Fairs & Events

Inaugural veg-net Event Unites Plant-Based Founders to Discuss Insights for Category Growth

veg-net, a one-day business meeting and networking event for the UK plant-based food sector, took place today at Radisson Blu Hotel London Stansted Airport, bringing together brands and buyers for focused one-to-one meetings as well as hosting clinics with industry experts on branding, finance, sales and marketing, and the sharing of brand new sector insight via panels.

A total of 20 founders of plant-based brands such as Better Nature Tempeh and US-based Tofurky, together with 17 buyers from UK and European retailers, wholesalers, and foodservice companies such as Suma, Pro-Green International from the Netherlands, and Uplegger from Germany.

The one-day event kicked off with a keynote session featuring a panel of industry experts; Ben Davies, CEO of Vypr; Melissa Bradshaw, editor of The Plant Base; Jacob Linden from Kale United, the leading plant-based investor in the Nordic region; and Katie Cross, senior buyer from Ocado Retail.  Chaired by food and drink PR and marketing consultant AJ Sharp, founder of SHARP PR, the session opened the discussion on the future of plant-based food and beverage in the UK and beyond, highlighting opportunities for growth and how plant-based F&B founders can capitalise on them.

veg-net keynote speech
© veg-net

Delegates and industry experts attending the event were the first to receive new plant-based consumer research insights. Kym Zielinski, Insights Specialist from Plant Futures, shared key insights from the research conducted by event partner Vypr, aimed at broadening the appeal of plant-based products to mainstream consumers.

Key takeaways from the panel:

  • Katie Cross: brands pitching to retailers should cover innovation, ease of purchase, and no risk to supply as key elements of their pitch.
  • Melissa Bradshaw: having a high-quality product and fulfilling the consumer need for great taste are both key. Branding is also super important to build authenticity. A brand that is doing this well is THIS.
  • Jacob Linden: position everything that you do from an investor’s perspective.  Brands should demonstrate that they know their market, positioning, and price.
  • Ben Davies: don’t underestimate the time, emotion, and investment it will take to build a brand.

The Plant Futures research, conducted in partnership with Vypr and commissioned exclusively for veg-net, highlighted the opportunities for plant-based brands and the category in general and showed that the sector is poised for growth.

veg-net logo
© veg-net

Kym Zielinski’s key findings to broaden plant-based appeal

1. Flexitarians and open omnivores are key to growth 

  • There is a mass market audience for plant-based products with flexitarians and open omnivores representing more than two-thirds of the total consumer market and offering the biggest opportunity.
  • It was revealed that more than half of these two groups had purchased a plant-based meat and dairy alternative product in the last six months.
  • Important to note is that vegans make up just 11% of the total consumer market.

2. Taste is primary

  • Tastiness persuades shoppers to purchase and is the primary driver of choice
  • Taste, price and health benefits were identified as the top three considerations for all shoppers
  • Understanding the different motivations for each segment of shoppers is key to influencing purchasing: Open Omnivores are also influenced by point of purchase nudges and flexitarians are motivated to seek out products that help them reduce meat consumption and deliver environmental benefits.

3. On-pack messaging matters

  • Familiar, delicious, or fresh cues on packaging will increase appeal
  • Brand logo and colours provide familiarity
  • Emphasise tastiness with food-led imagery
  • Allow the consumer to see the product which signals quality and freshness.

veg-net co-founder and one-half of plant-based frozen pizza brand, One Planet Pizza, Mike Hill, commented: “There’s plenty of opportunity for plant-based founders to grow market penetration with mainstream consumers and consumer insights really are the key to unlocking these opportunities. It’s great to be able to bring together the plant-based community, connecting like-minded founders with buyers, enabling us to all work together, share collective successes, and drive growth in the category.”

The event culminated with a networking extravaganza, allowing brands and buyers to mingle and connect with fellow innovators.

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