Lightlife: “Vegan Consumers are the Tip of the Spear and Many are Following Their Lead”

Michael Lenahan_Headshot(1)
Image courtesy of Greenleaf / Lightlife

Lightlife Foods, founded in 1979, is the #1 refrigerated alternative protein brand in U.S. retail. Lightlife is part of the plant-based portfolio of Greenleaf Foods, who announced yesterday plans to construct North America’s largest plant-based protein manufacturing facility, which will enable Lightlife to more than double its production output.

The company is committed to making plant-based eating more accessible and delicious with products that appeal to consumers at all points of their plant-based journey—whether they’re newly vegetarian or vegan, or simply trying to moderate their meat consumption.

We were very pleased to speak with Michael Lenahan, VP of Marketing for Lightlife Foods, about the hugely popular American brand.

What is your current line / portfolio?
Lightlife recently announced the launch of a new line of pea protein-based products—the Lightlife® Burger, Lightlife® Ground, Lightlife® Italian Sausage and Lightlife® Bratwurst. The hero of the new line is the Lightlife® Burger—a new plant-based burger free of GMOs, gluten, soy and artificial flavors—that delivers the sensory experience consumers crave from a beef burger.

Thanks to a culinary approach to product development, the Lightlife® Burger is made from familiar ingredients—including high-quality pea protein, virgin coconut oil, and beet powder, which work together to make a juicy and meaty burger. Because it’s grown to grill, cooking the burger over an open flame will enrich its tender, beefy texture.

Which are the bestsellers and why?
Lightlife is proud to make the US’s #1 brand of tempeh and the #1 plant-based hot dog, Smart Dogs. Both are heritage products for the brand, and deliver the taste, quality and nutrition that consumers seek when shopping for plant-based proteins.

Where is your product line available and do you have plans to expand into other markets?
Lightlife is currently available in over 21,000 retailers across the U.S. In the near future, consumers will start to see our new pea protein-based products roll out into retail and food service.

What differentiates Lightlife from other plant-based products / how do you stand out against any competitors?
Lightlife products are rooted in great unifying taste, fueling discovery with a wide variety of products, and creating positive energy that you can feel good about because it nourishes you up without weighing you – or the planet – down. The Lightlife® Burger delivers on what its competitors cannot: a delicious burger with great taste, 73% less saturated fat than a traditional burger, and is free of GMOs, gluten, soy and artificial flavors.

Do you have any new vegan products that you will launch or that are in development?
We recently announced our new line products that include the Lightlife® Burger, Lightlife® Ground, Lightlife® Bratwurst Sausage and Lightlife® Italian Sausage. At this time, we’re not able to share any additional innovations, though consumers can expect more exciting products from Lightlife in the very near future!

In your opinion, why should the protein foods industry continue to acknowledge veganism?
The plant-based meat category is growing rapidly—in fact, according to SPINS data, as of February 2019 it has grown more than 30%. Lightlife, owned by Greenleaf Foods, SPC, has been a pioneer in plantbased alternatives for 40 years and continues to pave the way with best-selling plant-based meat products. Lightlife was purchased by Maple Leaf Foods about two years ago to support its goal of becoming the world’s most sustainable protein company by diversifying its product portfolio and adapting to changing consumer preferences and behaviors. Vegan consumers are the tip of the spear for plant-based diets and many are following their lead.

What are your plans for the end of 2018 and 2019?
Right now, our priority is launching the new line of pea protein-based products, like our Lightlife® Burger, while supporting all the other great items that we already have in market. The new products are debuting the new Lightlife branding in celebration of the brand’s 40th anniversary this year. The new product line, brand redesign, and supporting advertising campaign are the largest investments the company has made in its history, which we’re wildly excited about.

Where do you see Lightlife in the next five years?
As the category leader, Lightlife will continue to attract new consumers and delight those who have been on the plant-based journey with the brand over the last 40 years. With a rich pipeline of new products across our broad portfolio, best-in-class operational capabilities, and engaging consumer campaigns, Lightlife will continue to lead this dynamic category in the U.S. and Canada into the future.