Growing roots

We speak to Mark Ryan, marketing director of new plant-based range, Plant-It

 

Plant-It is a new range of plant-based frozen products, tell us a little more about the company.

We have been on sale in Ireland since January 2021. We saw the opportunity to provide a new plant-based choice for consumers who are open to flexing or going meat free, as well as give back to the local communities where our products are sold. We embrace our name and plant trees in markets wherever our products are sold. We currently have a range of retail and foodservice frozen products across meat-free, chicken-free and vegetable offerings. Our meat-free products include burgers, mince and steak. Our chicken-free options include goujons, nuggets, burgers and southern-fried bites. We have two vegetable-burger options, spinach-avocado and cauli-quinoa. The range is going down well as just last week we took home 'Best Meat Substitute Brand' at the V Awards by Wasted.ie

 

Where is the range available?

We’ve got nationwide listings in Tesco, SuperValu, Centra, Spar and Avoca, with a view to rolling out from next month in the UK, France, Netherlands, Spain, the Nordics, the US and Canada. We are just at the sapling stage of our business so help from the Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board) team has been really significant, enabling us to understand and prioritise market opportunities, as well as unlocking doors with retailers and potential partners.

What are the future plans for the brand?

We intend to expand to offer relevant products to consumers across all meal occasions. Bringing out a range of chilled products is also a key priority over the next few months.

 

What trends are you mindful of?

Across Europe, frozen-food sales are, in general, experiencing double-digit growth year on year as people are shopping less frequently and buying more, primarily due to the Covid-19 impact. Sustainability and what businesses are doing to help the environmental crisis are top of mind at present. We’ve just finished planting our first 10,000 trees across Ireland, and our 100% recyclable packaging is being very well received. We see that in our space, there are large percentages of consumers (average 70-75% across Europe, source: Pollfish survey) who are open to going meat free at least once a week. These consumers are open to flexing and we wanted to offer a product that addressed their barriers to entry: taste, price and health benefits.

 

What are the challenges you expect?

The key challenge that we’re facing is freezer space: it’s limited. Frozen-food purchases experienced significant growth in 2020 and that trend is set to continue but space is often at a premium. To unlock some key retail partners, we’ve invested and installed our own branded freezers in-store to launch the brand which can be costly, but really worthwhile.

Is the Bord Bia event a welcome initiative?

Absolutely, many retailers have been in a bit of holding pattern for the first nine months or so of the Covid-19 pandemic, so launching new products has been really challenging. Getting sampling done with prospective customers and consumers is really difficult. Bord Bia has been great in helping us to prep for the event, understand the priority markets and prepare accordingly. We expect this event to really steer our expansion strategy in the EU and North America for the rest of the year.

Who do hope to connect with?

We’ve already had some great customer meetings via Bord Bia with the likes of Sobeys in Canada and we’re looking to make a splash in the UK, France, Netherlands, Spain, the Nordics, the US and Canada later this year. It would be great talk to all the key players in the market, the likes of Carrefour, Albert Heijn, Whole Foods Market and so on. We’re planting a new idea: choose good and do good. We’re very fortunate to have a great story to tell and the means to tell it and we won’t be found lacking in terms of investment to support our ambitious brand growth plans.