The Plant Invasion - Part One

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Andy Wardlaw, Chief Ideas Officer

15 Feb, 2021 | 3 minute read

It's like 'The Day of the Triffids'. The plant kingdom is on the march and no one is beyond its grasp. That's because of a new wave of attacks that don't stop with vegans and flexitarians.

Science fiction analogies aside, plant based eating is one of the biggest trends of our time. And whereas some companies continue to approach innovation as ‘substitutes’ and ‘alternatives’, others are taking an upbeat approach – launching products designed to get everyone's pulses racing.

Less stick, more carrot

With Planet Earth on borrowed time, the sustainability of the human food chain must now be our top priority. And I’m really encouraged by a new wave of innovation that not only closes the sensory gap with meat and dairy - but does so with style. Much bolder and brighter packaging - and in many cases, much more distinctive and memorable products.

In this two part review, I want to celebrate the efforts of those manufacturers who are going the extra mile to lure us toward more sustainable choices as part of our everyday shop.

Oykos Dairy Free Chocolate Stracciatella

A hidden gem in Danone’s portfolio that not only removes the cow, but also any feeling of compromise. ‘Get lost [charming] in a delicious combination of coconut milk and fine vegan chocolate shavings.’ The subtle coconut taste is immersive. A slightly thicker texture could push this creamy contender into even higher levels of indulgence – but this is being picky of a product that has an impressively clean ingredients declaration.

Oykos dairy free
Snack range

SNACK range

This U.S start-up has its finger squarely on the pulse. They’ve created a range of plant-based snacks for those who are ready to get ‘back on track’ [their words] and willing to try a new plant-based diet. None of us need a report to tell us that our snacking habits have been thrown off course by this pandemic.

As we enter the next normal, I’m expecting our snacking habits to become much more polarized. On the one hand, expect the introduction of more ‘super hedonic’ products – providing much needed comfort and joy. On the other, more ‘super healthy’ ranges offering much greater functionality.

As people take a more competitive stance in tough economic times, plant-based products like SNACKS ‘Energize and Focus’ will increasingly find favor.

What makes this plant-based power snack so special is that it has removed all the negative sensory fall out normally associated with polarizing ingredients such as spirulina. No swampy flavor notes here!

The Vegilantes

For a brand that’s relatively late to the plant party, ‘Vegilantes’ have totally nailed it with this name! It’s fun and evokes some of that rebel spirit that gave rise to the vegan movement. The brand’s frozen fare includes Ch*cken Pakora, Ste*k Spice Crust and my favorite Masala Jackfruit Burgers. This product goes its own way on texture.

It’s less hung up on emulating meat and more focused on giving people something new and interesting to experience.

Speaking of hang ups, it's been suggested that as a result of this pandemic, brands may have to review the appeal of claims such as ‘Hand Made’ or 'Hand Finished'.

The vegilantes
Oatly spreads

Oatly Creamy Oat Spreads

The quirky dairy alternative from Sweden has done it again. The company was recently valued at $2bn, and U.K sales reached £70m last year, up a staggering 106%. In the U.S, the company has opened a new manufacturing base in New Jersey to keep up with demand - and has seen off competition from PepsiCo. With this new range of creamy spreads, Oatly is definitely part of my ‘Class of 2021’. There is no longer any reason why this dairy free miracle product can’t appeal to the masses.

Two Farmers Crisps

Here, the plant kingdom has been deployed to finally solve a pack problem – and it’s taken a small family business to do it. Two Farmers hand-cooked crisps [more hands!] have used plant-based cellulose and sustainably sourced eucalyptus to create a substrate that will decompose within 6 months.

And to those who think that anything sustainable means second rate, this plant-based pack innovation significantly extends the shelf life of the product.

Now we can all crunch with a clearer conscience! Well done boys!

Two farmers

Easy Life

With growing numbers of people voting with their wallets, led by younger ‘activists’ - the food industry has started to accelerate past the flexitarian.

Whilst mimicking meat and faux fish will dominate innovation pipelines for some time, I think that people's pent up demand for new experiences supports new ideas for entirely new formats, tastes, textures and aromas - taking this plant-based revolution to the next level.

Look out for more plant-based perspectives from us over the next few weeks. And please get in touch if you need a little help with your market understanding, concept ideation, product development or benchmarking.

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