Successful Plant-based Protein Academy at Floriade Expo
Various European retailers, QSR chains and other food companies visited an event at the Floriade Expo in Almere on Tuesday, 13 September. A Dutch producer of meat and fish substitutes organized a knowledge event about vegetable proteins. Several parties from home and abroad accepted the invitation and experienced an inspiring and instructive day.
Plant-based is hot
Vegetable products are hot. While retailers have been investing heavily in this category for several years, plenty of plant-based menu items have also been introduced within the Out-of-Home channel in recent years. The first products appeared on the market about thirty years ago. However, the category is still at the beginning. In the Netherlands, meat substitutes still only account for about four per cent of the total retail turnover of meat.
In 1990, the Giessen family business, Schouten Europe, was the first Dutch party to start developing meat substitutes. Schouten supplies its meat and fish substitutes worldwide to Retail, Out-of-Home and the food processing industry. Based on the family history, the company is a specialist in plant-based proteins. The company would like to share this knowledge with customers and interested parties. The Schouten Plant-based Protein Academy was organized to that end for the first time.
The programme included various speakers and activities, all aimed at transferring knowledge about the market, but in particular about product development and raw materials. For example, CEO Henk Schouten opened the day with a look back at the origins of the meat substitute category and the development of the market so far. Jeroen Willemsen spoke on behalf of Foodvalley NL in an inspiring way about various initiatives to stimulate a shift from animal to plant-based protein.
Sharon de Miranda has been a regular face as a TV chef on the popular Dutch TV programme BinnensteBuiten since 2015. During this day she prepared a plant-based lunch which was eagerly received by the Academy participants. Plant-based bacon, fish and beef were some of the products used in various dishes.
Local protein cultivation
In the early afternoon, the focus was on the various raw materials that can serve as a basis for meat substitutes. Raw materials such as soy, wheat, chickpeas and broad beans were highlighted. Sustainable agriculture, soil diversity, yields per hectare and nutritional properties were related themes that were discussed.
Hilde Muylle, Expert New Plant Crops at the Belgian Institute for Agricultural, Fisheries and Food Research, spoke about the various crops that can contribute to the protein transition and what is needed for it to happen.
The Protein Showcase
After Muylle’s presentation, there was a tour of the Floriade with a visit to The Protein Showcase, an experience field with various protein crops. The visitors were given an explanation about the various crops and were able to walk around in the lovely autumn sun to view them.
Daphne Sanders, product developer at Schouten, talked about the do’s and don’ts in product development. One of the conclusions was that the focus should be on taste, but that price, health guidelines and sustainability also play an important role in the total concept.
Too often consumers do not find the plant-based products tasty enough to eat them more often on a structural basis. There is a need to work together throughout the chain to offer affordable and appealing plant-based alternatives.
Figures from IRI and research by ABN AMRO show that the growth in sales of meat substitutes in supermarkets stagnated from the fourth quarter of 2021. Adding products to the shelf no longer necessarily leads to growth. It is therefore important for manufacturers to continue to innovate and constantly improve their products.
Trade Marketer, Kees van den Heuvel van Schouten, demonstrated during the day that the meat substitutes category needs new impulses. During the plant-based protein academy, visitors were able to talk to each other about what these impulses could be now that consumer sentiment about meat substitutes seems to have cooled somewhat.
Henk Schouten closed the day with a look at the future. Shorter chains, efficient use of raw materials and fewer food miles were central to this. In India, Schouten is already putting an ultimate example of this into practice with the ‘Tempeh Today’ project. The’CHIEF’ pilot will soon kick off nationally in the municipality of Altena. This involves investigating which marketing communication tools are effective to accelerate the protein transition.
During break-out sessions at the end of the afternoon, the attendees could ask each other about approach and vision with regard to the plant-based category.Visitors to the Plant-based Protein Academy described the day as inspiring and educational. ‘The combination of information, meeting and interaction between visitors from various channels made it a very successful day. We have really increased our knowledge of plant-based proteins here,’ he said afterwards.