Today, the range of vegetarian and vegan products on offer is enormous. But what was it like in the 90s? In those days, consumers often had to resort to plain tofu because there were few alternatives. Luckily, some pioneers such as Vivera put an end to this monotony and helped to shape the product landscape early on. Now, Vivera wants to go one step further. We spoke to Gerben Vink from Vivera about their latest collaboration with Tesco and the new vegan steak.
What is Vivera’s current position in the meat alternatives market?
As many already know, Vivera is one of the largest brands in Europe. We currently sell our products in 23 European countries and in around 25,000 supermarkets. Our range of meat substitutes today comprises around 40 products – and the figure is rising.
In 1990, you started out with vegetarian products, but today you produce vegan meat alternatives too. What is your assessment of the meat substitutes market in this respect?
As already mentioned, we started producing meat alternatives as early as 1990. Actually, we were the pioneers here. Over the years we have grown into one of the largest producers in Europe. But we still want to maintain our pioneering position and are therefore making the entire vegetarian range 100% plant-based.
We decided to take this step because we noticed we were always getting questions from end consumers about this issue. Therefore we have taken up the challenge to make our product line 100% plant-based. We are relaunching a new product (which was previously vegetarian and is now 100% plant-based) every week. Last week, for example, it was our “Oosterse Schijf” (Oriental Roast) and this week it will be the “Groente Schijf” (Vegetable Roast).
You just started selling your plant-based steak in TESCO supermarkets. How did the launch go?
We sell not only our 100% plant-based steak, but also a variety of other products, such as our fish fingers, Pulled Veggie, Shoarma, and pumpkin and sweet potato burgers at TESCO. We are very satisfied with the launch and the collaboration.
How do you manage to turn vegetables into meat-like products with an authentic taste, colour and consistency?
(Laughs) That’s the secret of our product developers Jeroen & Robin.
Are there any more new products planned for 2018?
Oh, yes, a few. (Winking & silent)
You say that you own almost the greenest factory in Europe. What exactly does it look like and why is that important to you?
It is important to us because we believe that meat alternatives should be not just healthy and tasty, but good for the environment too. Of course, this includes the entire value chain – from cultivation to production and from the supermarket to the consumer at home. To this end, we have set ourselves concrete goals in our Corporate Responsibility Report, which we aim to achieve by 2025.
A good example is the wastewater treatment plant, which is located on our premises. There, we treat the water we use in production and then deliver it purified to the local water authority. The residues from the water are reused to produce energy for 3,900 households.
What are Vivera’s plans for the next 5 years?
We have some plans for the next five years, but unfortunately we have to keep them confidential.