Sustainable scale-up: NZ brand Vince creates dehydrated plant-based mince to further reduce carbon footprint
Vince is a consumer brand produced by Olive and Ash, a company founded by Debbie and Nigel Stowe.
Vince’s plant-based mince are made from vegetables tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower, celery, onions, peanuts herbs and spices.
The ingredients are dehydrated and can be rehydrated with boiling water in four minutes, and used as a meat substitute in meals ranging from nachos, lasagne, burgers, meatballs and more.
Vince’s plant-based mince products are shelf stable, with a shelf life of 12 months.
According to the founders, the preliminary plan was to develop a product for the chilled supply chain, similar to other plant-based products available in the market.
“However, we were seeing so much waste, through accidental wastage like power outages or couriers not arriving on time. In addition, 30% of all food produced is wasted at some point along the chain. We see in New Zealand, where we have a lot of beef and dairy, there is a lot of agritech focused on reducing food loss.
“We then started to wonder if even for plant-based products, which are a more sustainable option to animal meat, if the need for a chilled supply chain would be unsustainable in the long term.
“We think that using dehydrated products is really a big step forward in reducing our carbon footprint, since there is no need for a cold chain. Also, it is lighter and opens the potential for exports in the future,” the founders told FoodNavigator-Asia.
As it scales-up, Vince has plans to set up manufacturing sites alongside its growers, eliminating any need for chilling at the source.
Taste and texture
Vince’s mince was first launched in 2019, but the company is constantly working on R&D to test more energy efficient technologies and processes.
As with all foods, plant-based or not, taste is the primary factor driving purchases.
In order to achieve the umami flavour found in meat, Vince achieves this through the use of tamari and nutritional yeast.
Another key factor for consumers was the texture and mouthfeel.
Vince does not use any binding agents in its products, instead relying on its dehydration process.
According to the founders, dehydration provides an advantage compared to other processes such as freeze drying when it comes to texture.
“For freeze dried foods, when they are rehydrated with water, it tends to go mucky and this texture is uniform in the whole product. However, with dehydration, our product retains the texture after rehydration, and having ingredients like peanuts also help with crunch.”
Dehydration also provides a more nutritionally dense product. For instance, some studies have shown that dehydration has 50% higher nutrient density than frozen or even fresh vegetables from the fridge or those that have been in supply chain for a couple of days.
The founders added: “We have validated our product with the New Zealand market and we're getting really good consumer feedback.”
Vince is now planning a consumer study with Massey University in New Zealand, which will analyse taste, texture and performance of its plant-based mince, with results expected to release in a few months.
The products are currently sold at supermarkets and health food stores in New Zealand.
The company intends to expand national and international distribution although it needs to increase production volume first.
In terms of exports, Asia is a region of interest, and it hopes to work with partners to develop flavour profiles to suit the different export markets.
In addition, as a dehydrated product, it already has a higher consumer awareness in APAC. “What we know about the APAC region so far is that they understand dried foods a lot better than European markets,” the founders said.
In New Zealand, the company is exploring the snacking sector and developing new products with ingredients such as seaweed.
“Seaweed is a highly nutritious ingredient with high levels of minerals, and is a natural carbon sink. We are looking at formulating a product using seaweed as an umami base for the Japanese market.”
In addition, the company is looking at incorporating more fiber and protein into its products.
Vince was part of an accelerator programme by New Zealand-based Sprout Agritech which offered selected companies access to mentorship, funding and investment.