Pandemic turns consumers to plant-based nutrition

Medical advice amid the Covid-19 pandemic is persuading consumers to choose plant-based products for their protein intake. Big food companies are catching up and Israeli company Else Nutrition is cashing in on the trend
Nutritionist gives advice to woman with child

Consumers have changed their nutrition choices during the Covid-19 pandemic as they seek to strengthen their immune systems. According to Canadian market analyst Microsmallcap, new surveys show that more people are gravitating towards plant-based sources of protein in response to the health crisis.

The shift has been partly attributed to meat shortages that took place in some markets, but also medical advice linking diet to the ability to fend off poor Covid-19 outcomes.

The market has responded with the share price of companies such as specialised plant-based protein companies Else Nutrition and Beyond Meat up by triple-digits, and larger companies introducing plant-based protein options such as Tyson Foods, Kellogg, and Bunge up by double-digits.

Plant-based baby formula

Investment in alternative protein companies is growing quickly, surpassing 2019’s record $824 million, with $930 million invested in Q1 2020 alone.

Photo as seen on Else Nutrition’s website

Israeli company Else Nutrition has introduced plant-based nutrition products for toddlers, which launched online on 11 August – and its safe, clean label, plant-based, dairy-free and soy-free nutrition products, including its baby formula, have so far received USDA Organic Certification and multiple other key certifications.

“We are excited to be continuing on our pathway to commercialisation,” said Hamutal Yitzhak, co-founder and chief executive of Else Nutrition. “Obtaining these certifications is a major step as we prepare for our US launch.”

Market analysts argued that pediatric child health studies state that well-planned, well-balanced vegetarian and vegan diets can provide for the needs of children and adolescents – conditional on ensuring the appropriate caloric and protein intake and sources of essential fatty acids, iron, calcium, and vitamins B12 and D.

Else Nutrition said that its plant-based toddler complete nutrition drink meets the gold standard equivalent of human milk nutritional composition values, based on WHO international standards and others.

It added that it meets the strictest regulatory requirements and the highest nutrition standards, providing a full essential amino acid profile and a clean source of protein.

Endorsed by a board of US and international paediatricians and nutritionists, it says its complete nutrition offers healthy and clean fat, protein, and key nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, B12, and zinc, among others.

The product uses a blend of quality whole-plant, non-GMO ingredients, including almond paste, buckwheat, and tapioca, with overall low sugar content.

Else Nutrition plans to launch new products following agreements with three natural food brokers with combined networks that span Southern California, Northern California, Arizona, Nevada, the Northwest states, and the Northeast including New York City.

Yitzhak said: “These key broker agreements will significantly accelerate our push to get our product on the shelves of US natural food chains. This marks a major step towards bringing our clean, plant-based nutrition for toddlers to market, and making it accessible to parents and children at their local retail outlets.”

Doctors’ orders

There are also claims pointing to the role dietitians may have in consumers’ shift to plant-based foods. Health professionals are advising an increase in vegetable intake, and a reduction in meat intake to find a balance, recommending the flexitarian diet.

To achieve this decrease in meat consumption, there’s been a rise in popularity of plant-based protein alternatives, such as the offerings from Beyond Meat, whose Q2 earnings report beat investors’ expectations on revenue and matched them on earnings per share.

The key to the Beyond Meat’s success has been a rapid expansion in grocery sales.

Big food brands turn to plant-based innovation

Many of North America’s largest and most prominent food producers have begun adding plant-based protein alternative products to the sector, including food processors, meat producers, and grain traders.

Long-standing food processing giant Kellogg entered the fray earlier this year with its Incogmeato product line.

The plant-based burgers, bratwurst, and sausage join Kellogg’s MorningStar Farms offerings, which have been selling veggie alternatives made with black beans and mushrooms for more than four decades.

Kellogg’s Incogmeato product range as seen on the company’s Facebook page

Unlike Else and Beyond Meat, which are not soy-based, all Incogmeato products are made with non-GMO soy.

Last year, before the Covid-19 pandemic, the large US meat producer Tyson Foods unveiled its own alternative protein products.

Through its new Raised & Rooted brand, Tyson set out to create tasty plant-based and blended food products, including plant-based nuggets and blended burgers that combine actual beef and plants.

Tyson’s Raised & Rooted nuggets are made from a blend of pea protein isolate and other plant ingredients and contain 5 g of fibre and omega-3.

Last September, one of the world’s biggest grain traders, Bunge, disclosed its own 1.6% stake in Beyond Meat. Today, Beyond Meat has grown its market cap to over 40% larger than Bunge.

That wasn’t the end of the story for Bunge’s entry into plant-based meat alternatives. In March this year, through its subsidiary, Bunge Loders Croklaan, the company launched a new portfolio of products designed to replicate the taste, texture, and cooking experience of meat.

These products leverage Bunge’s supply of high-stability sunflower, canola, coconut, and palm fruit oils. The oils bring to the table flavour and aroma release, speciality fat fractions, and shortenings for juiciness and flakes for marbling, while lecithin helps enhance surface browning to improve visual appeal.

About the author

Charles Wheeldon
Reporter and subeditor at | Website

Charles Wheeldon is a reporter and subeditor at Investor Publishing. He works for NutritionInvestor and its sister titles HealthInvestor UK and EducationInvestor Global.

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