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Nestlé creates vegan KitKat bar

Coming soon to a selected retailer near you: a vegan version of the iconic KitKat candy bar.

Switzerland’s Nestlé didn’t spell out in its announcement on Monday the exact formula for the new treat to be known as the KitKat V, but said it would “soon have a delicious plant-based option that delivers the perfect balance between crispy wafer and smooth chocolate that people know and love.”

The company said it already launched plant-based alternatives to dairy made from rice, oat, soy, coconut, pea and almonds that are found in its non-dairy ice cream, coffee creamers and other products.

The KitKat V, which will launch later this year in “several countries across the globe,” is certified vegan and uses 100% sustainable cocoa, the company said.

As the product is tested it will only be available in the company’s boutique KitKat Chocolatory shops or online, and through select retailers.

It will be available in Britain, where the KitKat was originally developed in York–and where the research on the vegan version was done–but not in the U.S. where the KitKat is produced under a licensing agreement with Hershey’s, the company said.

Nestlé said it was not releasing information on other countries participating in the initial roll-out at the moment.


Tim Hortons pulls Beyond Meat breakfast sandwiches from B.C., Ont. menus

Unknown-1Tim Hortons has pulled Beyond Meat products off the menus in the last provinces where it still sold the trendy plant-based protein, less than a year after a national roll out.

The coffee-and-doughnut chain will no longer sell Beyond Meat breakfast sandwiches in Ontario and B.C., said Sarah McConnell, a spokeswoman for parent company Restaurant Brands International.

“Ultimately, our guests choose to stay with the meat option in their breakfast sandwiches,” she wrote in an email.

The company first piloted the plant-based offering in May. Select locations added three Beyond Meat breakfast menu items and based on consumer demand, the company said it hoped to roll them out nationally by summer’s end.

In mid-June, Tim Hortons added two Beyond Meat breakfast sandwiches and one wrap to menus at almost 4,000 of its Canadian locations. About a month later, the chain announced its first burger offering with two Beyond Meat burgers nationwide.

In September, the company pulled the burgers from all locations, but said it would still sell the plant-based protein breakfast sandwiches in Ontario and B.C. thanks to a “positive reaction” from customers.

That enthusiasm eventually waned.

“We will keep an item on the menu if it’s favoured by our guests,” wrote McConnell. “In this case, we did not see enough demand to keep it as a permanent item.”

RBI CEO Jose Cil referenced the products as “a limited-time offer” in an October conference call with analysts _ about a month after the company scaled back Beyond Meat availability.

A Beyond Meat spokeswoman did not respond to emailed questions, but sent a one-line statement.

“We partnered with Tim Hortons on a limited time offer. We are always open to collaborating with our partners and may work with them again in the future,” Emily Glickman wrote in an email.

Other chains have seen greater success with alternative-protein items as consumers, including those who eat meat, flock to plant-based proteins for health, environmental and animal welfare reasons.

A&W became the first national restaurant chain to serve Beyond Meat patties in July 2018. Initial demand outstripped supply and the fast-food chain temporarily ran out of stock.

The burger chain has since added a plant-based nugget to its menu for a few weeks, and CEO Susan Senecal has said demand for the veggie burgers has “stayed remarkably stable” since the launch.

Tim Hortons doesn’t seem to be shutting the door completely on the trend.

“We will continue to explore plant-based options as part of our regular menu innovation pipeline,” McConnell wrote.

“But there is nothing new planned for the restaurants in the immediate future.”


Saputo closing facilities in Ontario and New Brunswick, laying off 280 workers

imagesSaputo Inc. will close two Canadian facilities, cutting nearly 300 jobs, as it looks to trim costs in a competitive market.

The Montreal-based dairy and cheese company announced Feb. 5 it plans to close a Trenton, Ont., facility this September, and a Saint John, N.B., one in January 2021.

About 280 employees will be impacted, the company said, adding they will be provided severance and some will be offered the chance to transfer to other locations. Production from these sites will be integrated into other Saputo facilities in Canada.

“In Canada, the landscape remains competitive,” said Lino Saputo, chief executive, during a conference call with analysts after the company released its third-quarter financial results.

Saputo recorded lower sales of fluid milk in the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2019, which dragged down consolidated revenues. Third-quarter revenue totalled $3.89 billion _ up from $3.58 billion the same quarter the previous year.

The company plans to control what they can in this business and rightsize it as required, he said.

