Investment is “pouring into plant-based foods” from large operators looking to capitalise on the veganism trend and surging demand for sustainable foods. 

It’s one of the reasons why Ecovia Intelligence predicts that 2019 will be the year that plant-based products moves firmly into the mainstream in the food industry. 

The London-based consultancy notes that in the UK, Pret A Manger is planning to buy its rival Eat and convert the chain’s 94 sandwich stores into vegetarian outlets. Pret A Manger already operates 4 Veggie Pret outlets in its portfolio of 400 stores. It plans to expand the operation because of high demand for plant-based meals. 

Fast-food operators are also investing in meatless products. McDonald’s recently launched the Big Vegan TS, a vegan burger, in the German market. The fast-food chain has already been selling its McVegan burger in Nordic countries. Burger King has launched a meatless Whopper in the US market. Chick-fil-A, another fast-food operator, is also exploring vegan options, whilst Taco Bell has introduced vegan tacos at selected London outlets this month. 

Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, has recently launched its Garden Gourmet Incredible Burger in Europe. Made from soya and what protein, it uses vegetable extracts to give the burger a meaty texture. It is planning to launch the meatless burger under the Sweet Earth brand in the US later this year. America’s largest meat company Tyson Foods is also preparing to launch its first meat-free product. 

Plant-based food companies, such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, are also receiving investment to help them scale production and keep up with demand. Beyond Meat floated its shares on the Nasdaq stock exchange last week, whilst Impossible Foods has just raised USD 300 million from its latest financing round. 

VBites, one of the pioneers of plant-based foods in the UK, is also riding the sustainable food wave. Established in 1993, the Northamptonshire-based company now has 140 meat-free, dairy-free and fish-free products, and exports to 24 countries. VBites recently announced the acquisition of its third factory in Newcastle. It has also invested in related vegan businesses, such as Onist and One Planet Pizza. 

Heather Mills, Founder of VBites, is active in raising the profile of plant-based foods. In her keynote at the upcoming European edition (Amsterdam 13-14 June 2019) of the Sustainable Foods Summit, she will share her personal journey to veganism and the company’s vision. She believes the future of sustainable foods is with plant-based products, and the key to future growth is higher adoption rates. She will also give insights into how VBites is gaining market share by grabbing ‘mindshare’ of mainstream consumers. 

Photo: A Veggie Pret outlet. Pret A Manger