15th June 2022 FruPro

How Fresh Produce Can Leverage Rise in Veganism

Vegan foods in a plate

Veganism and vegetarianism are on the rise: How can the fresh produce Industry benefit from this?

As people become more aware of dietary health and sustainability, changes in consumer demands are emerging. A trend we want to focus on is the rise in vegetarian and vegan diets, which have direct implications for the fresh produce industry. Here is what to expect from this article:

Table of Contents

Veganism, Vegetarianism, Pescetarianism, and Flexitarianism… the terminology can certainly get confusing. Our focus in this piece is to look at the rise of veganism and vegetarianism – so let’s start with the key terms.

Veganism: “In dietary terms, it is the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” – Shortened from The Vegan Society definition. So, what is vegan food? Vegan food is only made from plants.

Vegetarian: “Those who do not eat fish, meat or chicken, but may consume animal byproducts like eggs, cheese and honey.” – Taken from The Vegetarian Society definition.
What is vegetarian food? Vegetarian food is mainly made from plants but also includes animal byproducts. A vegetarian diet can be understood as mainly plant-based, apart from selected ingredients made from byproducts of living animals.

The key difference between these two diets is that vegans do not eat anything that has come from an animal, including produce like honey, gelatin or butter. Vegetarians are similar but less strict, as they eat byproducts such as cheese, milk, butter and eggs. Therefore, veganism is a stricter plant-based diet and vegetarianism is a looser plant-based diet.

Are more people becoming vegan?

A lot of the talk about veganism is exactly that, talk. And because of this, it can be difficult to get up-to-date statistics on the exact number of vegans and vegetarians. From what we know about Europe, about 5% were active as vegetarians in 2018, with leading numbers coming from the UK and Italy. The UK is also the most popular country for veganism, with the number of vegans rising by over 50% from 2016 to 2019. This meant that in 2019, vegans accounted for 1.2% of the population.

More recent studies highlight the decrease in demand for meat-based products and the increase in demand for plant-based alternatives. For example, the research carried out by The Vegan Society in the UK showed that 25% of people in May 2021 had actively cut back on animal products during the Covid pandemic. When it comes to eating less meat and finding plant-based alternatives, a 2022 study found that 58% of people in the UK now use plant-based meat alternatives in their diet.

It’s also important to remember that these dietary demands aren’t just from vegans and vegetarians we are seeing growing demand from meat eaters to consume more plant-based products. Therefore, plant-based alternatives are fitting into a range of diets. This is important for the fresh produce industry to consider because the demand for plant-based products is rising, and it is coming from a range of consumers.

What can fresh produce businesses offer for rising demand in veganism?

Provide nutrition transparency

Consumers are increasingly on the hunt to find plant-based alternatives to meat and animal byproducts. But these alternative foods need to match more than just the taste of meat. There are high nutritional requirements that need to be met when using plant-based substitutes and this nutritional information needs to be clearly advertised.

It is important to advertise how fruit and vegetables can offer the right nutrients to someone who is eating them as an alternative to meat. Particularly high on the list of nutritional needs and consumer interests are vegetables with protein, iron, fibre and carbohydrates.

Appealing to the growing market of plant-based eaters means appealing to their nutritional demands with clear marketing. For example, vegetables with a high source of protein are good for replacing meat and this can be made obvious by marketing the protein content in a clear and catchy way. Focused marketing on the nutritional value of fresh produce is going to leverage strong advantages as this plant-based trend continues to grow.

Know which vegetables are consumed in veganism

Meat replacements are increasing in prevalence and the plant-based industry is expected to grow exponentially, with big-time players like Bill Gates investing in multiple plant-based brands. Therefore, the demand falls on the fresh produce industry to supply the growing market for meat alternatives. Two things are clear:

For those wanting to capitalise on this rising plant-based trend, production demands for certain ingredients must be met. Below, we’ll look at a few fresh produce ingredients involved in vegan/vegetarian diets and plant-based meat replacement.

Buckwheat, Quinoa and Soy

These have unique importance in veganism because they contain the best range of essential amino acids that people would otherwise get from meat. Quinoa specifically appeals to the fresh produce sector as a highly nutritious vegetable seed rather than a grain. Many other high-protein substitutes for meat only contain a few of the essential amino acids but in high amounts. These three contain the best range of amino acids in good quantity.

Peas and lentils

Peas and lentils are both used in veganism for their high levels of protein. Lentils actually have 60% more protein per gram than a pea. Both are commonly used in the plant-based industry. Increase in production and specific marketing efforts can yield a good value for your business.

Mushrooms

Rich in zinc and Vitamin D, mushrooms are often chosen because of their meaty texture. However, they do not match the protein levels of other meat replacements like soy or lentils, so should not be used as a protein replacement. So, if you are trading mushrooms, aside from keeping it fresh, give information grower or seller, make sure your customers know the benefits of mushrooms and their importance in a plant based diet.

Lupin beans

A likely product to boom in the near future, lupin production is particularly sustainable and easily produced in the European climate. Lupin protein can be made from lupin beans and offers very high levels of protein. So, if you are a lupin bean grower or seller, make sure your customers know the benefits and how lupin has its importance in veganism.

Black beans

Already a popular substitute for meat and often used in meat replacements, beans have very high protein and fibre.

Chickpeas

Protein, iron, milk and fibre – chickpeas contain more protein than some meats and match milk on calcium levels. Traditionally used in middle eastern meat replacements such as falafel and hummus, chickpeas are essential to the meat-free diet and a healthy diet in general.

These ingredients are valuable because of their specific nutritional contents. As the consumer demand for meat-free plant-based products continues to rise, the fresh produce industry will have to meet these demands. Leveraging this trend will require that growers focus on selected ingredients such as those listed above.

From a business perspective, this will also require a marketing approach that makes your business stand out as a supplier of meat alternative ingredients. Standing out in this field will involve clear nutrient labelling of elements like protein, iron, fibre and vitamin b12. This should be combined with a networking approach that utilises wider client bases, such as those offered on the FruPro platform.

As the vegan and vegetarian demand grows, restaurants will be looking for more fruit and vegetable produce on their menus. This may also entail that restaurants find new markets to buy their fresh produce and there are two common ways that growers and wholesalers come into contact with restaurants.

Restaurants have a food expeditor or ‘expo’ responsible for sourcing ingredients necessary for their menu, the expo will find suppliers through their existing networks traditionally. Other methods of restaurant contact include food fairs, events, door-to-door sales or simply waiting for them to find you. The disadvantages of these old methods are clear:
· Networks are highly limited
· Vetting new suppliers can be hard
· Produce often perishes due to outdated manual logistics
· Restaurants may not be able to easily find you as a supplier

Contemporary practices involve digital platforms, and for good reason. Online fresh produce trading has some notable advantages:
· Access to far wider networks
· Vendors are vetted and validated on platforms like FruPro, lowering risk
· Communications are instant with messaging systems
· Products quality, info and cost are clearly listed, with options for negotiation

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The Big Picture

There are many angles to understand this movement away from high meat diets toward vegan and vegetarian habits. From a fresh produce perspective, sales of meat-replacement ingredients are likely to rise and reach a stable demand in the next few years, so the steady provision of these ingredients is likely to bring growers a good income.

Suppliers will benefit from using modern trading methods such as the FruPro platform to reach new restaurant clientele and vice versa. Additionally, suppliers and retailers are likely to benefit from clear nutritional marketing that informs customers on values such as protein, iron, zinc, vitamin B 12 and carbohydrate levels. Doing so will appeal to the growing plant-based market and guide consumers toward goods that will meet their dietary needs.

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