Industry News,

How to Win Market Share in the Alternative Protein Category

This year’s Alternative Protein Conference in Melbourne has been recognised as the largest of its type in the Southern Hemisphere bringing over 450 participants and almost 50 speakers to an industry leading event coordinated by Melbourne based Food Frontiers.

Globally the Alternative Protein category has seen incredible investment, brand development and innovation as consumer have embraced the flexitarian diet. However, across international and domestic markets demand has slowed and several businesses have exited the category. It’s well documented that confidence and commitment to the Alternative Protein category remains, across chilled, frozen, and ambient areas of the grocery store or into the food service sector. Global brands are openly recognising the disconnect with consumers or opportunities to enhance both the sensory experience and customer engagement to reengage consumers and bring long term growth back into the category.

Participants heard a consistent message across retail and food service, based on global and local insights to support their investment and innovation strategies to inspire consumers.

Retail Highlights Include:

  • The benefits of effective benchmarking vs industry leading products to drive quality improvements.
  • Reinvigorate the ESG or sustainability message, being alternatively based alone isn’t enough.
  • Identify and understand your competition which in a challenging environment is wider than the traditional meat alternatives. These competing categories are innovating at pace to maintain demand and customer interest. Examples include the advances in romantic or secondary descriptions, nutritional claims, provenance, and food focused photography.
  • Sustainable packaging continues to be a strategic focus for many food producers and brand owners and area with an expectation that Alternative Proteins should lead.

“Consumers are shopping Alternative Proteins across multiple areas of the retail store, where benchmarks and impactful customer messages will differ based on consumer needs, understanding the role of Alternative Proteins at a macro then a category level is essential for long term sustained growth,” believes Mark Field.

Food Service Highlights Include:

  • Engage chefs within the target client base to deliver solutions that their customers want rather than offering me to products, Alternative Protein needs to follow the same engagement strategy that is helping brands differentiate across food production methods such as sous vide, or traditional protein or regional wines.
  • Implementing strategies that help consumers identify Alternative Protein solutions that they enjoy has an important link into retail and driving brand awareness. Brand recognition to differentiate is important.
  • Major food service operators will be moving to data driven procurements strategies as the focus on sustainability or responsible sourcing continues to grow. Having a clear environmental strategy with targets, measures and reporting is an important area that Alternative Proteins also need to consider and lead.

Fermentation, and cultivated meats are also making significant progress in the Alternative Protein area, having the ability to understand the progress and challenges that the category has experienced over recent years enabling companies in this sector to adapt their Go to Market strategy which should accelerate customer acceptance supported by the rapidly changing legislative framework supporting access to multiple international markets.

The Alternative Protein sector is probably enjoying one of the highest levels of food focused or food tech innovation across the grocery sector, for those businesses targeting international expansion the complexities regarding approved ingredients, maximum permitted levels or product claims brings an additional level of expertise or governance, to both access these markets but also to reduce complexity through the manufacturing process.  As consumer demand continues to focus on the enhanced nutritional properties of food, Alternative Protein has the ability to compete fiercely on areas such as high fibre content where success would be Australians understanding high fibre foods with the same level of excitement, they demonstrate for high protein foods. Packaging remains a key focus area for consumer and an opportunity for Alternative Proteins to reflect their environmental focused credentials.

“The most relevant leaps in innovation are being seen in cultivated meat and advances in fermentation, which are progressing through regulatory approvals. The activity in technology and functionality will continue to accelerate and should create an exciting time for buyers and consumers. The increasing narrative about consumer experience and building customer trust through clear and concise messaging is really positive,” says Cristina Lesseur.

Identifying a position or gap in the market, which enables product differentiation supports targeted customer engagement through the marketing strategy and demonstrates a USP whilst delivering an outstanding customer sensory experience Innovating at pace combing technology and customer acceptance ensures the delivery of a product solution to a specific group of consumer needs rather than a just a product. The strategic approach increasing the likelihood of success, having developed Alternative Protein products from concept to launch.

Elsabe believes, “Alternative Proteins can play an important part in the centre of plate occasion, and to win innovative products need to be commercially robust (affordable everyday) becoming a main stay of the shopping basket rather than an occasion trial purchase. Achieving parity on the sensory experience through product formulation and ease of in-home preparation are essential parameters when innovating. Combing advances in technology and functionality whilst building consumer trust and confidence in the segment is key for growth.”

Early indication are the supply base capabilities are changing, leading businesses understanding what’s required to take the category to the next stage of its growth and deliver brands that compete fiercely with the wider food offer on key marketing claims, targeting enhanced nutritional messages and looking to accelerate access to sustainable packaging solutions.

The team at Prof Consulting have worked extensively across the Alternative Protein category from brand strategies, international benchmarking, accessing co manufacturing, product development and innovation and compliance.

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