Going big with hemp-based protein: Sustainable Foods eyes APAC after plan*t rebranding and chick*n retail launch
Sustainable Foods was previously selling its products under the brand name The Craft Meat Co, but according to the firm’s CEO Justin Lemmens, this simply was ‘no longer fit for purpose’ in terms of describing the firm and product ethos.
“We realised the need to communicate our meaning well to consumers, and that ‘The Craft Meat Co’ simply wasn’t describing this well enough anymore – it spoke more to what we aren’t, rather than what we are, which is plan*t based,” he said.
“That name was left behind from an initial collaboration and is more of a legacy thing but we really saw the need to make a change. So the new brand name we’re rolling out from May 2021 is plan*t with a very versatile asterisk.”
The idea behind the ‘versatile asterisk’ is to play on fitting in the company’s pillars of nutrition, sustainability, New Zealand provenance and novel protein usage, allowing different symbols or letters to be substituted in to convey different meanings.
“So for instance, if we’re talking about sustainability, the ‘*’ will become an ‘e’ to be ‘planet’ or a globe [like in the picture]; and if the focus is on nutrition it will become a heart; for NZ provenance it becomes a silver fern and for novel protein it becomes a leaf,” said Lemmens.
Along these lines, plan*t’s hemp-based white meat alternative will be known as Chick*n. The launch for this product is targeted for the middle of 2021, with Sustainable Food making good on the timeline they revealed to us last year.
“Chick*n is designed to do everything chicken would, and we’re very proud to have already launched this with [local pizza chain] Hell Pizza, [we're also working on an] upcoming national launch with [local juice and eatery chain] TANK in salads and wraps, and it's also delicious in burgers as well,” Sustainable Foods Co-Founder and Business Development Manager Kyran Rei told us.
“The aim is really to replace any occasion where chicken is being used with Chick*n – the best way to describe it is it’s like a piece of chicken breast or thigh, just with health benefits such as high fibre, low saturated fat and due to the hemp, being a complete protein source which also has cardiovascular, neurological, and anti-inflammatory benefits.”
When asked about the product price point, Lemmens remained coy but said that the firm had already conducted pricing surveys in New Zealand, Australia and Singapore.
“Traditionally, international products have a super premium price point, but we are focused on achieving price parity with animal sourced protein, to make pricing accessible so that people will be attracted and continue to come back and we can achieve the volume to make a sustainable difference,” he said.
“We will make sure that there are as few barriers as possible to people becoming repeat consumers – taste and texture are the normal ones and that has been overcome by product development, but we know that pricing is a big thing in Asia so we are paying attention to that.”
Chick*n will be launching in all major New Zealand supermarkets this year, including Countdown, New World, and Pak’n Save; as well as gourmet outlets like Farro and Robinson’s Deli. The firm’s online presence is currently via its partner sites, but Lemmens said they will be expanding to offer a more direct service in 2022.
The firm also has plans to shift from being a more local outfit to a more international one – according to Lemmens, the plan for the firm is for 60% of revenue to be coming from imports by 2025.
“We are preparing to scale significantly, and are completing our international strategies right now - we have already identified some key markets, and there is a very strong focus on the Asia Pacific region,” he said.
“The most immediate market we would be interested in is Singapore [if regulations change to allow hemp-based foods entry] as a launchpad into other Asian markets, then there’s also Hong Kong and China [which already have hemp-based products in the market] as well as Japan and furthering discussions in Australia.
“What we’re focusing on is to have a clear strategy for each market, to nail down what consumers in each market want, identify the marketing channels, profile local taste palates, also find successful and responsive partners which would be very important in determining our focus.”
Rei added that the New Zealand brand will also be very beneficial for the firm when it comes to exporting, as many overseas consumers are keen on products with this brand.
“Many consumers in places like Singapore, Hong Kong and so on are asking for New Zealand-made plant-based options, so there is definitely an association between the New Zealand brand and clean, green products, which we can offer,” he said.
Sustainable Foods’ red meat alternative be*f is already in supermarkets via items such as sausages, mince and burger patties, and the firm has plans to develop more deli-style meats as well as cheeses and snacks moving forward. The firm is also one of the 10 start-up finallists in the running for this year's Future Food Asia 2021 award.