In a guest article for vegconomist, Godo Röben, Managing Director of Rügenwalder Mühle, outlines the company’s view of the year 2019. The German food manufacturer produces both meat and meat alternatives, and has operated in the plantbased market for around five years. The company increased its revenue 2018 to EUR 212 million, thanks to the trend for plantbased products in Europe.
Godo Röben: “We are very satisfied with 2019 – for almost exactly one year, the vegetarian and vegan market picked up momentum again. The growth is tremendous: at the beginning of the year, we started with a 20% growth rate; currently we are above 40%. And for the last weeks of the year we are expecting growth rates of 70 to 80%; and this despite the fact that we have already achieved a mid-double-digit million euro turnover with vegetarian and vegan products last year.
The growth does not only apply to us, but the market for alternative proteins as a whole. Ever new distribution channels such as system catering or canteens follow; more and more start-ups, corporations and SMEs jump on the train, even from the meat and sausage industry. And besides meat alternatives, more and more alternatives to fish and cheese are now becoming subject on manufacturers’ agendas.
However, the strong growth increasingly leads to bottlenecks in the supply of raw materials. But there is also a lot going on there: In the raw materials sector, our efforts to source more from Europe and Germany – instead of from North America – are becoming increasingly successful. We have already achieved to source about a 50% share for soya from Europe. Furthermore, we also are getting more and more offers and requests from local farmers who want to grow alternative proteins here on-site. We are providing high-level support to these projects, but there is still a lot to do in research, too. The topic “regional raw materials” is definitely on our agenda in 2020.
In addition, we will start a new product group in 2020: in addition to fresh meat, vegetarian and vegan alternatives with a shelf-life of around 10 days will be available in the chest chillers in the ultra-fresh segment. Here, even less additives are needed in production and the fresh products can be used in many different ways, much like raw minced meat.
So, the future seems to look bright. However, young markets can always encounter “turbulences”. This has already become visible on the German market for alternative sources of protein in the past: following an incredible start in 2015/2016, there was stagnation until 2018, and we have seen a market shakeout. Since 2018, we record great growths and consultants like AT Kearney and JP Morgan predict a US-$ 100-400 billion market over the next 10 years. In the long and medium term, and despite normal turbulences, there will be a continued growth.