Meatless Farm-Real Madrid partnership uses the power of football to score plant-based goals
12 Mar 2021 --- Real Madrid football club has teamed up with plant-based producer Meatless Farm to drive change toward sustainable eating. The UK-based company, which uses pea protein to develop its products, and the Spanish football giant are pledging to raise awareness around eating less meat to reduce the environmental impact of food and focus on plant-based nutrition and performance beyond vegan and vegetarian audiences.
Real Madrid’s nutritionists will be working with Meatless Farm to show how plant-based food can work within a performance-based diet. The club’s players will be sharing their experience of reducing meat and increasing plant-based foods for both environmental and personal performance gains.
Speaking with FoodIngredientsFirst, Morten Toft Bech, founder of Meatless Farm, says 2021 will be a “tipping point” for plant-based nutrition.
“We have seen the pandemic really heighten the public awareness of health and consumers have become increasingly conscious of their food choices. During the various lockdowns, consumers paid more attention to their shopping habits and how they impact the environment,” he explains.
“The UK government’s COVID-19 tracker is testament to this where, last summer, they reported that over a third of British consumers were actively buying more sustainable products.”
He anticipates this year as a tipping point for the category as climate change action gets back on the global agenda head of G7 and COP26.
The speed at which the plant-based category is growing and the level of innovation and NPD mean there’s an increasing choice for consumers, Bech notes. “It’s no longer a shopper niche.”
However, Bech warns that although the plant-based sector has grown significantly in the last couple of years, industry needs to move faster to address the urgency of the climate crisis and the role food plays in that.
The global reach of Real Madrid
Working with Real Madrid is a way to reach huge numbers of people globally and Meatless Farm needs to reach broader audiences to encourage a mainstream shift in diets, while urging a change of focus for global food systems.
There is a growing sentiment that global systems are broken, with many commercial agricultural practices out of touch with current consumer demands like the environmental impact of meat and dairy industries.
Boosting transparency, being more sustainable and reducing carbon emissions are becoming top-of-mind concerns for global businesses.
The partnership comes after Real Madrid became the first football club to sign up as a participant of the UN Global Compact – the largest corporate sustainability initiative in the world – and during a four-year refurbishment of its iconic Bernabéu stadium, in the Spanish capital, which will help to make the ground more efficient and sustainable.
“We need to go beyond vegetarians and vegans to “meat lessers” and football is the biggest sport in the world, and they (Real Madrid) are one of the most celebrated clubs in the world. It’s important to note that they’re a club that shares our values and that’s what makes this joint mission so strong – they are a leading club for sustainability and their fans over-index in health and environmental interest,” Bech continues.
For Meatless Farm, change is consumers eating more sustainably and this won’t happen overnight, he flags. “We need to encourage broader audiences to make more sustainable choices, like eating plant-based food even if it’s once or twice a week – collectively, this can have a huge impact on our planet and health. This is a long-term relationship and we’ll be sharing more information in due course.”
Bech wouldn’t be drawn on whether Real Madrid players would be supplied with Meatless Farm products as part of their performance-related nutrition, but did say, “it’s an amazing opportunity to bring to life the credentials of plant-based food and the next steps in this mission will be revealed soon.”
“We are all familiar with Real Madrid’s success on the pitch and that comes from dedication and excellence behind the scenes – they excel in nutrition expertise and performance analysis.”
Emilio Butragueño, institutional relations director at Real Madrid CF, adds: “Meatless Farm brings together both sustainability and nutrition, two elements that are central to Real Madrid’s club and business strategy.”
“As a global brand, we have an important role to play in engaging communities to make real changes that help create a more sustainable world and improve personal health and performance.”
Alt-meat space dynamics
The plant-based space is ever-evolving, underscored by Innova Market Insights’ #2 trend for 2021, “Plant-Forward.”
Traditional meat brands and producers are adapting their portfolios to offer plant-based alternatives, while a plethora of NPD is coming from alt-meat and alt-dairy development, and manufacturers are demanding a host of animal-free ingredients.
There have been several plant-based partnerships within the F&B industry. Notably, Bühler is partnering with German food science researchers at the German Institute of Food Technologies to propel the sustainable production of healthy extruded meat substitutes.
Last summer, Meatless Farm invested £1.5 million (US$1.96 million) in its most extensive-ever advertising campaign. The M*** F*** campaign was a step-change for the UK-based vegan brand, which has built a loyal following on social media but is now aiming to grow its market share by targeting meat-eaters who swapped during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We’ll continue to see huge growth in the plant-based sector as consumers continue to reevaluate their food choices. We know that the chilled meat alternative market is in strong growth, with Meatless Farm growing ahead of the market rate (+78 percent vs. 45 percent),” adds Bech.
“Disruptive brands, like Meatless Farm, are driving incremental sales through increasing repertoire purchasing as well as tempting in new category shoppers, however, shoppers are also switching from the more traditional brands,” he states.
Innovation is at the core of the plant-based category and Meatless Farm is constantly renovating its current range and driving NPD.
“We’ll be launching a number of quality SKUs that meet a variety of consumer eating occasions. It’s important we’re balancing taste and texture with nutrition and sustainability and this is something we’ve invested a lot of time and capital into.”
What’s coming next?
Bech will reveal more details of the Real Madrid partnership and perhaps we’ll see the likes of Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema and others from Zinedine Zidane’s side take to social media to promote plant-based eating and nutrition.
Bech predicts that plant-based proteins will replace 60 to 70 percent of the intensively farmed processed meat market in the years ahead.
By Gaynor Selby
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