Big name, big influence: Traditional protein giant Americana sees plant-based opportunity in Middle East
Americana is one of the largest food brands in the region alongside other big names such as Agthia and Baladna, and is one of the best-known there for its animal protein products such as its Gourmet deli meats, Sayyad frozen seafood and a variety of other processed chicken and beef items.
The firm recently launched a new range of plant-based meat products under the brand Nabati, including this under the arm of its mainstream Protein business.
“Americana has a leading position in animal protein, but we are aware that plant-based is really going to be a big part of the future as more and more consumers here in the Middle East are getting interested in this as part of a flexitarian, more balanced diet,” Americana Director of Plant-Based Foods (Nabati) Laurent Stevenart told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“Placing Nabati under the Protein business is a strategy to reach a broader consumer base, including meat eaters, as this will help them to more easily relate their current animal protein consumption to Nabati and recognize this as just an additional option for them instead of seeing it as forcing them to change their diets.”
He added that with plant-based brands being relatively new to consumers in this region, being able to gain consumer trust is a very crucial part of marketing for the firm, and Americana’s existing status is important here.
“Americana is a well-known household brand here in this region, and this strongly plays in Nabati’s favour as consumers recognize the brand and are already familiar with it, which ups the trust factor,” he said.
“One of the biggest issues faced by alternative protein brands here is that there is not enough trust between local consumers and these relatively new brands.
“So having a well-known name like Americana that has the brand credibility and familiarity for them is very important to bridge that gap, and make more consumers feel safe enough to try it even though it is new.”
Localisation and improvement
Nabati currently carries five SKUs covering breaded chicken patties, non-breaded chicken patties, chicken nuggets, beef patties and beef meatballs – all are available in major supermarkets.
“There is no doubt that plant-based products are gaining momentum in foodservice and appearing on more menus, but certainly we are also seeing the category taking up more shelf space in supermarkets,” Stevenart said.
“Currently we are still playing around in terms of ingredients by using more common ones like soy, wheat and pea, and the cuisine is also looking more at mass appeal items, but moving forward there will be more efforts put into localisation.
“For the Middle East this will focus on the use of different spices as well as different local formats and applications – a shawarma for example is a common snacking item here.
“The major advantage of working with plant-based foods is that the core of product development for these lies with food technology, and it is possible to improve taste and texture continuously.”
Nabati is eyeing presence in the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and more markets in the Middle East as the first phase of its business growth, with the potential to expand to Africa and Central Asia moving forward.