In December 2021, Plant-It launched in the US, attracting the attention of retailers who were impressed with the company’s innovative range of plant-based food and its global tree planting initiative.
Launched in 2021, Plant-It produces a wide range of plant-based food, including 100% Irish meat-free, chicken-free, egg-free, fish-free and veggie products using bakery inspired proprietary technology, Texsol. Texsol enables key fibres and strands of protein to be formulated from various protein sources including lentils, oats, fava beans, soy and pea protein. Plant-It products are fortified with vitamin B12, iron and calcium, which are traditionally lacking in plant-based diets.
The company has partnered with local charities to plant native trees wherever its products are sold, with over 20,000 native trees planted across Ireland, Finland and the UK to date, and many international tree planting partners lined up in markets where the brand will expand in 2022.
Plant-It is currently building out its US team to scale distribution and it was delighted with the response at its first international trade show. We caught up with marketing director, Mark Ryan, and we started by asking him about how the company has fared in its first year, and the priorities in 2022.
“Last year was our first year trading and our plan was to test in the Irish market and expand with lessons learned. We’re currently on sale in Ireland and Finland, and we’ve got two priority markets to win in this year: the UK and the US. We launched in the UK this week with Morrisons, and we have our first order on route to the US as we speak for Central Markets (part of the H.E.B. Group) and they will take a lot of our focus this year. We generally have our bestselling SKUs (chicken-free) consistently across markets and then we leverage our innovation to unlock opportunities. For example, the fish-free range has helped to unlock Finland. We leverage our size, flexibility, and unique texture technology to help us unlock opportunities with key retailers in our priority markets.
“We’re also actively exploring opportunities in continental Europe, the Middle East and Asia with a view to being in over 15 markets by this time next year. Ultimately though we’ll focus on the priority markets and evaluate other opportunities as they present themselves. The strategy for the priority markets is to start with retail (foodservice is still disrupted by Covid-19) and start regionally taking the learnings on board and then rolling out nationally. We’ve found that our ‘Choose Good, Do Good’ mission is translating across markets internationally and that the barriers stopping consumers coming into the category are by and large consistent, so we’re confident going into 2022. For us, it’s about making great tasting food that just happens to be plant-based.”
What prompted you to look at the US, and what is your strategy in this market?
“We took our time with the US and studied the market and consumers there for the past 12 months. We were keen not to rush in and only make a splash there when we were ready. We worked extremely closely with Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board) to create our strategy for the US. We have a Bord Bia fellow working with us there and they are in the process of building out a local team to manage the US business. The strategy is an adaptation of what we’ve done in Ireland but starting locally to win and prove our concept before trying to crack the large national retailers. We have already agreed a partnership with local tree planting organisation, The Arbour Day Foundation, to help us localise our ‘Choose Good, Do Good’ mission stateside.
“The Plant-Based World Expo in New York before Christmas was a great launchpad for us in the market and it’s fair to say our product portfolio really resonated and there’s a bigger appetite than ever in the US for plant-based foods. Our research tells us that over 70% of US adults that don’t identify as vegan, or vegetarian are open to going meat-free one day a week.”
Was the Plant-Based World Expo a worthwhile exercise?
“With the Christmas period coming up almost immediately after the show, it’s too soon to tell. But we were delighted with the output, the contacts we made and the feedback we received at the show. We’re booked in for 2022 and for the EU equivalent show in London later this year.”
Closer to home
In January of this year, Plant-It announced it had partnered with forecourt retailer Applegreen to release a new chicken-free fillet roll, a plant-based version of the deli counter favourite. It joins Applegreen’s existing plant-based range which includes the award-winning vegan sausage roll as well as the falafel and hummus wrap.
Irish plant-based foods company, Plant-It, has grand ambitions for 2022. First stop: America!