Convenience factor (Part 2): Plant-based opportunities for easy eating occasions

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17 May 2018 --- Health-minded consumers have been particularly keen to embrace a vegan way of life and therefore inspire product development in the prepared meals space. The trend has not gone unnoticed in the UK on the retailer front, the number of those cutting back on animal products and following a plant-based diet is set to increase by 10 percent this year, according to Tesco.

In January, Tesco launched its first ever range of “wicked” plant-based dishes. As a third of the UK population now identifies themselves as “flexitarian,” Recently, demand for vegetarian and vegan food has soared as a result of lifestyle choices such as Meat Free Mondays and flexitarian diets. In the last year alone Tesco has directly seen the effect of those lifestyle choices with demand for chilled vegetarian ready meals and meat substitutes soaring by 25 percent. Tesco has also partnered with pioneering chef, Derek Sarno, to create Wicked Kitchen – a new range of meals that “celebrate everything that’s wicked and tasty about plants.”

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From crispy carrot “pastrami” to wicked-meated barbecued ‘shrooms and Sourdough Pizza, “The vibrant wraps, meals and salads have all the zing, punch and crunch to encourage Brits to eat more veg – and they’re available at a great price too,” says Tesco.

 

Meanwhile in the US, California-based food company Green Giant Fresh launched a series of vegan ready-made microwavable bowls that come in six flavors - including a Pad Thai Bowl, Burrito Bowl, 'Fried Rice' Bowl, Rancheros Bowl, Buddha Bowl, and Ramen Bowl - and use vegetable spirals and 'rice' in place of conventional rice and noodles. Cauliflower is a staple ingredient in the brands' new dishes and with each of the vegetable-based meal bowls comes a flavor packet of seasoning sauce.

 

Company CEO Jamie Strachan said: “This innovative new line includes deliciously distinct world flavors in microwave-safe bowls that are made exclusively with fresh vegetables.”

 

The bowls are already available at select US locations, and it might not stop there. Strachan explained that the line is a response to growing demand “for healthy and nutritious foods, swaps and meal alternatives” and expects more to come. He said: “Look for us to regularly introduce unique new mixes, blends and meal-ready products; many of which can be heated and served right in their containers.”

 

Earlier this month, plant-based meal kit company Purple Carrot announced a US$4 million equity investment from Fresh Del Monte Produce. Like many other meal kit companies, Purple Carrot offers a subscription-based service with pre-portioned ingredients, recipes, and cooking instructions. According to Bloomberg, the investment from Del Monte will give Purple Carrot further access to national distribution channels. The market for plant-based foods is expected to hit US$25 billion in 2020 – roughly double from 2015.

 

Part of that growth is the number of companies also now putting their kits on supermarket shelves, among them Plated, Chef’d, and, most recently, Blue Apron. Interestingly, Purple Carrot tried and tested the retail avenue a few years ago, when it landed on the shelves at a few Whole Foods stores in 2016.

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Gardein recently launched a range of Skillet Meals, their latest innovation that harnesses the power of plants to create great-tasting, convenient vegan meal solutions for two. Skillet Meals marry the brand's signature meatless meats with a variety of crisp vegetables, grains and pastas in flavorful sauces that can be prepared in just minutes. Full of high-quality ingredients, these home-style favorites pack a powerful punch of protein to make healthier dining easy and delicious.

 

“Consumers today want healthier, sustainable options that fit into their busy schedules,” said Andy Judd, Vice President of Marketing at Boulder Brands. “As the very first multi-serve meals available in the frozen meatless category, our New Skillet Meals are outrageously delicious and can be prepared in minutes, making meal time a rewarding experience no matter how brief.”

 

Gardein is constantly developing great-tasting meat-free foods for everybody. As a fast-growing meat-free brand, Gardein offers a broad assortment of meatless items that deliver the taste, texture and nutrition of real meat with less fat, less calories and no cholesterol. These Skillet Meals for two are a delicious way for consumers to enjoy a healthier and convenient meal in a more sustainable way, according to the company.

 

Elsewhere, America's popular veggie burger brand, MorningStar Farms, has launched a series of intimate summer grilling dining experiences around popular summer grilling holidays to show how making room on the grill for MorningStar Farms veggie burgers and plant protein can make life more flavorful and delicious.

 

Brought to life by experienced grill-masters and featuring appearances from special guests like actor Justin Hartley, the summer dining series will kick off in May in New York and continue to Los Angeles and Chicago.

 

“Summer is all about gathering around the grill and eating with friends and family to enjoy delicious food, and we want to show why MorningStar Farms veggie burgers and plant protein deserve a spot on your grill this year.  That's why we're partnering with EatWith – to bring people together over great food,” said Melissa Cash, senior director, brand marketing, Kellogg Company.

 

“Making room for plant-based proteins on the grill adds different and unique flavors to your summer eating experiences that will appeal to guests who may want something other than meat.”

 

To address the growing demand for vegan burger options, MorningStar Farms has launched two new quarter-pound vegan burgers this summer that both meat and veggie lovers will enjoy.

 

You can read Part 1 of this report here.

 

By Elizabeth Green