“Though never an easy decision to make, this includes the upcoming closures” of these facilities, he said.

Saputo also announced plans to diversify its product offerings by pursuing more plant-based opportunities, which it called an important consumer trend. It appointed a senior vice-president in business development for plant-based food to lead these plans.

The appointment shows “its seriousness in this segment,” wrote Irene Nattel, an RBC Dominion Securities Inc. analyst, in a note.

“We need to be where consumers are,” the chief executive said, saying it needs to leverage its expertise, including that in manufacturing, and that its current facilities are able to process more fluid products – dairy or non-dairy.

The company will also look to develop non-dairy products that taste better, among other things, said Kai Bockmann, president.

“Because the stuff that’s out there today is pretty blah.”

Still, the company doubled down on remaining a dairy company.

“Dairy is not dead. There is still great life in dairy,” said Saputo.

“Anything we do in plant-based is going to be an add-on to be able to leverage some of our expenses.”

Saputo reported a third-quarter profit of $197.8 million or 48 cents per diluted share compared with a profit of $342.0 million or 87 cents per diluted share a year ago.

On an adjusted basis, Saputo earned 50 cents per diluted share for the quarter, up from an adjusted profit of 44 cents per diluted share in the same quarter last year.

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Plant-based protein companies poised to expand products

Screen Shot 2019-12-29 at 2.45.10 PMWhen A&W started serving Beyond Meat veggie burgers at its restaurants, the fast-food chain offered many patrons their first bite of the much touted, celebrity backed plant-based patty.

In the year and a half since, Canadians continued searching for plant-based options at home and on the go. By the time A&W added a plant-based nugget in December, many fast-food chains – even long-time holdout McDonald’s Canada – boasted a trendy vegetarian menu item, too.

As restaurants jumped on the plant-based protein craze this past year, the products also proliferated on grocery store shelves.

Earlier this month, Beyond Meat announced grocers across the country would start stocking its Beyond Beef product, which mimics ground beef. It launched its burgers in the summer and they’re now sold at more than 4,000 stores in the country.

Lightlife, meanwhile, boasts seven plant-based protein products with national distribution in Canada, and Field Roast Grain Meat Co. makes about four that are sold in many parts of the country. Both brands belong to Chicago-based Greenleaf Foods SPC, a wholly-owned, independent subsidiary of Mississauga, Ont.-based Maple Leaf Foods.

Kicking off the trend, Health Canada revealed a new food guide in January recommending people “choose protein foods that come from plants more often.” It minimized meat’s dominant position in the previous iteration and put the meat industry on the defensive for their share of consumer plates.

As interest in alternative protein grew, backlash bubbled.

But the folks leading major plant-based manufacturers say consumers want their products and plan to add more varieties and sales points, create tastier options and lower their prices to beat out bargain meat.

A&W sparked a consumer frenzy when it debut the company’s veggie burger in July 2018. The chain temporarily sold out of the patties, having under-estimated people’s appetites.

That sales spike wasn’t a flash in the pan, either. Demand “stayed remarkably stable” since that temporary shortage, said chief executive Susan Senecal.

A&W added a new veggie option this month – Lightlife nuggets. Only its Ontario and B.C. restaurants stock the chicken-nugget imitation, and A&W expects to sell out by the new year. Still, in a sign of the industry’s strength, the company hopes eventually to offer the nuggets nationwide.

“I think there’s a huge opportunity for growth in Canada,” says Ethan Brown, the founder of California-based Beyond Meat.

“We’re just getting started.”

Beyond Meat wants to add more product types and sales points, so consumers can find every type of meat substitution conveniently.

After A&W introduced Beyond Meat burgers to Canadians, other eateries raced to offer something for vegans, vegetarians or – most frequently, it seems – flexitarians. The latter describes those who sometimes swap meat for other options for environmental, health or animal welfare reasons.

Today, many fast-food chains boast a veggie burger, some pizza places offer veggie ground “meat” or vegan cheese as toppings, and Kentucky Fried Chicken Canada dabbled with plant-based fried chicken sandwiches and popcorn chicken options at a single restaurant for one day.

McDonald’s Canada, which long resisted consumer calls to bring back a veggie burger, decided to pilot a PLT – a Beyond Meat sandwich – for 12 weeks, starting in late September, at 28 restaurants in southwestern Ontario.

The company is trying to understand what place plant-based proteins may have in its operations, said John Betts, McDonald’s Canada chief executive.

