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More than 40 plant-based protein businesses, retailers, and NGOs came together for an ‘unprecedented’ summit in London last week

The plant-based alternatives category needs to refocus, collaborate and address consumer concerns over taste and cost if it is to revive its flagging fortunes, sector leaders have urged.

More than 40 plant-based protein businesses, retailers, and NGOs came together for an “unprecedented” summit in London last week organised by consultancy Plant Futures to address the recent downturn in the category.

The summit attracted attendees from the likes of Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s, plus brands ranging from Vivera to Pilgrim’s Food Masters, Quorn, VFG and Finnebrogue.

The event was convened following a tough year for sales.

A series of plant-based businesses, including Meatless Farm and V Bites, called in administrators last year, while the likes of Nestlé pulled out of the category altogether as value sales of meat-free products plummeted by 6.5% [NIQ/The Grocer Top Products Survey 52 w/e 9 September 2023].

Delegates agreed the sector needed to reposition itself as “both tasty and nutritional”, said Plant Futures founder Indy Kaur.

She has worked at Lidl, Nestle, Mondelez and Gü and was a key figure behind the expansion of Tesco’s plant-based range at the turn of the decade, working in branding and strategy alongside Wicked Kitchen founder Derek Sarno – who was also Tesco’s director of plant-based innovation for six years up to 2023.

The event culminated in the identification of seven key action points that would inform the development of a comprehensive growth strategy, Kaur said.

These included the need for unity and collaboration via a planned shared roadmap, work on the positioning of products and building consumer trust in the category, she revealed.

Kaur pointed to potential initiatives such as a generic ad campaign for the category, as seen in the meat and dairy sectors, plus a revival of pushes such as ‘Meat Free Mondays’.

“To get as many businesses in one room, debating, uniting and agreeing a positive future direction for the plant-based protein industry is a huge step forward,” said David Kibbs, director of the Tofoo Co. “This was day one of a bright new future for the industry,” he added.

“The idea was to put a stake in the ground that the plant-based sector is coming together to win back growth,” Kaur told The Grocer, adding Plant Future had further events planned to develop the growth strategy and to look at the dairy alternatives category.

“We can certainly say we did,” she added. “2024 will be a rock-solid year for plant-based as we align and set new foundations and turbo charge growth.”