year, it has been by far the biggest change in food development and production that we have seen.

As ASDA announce a partnership with vegan concept creator (Kbox Global) to trial a supermarket vegan butcher counter (Veelicious), and with brands such as The Meatless Farm, Vivera, and Naked by Finnebrogue developing products that offer consumers tasty and more sophisticated meat alternatives, the meat-free revolution is set to continue. A far cry from the days of frozen veggie sausages, the sector offers everything from the Vegan Egg (from Noble Foods) to Donner Kebab alternatives. The sector goes from strength to strength, matched by rapid growth and improvement in the technology and manufacturing processes, and the capability to increasingly produce products that feel and taste like traditional meat-based counterparts.

The numbers are equally impressive. With 22.1 million (34%) * of the UK population cutting down on meat and trying out flexitarianism, vegan products are becoming increasingly integrated in British consumers’ lives. These new offerings are making it easier than ever for this growing customer segment to have access to high quality and flavoursome vegan foods. ASDA stated that the launch of ‘Veelicious’ comes as plant-based eating continues to grow in popularity. Having won Vegan Retailer of the Year at the 2020 Q Awards, ASDA has seen an increase in online searches for ‘vegan’ on asda.com (+175% YoY), and simultaneously is forecasting vegan sales in January to increase by +391% YoY.

As a Recruiter immersed in the sector, I have seen first-hand the challenges our established brands have faced in breaking into what was once seen as a niche market. In recent years, I have seen a noticeable increase in clients seeking expertise in this new frontier – this has led to me actively providing advice and Talent solutions to those seeking a presence in the sector. New brands, large protein groups, snacking companies, and the likes of Unilever and Kellogg’s, are all actively investing in the category. We are also seeing significant interest from Private Equity and Capex investment from every large food group involved the sector. The flexitarian and vegan food trend has become a movement with unstoppable force.

At Norman Broadbent, we are well placed to assist any business seeking expertise within the meat-free sector. In recent years we have helped businesses build the people structures they need either as a start-up or for re-alignment within this demanding new category. The need for Consumer led marketeer’s, Plantbased food manufacturing expertise, and senior executives who understand global food distribution across retail, QSR, and direct to consumer markets is constant and should keep our Food Practice busy through 2021!

As well as the above, we are actively supporting our clients find solutions to these challenges by helping them:

  • Manage change and transformation: By providing our clients with experienced Interim Managers and independent consultants we can support the development/execution of sustainable change and growth strategies.
  • Future proof their business for growth: We are helping clients better understand the capability of their teams through the creation of success profiles (‘what good looks like’), the assessment of individuals against these, and the creation of individual development plans to help raise the calibre of individuals, teams, and the business as a whole.
  • Understand the capability gaps within growing teams: We are supporting clients and helping them understand – at a granular level – the competitor talent landscape. We then benchmark their own teams against the competition via our Research & Insight Practice giving clients the evidence needed to make properly informed people decisions. We build the business for any change.
  • Develop strategy: Our Research & Insight Practice are undertaking business intelligence projects which are designed to help clients better understand how other companies and sectors have achieved success in, say, digital transformation, building start up manufacturing facilities or establishing new brands within International markets. They are then using this information to build investment business cases and support the creation of business strategies.

If you would like to confidentially discuss how Norman Broadbent Group could help you overcome your business or people challenges, please contact Alan Gove on +44 (0) 07701 090854 or via alan.gove@normanbroadbent.com