He believes it won’t canniabalize the company’s meat product sales, but will likely reflect what he calls “the salad effect.” When McDonald’s first introduced salads in the 1980s, it removed what executives dubbed “the veto vote” of someone preventing a group visit to McDonald’s because it didn’t suit their dietary needs or preferences, he said.

“Plant-based protein could be the new salad type of option,” he said, stressing the chain expects the addition to drive up meat sales, which remains the company’s focus.

With burgers, nuggets and other plant-based forms becoming ubiquitous, pushback started. In particular, meat producers are taking aim at claims that alternative proteins offer better health benefits.

The Quebec Cattle Producers Federation called on the country’s food inspection agency to intervene on what it called misleading advertising on Beyond Meat’s products, saying the company shouldn’t be permitted to use the word meat.

The Centre for Consumer Freedom, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization funded by food industry and consumers, took on the issue of what it calls “fake meat.” It launched a website and created advertisements alleging some plant-based protein products use potentially harmful chemicals and can be worse for humans than their meat counterparts.

“It’s unfortunate,” said Beyond Meat’s Brown of the organization’s campaign he says is geared toward scaring consumers from eating food that will benefit them.

The burger, for example, contains no trans fat or cholesterol, and 20 grams of protein, according to the company. It does include 16 per cent of the daily recommended sodium content, which is comparable to a seasoned meat patty.

Beyond Meat will launch a substantial marketing initiative in Canada next year, said Brown, as it looks to grow its presence in the country.

“The products that we have are limited in scope. They need to be improved and we need to expand our market presence.”

He envisions a future where shoppers can select a Beyond Meat alternative for any animal protein cut they were shopping for at the grocery store, such as a boneless chicken breast or steak, and where diners can sample more of its product range at restaurants. Beyond Meat anticipates more partnerships next year.

For some consumers though, the price presents a roadblock. A pack of two Beyond Burgers costs $7.99 plus tax at one Canadian grocery chain, compared with $12.99 for an eight-pack of its house-brand burgers.

Brown aims to lower prices to undercut animal protein within five years, though it may happen sooner in certain segments.

Greenleaf, too, believes there’s room for growth in Canada.

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‘Flexitarianism’ takes centre stage at plant-powered summit

While vegans and vegetarians might seem an obvious market for the growing number of plant-based products being launched right now, grocers and foodservice operators would be wise to focus on the ever-increasing number of “flexitarians”—people who eat mostly plant-based foods, but who also eat meat and other animal products in moderation.

That was a key message delivered by a number of speakers and panellists at the 2019 Global Summit on Plant Powered Menus, held in downtown Toronto on Nov. 12 and 13.

“The size that you heard to date about vegans and vegetarians is still pretty small, it’s around that 6% mark; and it’s flat, they haven’t really changed,” says Asad Amin, vice-president, market strategy and understanding at Ipsos, speaking in a break-out session titled Emerging Ideas: The Future of Plant-Powered Products & Menus.

“But what’s growing overall is that people are consuming more non-meat proteins. And when you’re talking about that cohort that consists of flexitarians, they can account for around 26% of our population; and they are really a larger prize, so to speak, in the marketplace.”

Amin noted that the flexitarians are also a more diverse group in terms of demographics than the vegans and vegetarians, who tend to skew younger. “In fact, flexitarians actually skew a little bit older,” he explained.

The blending trend

A number of sessions also touched on the trend toward blended proteins—products that blend meat with plant proteins to decrease the overall amount of meat being used. While still relatively new, these types of products are expected to increasingly appeal to flexitarians.

During a session called CEO Panel: Capitalizing on Plant-Powered Menus with the Transformers, Paul Shapiro, CEO of The Better Meat Co., discussed how blending can be a great option for reducing the environmental impact of eating meat.

“It’s not the only option, but it’s an important option—having hybrid products, kind of like hybrid cars, so that for people who are ordering the default option [meaning a traditional meat item like a burger or chicken nuggets], they’re getting a regular product that has meat in it, but getting a lot less meat,” he said.

He gave the example of the Perdue Foods’ blended chicken nugget, called Perdue Chicken Plus, which launched earlier this year. It blends cauliflower, chickpeas and other plant proteins with actual chicken meat to create a nugget that tastes just like a regular chicken nugget while drastically reducing the amount of meat used.

