The flexitarian effect: Sainsbury’s to trial plant-based Naturli’ Foods line in meat aisle

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12 Jun 2018 --- UK retailer Sainsbury's is set to trial the stocking of meat alternative products in its meat aisles later this month, as opposed to in their own dedicated sections. As of June 27, Sainsbury's customers will be able to find vegan and vegetarian plant-based products from Naturli’ Foods in the meat aisles at 400 of its stores in the UK.

The move comes just weeks after Tesco launched Vivera steaks and a month after US-based Beyond Meat’s popular vegan Beyond Burger made its debut in the UK. Tesco sold 40,000 units of Vivera’s vegan steaks in just the first week it launched and the success of its Wicked Kitchen range of ready meals has also been successful, with the supermarket chain announcing plans to expand the line after only launching in January this year. Last week, Waitrose also launched a dedicated vegan section to 125 of its stores, and Sainsbury’s also recently added the vegan cheesecake range from Canada’s Daiya Foods.  

Click to EnlargeThe Naturli’ Foods’ burgers and mince are made from almonds, tomatoes, and porcini mushrooms. They are not as meat-like in flavor as the Beyond Burger or its main rival, the Impossible Burger. However, the Naturli’ products are not designed to taste like beef but have an underlying “meatiness” thanks to the umami flavor. Similar to the Beyond and Impossible Burgers, Naturli’s burger “bleeds” with the help of beets, which give the burger a reddish color.

Henrik Lund, CEO of Naturli’ Foods tells FoodIngredientsFirst: “Everything we do, we do to contribute to restoring the balance between nature and man – we take more from nature than we give back to it. That’s the main objective behind every single one of our products. We’re facing global challenges when it comes to feeding the planet. As recent studies show, avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth. Delivering high-quality plant-based products to consumers around the globe is our way to do that.”

According to Lund, the market for plant-based foods has exploded. “Not only in the UK, but globally. To put it mildly, we’re amazed at the interest and engagement. Millions of people want to make a difference and recent numbers show that every fourth meal in the UK is now vegan or vegetarian,” he says. 

“Naturli’ minced is a basic component that you can use to make your favorite lasagna, Bolognese sauce, meatballs, burgers, Mexican foods, for example – it provides you with possibilities to create your own fantastic vegetarian meal. This is what we believe is the future – taking plant-based food to a higher level that also welcomes in mainstream consumers,” Lund notes. 

“We have many new innovative plant-based products in the pipeline that will reach the market this year and in 2019. The focus is on challenging the meat and dairy category with tasty plant-based alternatives,” he adds.

A growing number of consumers are seeking out vegan and vegetarian foods even if they still eat meat. More than a few human health and environmental impact studies show strong reasons for reducing or avoiding meat intake. The range goes on sale after the growing awareness of avoiding meat and dairy products became the single most significant way to reduce consumers’ environmental impact on the planet.Click to Enlarge

Danish-based Naturli’ Foods says it’s now struggling to keep up with demand for its burgers since they first launched in January. Across the pond in the US, Beyond Meat is facing similar challenges. It recently expanded production facilities, but retailers and restaurants continue to find themselves out of stock on the Beyond Burger and the company’s newest vegan offering: the Beyond Sausages. 

“We're always exploring new ways to offer greater choice for customers and the new Naturli’ mince and burgers are a great example,” says Sainsbury's meat-free buyer James Hamilton. “These are our most authentic meat alternatives yet, and we are looking forward to hearing what our customers think.

Naturli’s launch in Sainsbury’s is the latest plant-forward move from the region’s supermarket leaders. 

A Sainsbury's media spokesperson confirmed to FoodIngredientsFirst: “Our Naturli’ meat-free products are launching in stores at the end of the month and we’ll be sharing more information soon.”

The Vegan Society is also expecting great things when the product is introduced on the British market. The Vegan Society’s Trademark Team says: “We are delighted that the product will be carrying our internationally recognized Vegan Trademark. With increasing interest in meat alternatives that mimic the appearance and texture of meat, it is sure to be a hit in the UK market and beyond. It has great potential to help people make the transition to a vegan diet, being of a similar consistency, availability and price, to that of meat.”

The society expects that the change in British eating culture will continue to a very large degree. “We have seen exponential growth in the number of people interested in the vegan lifestyle and expect this to continue for many years to come. This interest has led to significant change in people’s buying habits as they become aware of the how a plant-based diet can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.”

Just as plant-based mince has a significantly lower CO2 impact on the environment than beef, the packaging makes a reduced impact too. It is made of at least 50 percent recycled plastic. Naturli’ Foods expects to sell half a million packs of Naturli’ Minced in the first year in the UK. The price will also be comparable to that of real minced beef.  

By Elizabeth Green

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