“It’s right in the frozen section where the rest of the chicken nuggets are,” Shapiro said, “and you’re going to get a product that has just as much protein, but less saturated fat, less cholesterol, fewer calories and you can’t taste the difference … So I think it’s a promising strategy to improve sustainability and nutrition without requiring the consumer to actively choose something different.”

Avoiding the ‘v’ word?

A number of panellists throughout the two-day event also talked about the importance of focusing on what’s in the food itself and making it as appealing as possible, rather than labelling it or segregating it into a separate section of the store or menu.

READ: There’s no meat, eggs or dairy–but don’t use the ‘v’ word

Nobody was more passionate about this concept than Kiki Adami, consultant and founder of Veganizer. Adami, who was on two different panels at the event, stressed that she now tells her clients to avoid the word “vegan” in their marketing as she believes it has become a word that’s charged with political meaning.

“The word vegan is not necessarily a diet; the word vegan has become a political stance,” she argued, noting that it could potentially alienate some consumers who might have otherwise chosen that particular option if it wasn’t labelled “vegan.”

“So it’s really important to put the focus on what the food is, rather than labelling it, and cornering it into something that is political and has nothing to do with the ingredients. Ingredients are ingredients. You should really be focusing on practicing true transparency so you don’t have to label it; and true transparency is ‘what’s in this food,’ so people know what they’re getting. That’s really what it boils down to.”

Originally published by Canadian Grocer. 

Plant-based proteins prevail at CHFA East

From dairy-free butters and vegan chocolate bars to plant-based burgers and crunchy vegan snacks, everywhere you looked at the Canadian Health Food Association’s annual trade show in Toronto, CHFA East, there were clear signs that the plant-based trend is only continuing to grow.

Taking place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Sept. 14 and 15, there were more than 1,100 booths at this year’s well-attended, lively show—many of which were displaying products that contained no animal-based ingredients. Editors from CSNC’s sister publication, Canadian Grocer, strolled this year’s show floor in Toronto to spot the latest trends in health-related food and beverages

“It’s no longer just for vegans; many of the people trying to eat more plant-based foods are also now doing it [out of concern for] the environment,” says Richa Gupta, president of Toronto-based sauce company Good Food for Good, exhibiting at the show. “They want to make a difference, and if eating a more plant-based diet can help save the planet, then why not? So what entrepreneurs are trying to do is come up with options that make that easier for consumers.”

A significant number of dairy-free cheeses and butters were on display throughout the show floor,  with many established vegan cheese companies introducing new flavours or product lines (London, Ont.’s Nuts for Cheese displayed its newest Black Garlic flavoured cashew spread, for instance).

New dairy-free introductions to the Canadian marketplace included Chicago-based Medlee Foods’ plant-based vegan flavoured butter alternatives (ideal for use as “saute starters” during cooking or “finishing flavours” after cooking, according to the company), in flavours such as Lemon Chive, Pesto, Roasted Garlic and Sun-dried Tomato. img_5295

New vegan crunchy snacks were everywhere as well, including Quebec-based GoGo Quinoa’s Vegan White Cheddar Puffs; while plant-based premium frozen dinners also made an appearance, including those from new Toronto-based startup Tiamo Foods, which displayed its plant-based frozen entree line in varieties such as Golden Curry, Thai Medley and Harvest Stew. Tiamo was part of a new section at CHFA East this year called Incubator Alley, which shone the spotlight on some smaller, newer, up-and-coming startups.

Better-for-you jerky 

Not everything at the show was plant-based, however, with high-protein, premium jerkies being a notable meat-based presence. Toronto-based Dick Duff’s Organic Jerky boasted “more protein, less sugar” with its premium-flavoured jerkies (Dijon Mustard, Red Wine & Rosemary and Sweet Chipotle); while California-based Country Archer Jerky Co. touted that its jerky was made from 100% grass-fed beef.img_5320

Country Archer’s founder Eugene Kang said while the jerky and meat snacks category has been around a long time, “it’s trending now because we are using better-for-you ingredients in a modern world. Protein and snacking are trending, and on top of that … grass-fed beef is is just much better for you in terms of nutrition and sustainability; so the stars have all just kind of aligned for us and this category.”

Keto and paleo friendly

Also notable at this year’s show was the number of products touting they were ideal for specialty diets such as keto or paleo. Toronto-based Nud Snacks was displaying several new products ideal for keto and/or paleo diets, including two new keto-friendly Organic Paleo Vegan Crackers—‘Everything’ crackers and Simple Seed Crackers—as well as Vegan Paleo Organic Chocolate Covered Chew Bananas (in two varieties: plain and with added protein).

Gut health

Gut health was once again a focus of a number of products at the show from prebiotic sodas to kombuchas, kefirs and kimchis. Toronto-based Crazy D’s Prebiotic Sodas was sampling its beverage line—which went from distribution in mainly niche health food stores to several large mainstream chains just this year—while California-based Wildbrine was debuting a couple of brand new sauerkraut flavours: Carraway Apple Organic Kraut and Jalapeno Lime Organic Kraut.

Originally published at Canadian Grocer

Tyson enters plant based meat market

The fast-growing market for meat alternatives has a surprising new player: Tyson Foods.

Screen Shot 2019-06-13 at 2.31.15 PMTyson, one of the world’s largest meat producers, will begin selling nuggets made from pea protein at grocery stores this summer. A blended burger made from beef and pea protein will follow this fall. Both will be sold under a new brand, Raised and Rooted, which will continue to develop plant-based and blended products for both groceries and restaurants.

Tyson is responding to a growing global trend toward plant-based eating, fueled by health and environmental concerns. U.S. sales of meat substitutes are expected to jump 78% to $2.5 billion between 2018 and 2023, according to Euromonitor. Global sales could reach $23 billion in that same timeframe.

Startups like Beyond Meat, which makes burgers and sausages from pea protein, and Impossible Foods, which has a soy-based formula, have also raised consumers’ interest with products that mimic meat so closely in taste and texture that they’re being sold at Burger King.

But the entry of Springdale, Arkansas-based Tyson could upend the alternative protein market because of its sheer size and distribution capacity. Tyson Foods reported $40 billion in sales in its 2018 fiscal year; Beyond Meat, which held its IPO last month, forecasts $210 million in sales this year. Tyson has 50 facilities just for processing chicken; Impossible Foods has one factory in Silicon Valley.

Tyson has been watching the alternative protein market for a while. Its investment arm, Tyson Ventures, acquired a 5% stake in Beyond Meat in 2016. It sold that stake before Beyond Meat’s IPO, but it continues to hold investments in other startups, including Memphis Meats and Future Meat Technologies _ which grow meat from cells _ and mushroom-based protein startup MycoTechnology.

“These things work together and help us have a broad view of what the world of food looks like,” said Justin Whitmore, who leads Tyson’s alternative protein business.

Whitmore said the company noticed a significant upswing in the number of consumers who eat meat but want alternative sources of protein. About a year ago, Tyson’s chefs and consumer specialists began developing its own alternative protein products. The nuggets it came up with look like fried chicken, but they’re made with pea protein, egg whites, flaxseed and bamboo fiber and other ingredients.

“It became apparent we had the capability not only to compete but to lead in this space,” Whitmore said.

Whitmore said Tyson will develop more Raised and Rooted products and also spread plant-based alternatives through its other brands. For example, Tyson’s existing Aidells brand is getting sausage and meatballs that contain 50-60% chicken and 40-50% plants like chickpeas, quinoa and lentils.

The products will be sold at grocery stores and restaurants, but Tyson isn’t yet saying which ones. One Tyson customer, McDonald’s, has yet to say whether it will add a plant-based burger to its U.S. menu. It sells one made by Nestle in Germany.

Nestle is among the companies that could challenge Tyson. Last week, the Swiss food giant said it plans to launch its Sweet Earth brand Awesome Burger in the U.S. this fall. And earlier this week, Maryland-based chicken company Perdue Farms said it will soon start selling nuggets, tenders and patties made from a blend of chicken and vegetables.

Canada’s Maple Leaf Foods also sells plant-based alternatives under its Lightlife brand, which it acquired in 2017.

But Whitmore didn’t express concern about competitors, saying Tyson’s speed, scale and distribution expertise (as well as its 84-year history) puts it ahead of companies who have been in the plant-based market for longer.

Whitmore said groceries will be able to decide where to put Tyson’s plant-based products. Beyond Meat has seen success partly because its burgers are sold in the meat aisle and not in the freezer section with traditional bean- or corn-based veggie patties.

Tyson is also being careful to describe its products as “alternative proteins” and not “meat,” a label used by some plant-based companies that has riled the meat industry, including farmers in Quebec.

Whitmore said Tyson continues to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in its traditional meat business, and it’s confident consumers eating its plant-based products will keep eating its meats. He wouldn’t say what per cent of its sales Tyson expects to come from plant-based products in 2020.