Redefine Meat, producer of plant-based products for carnivores, is moving from the on-trade to Benelux retail: the brand is now available at Crisp and Albert Heijn (online only). “We are going to beat the cow,” SVP Edwin Bark says.
Approved by celebrity chefs
“New meat”: this is how Redefine Meat defines the plant-based meat substitutes it manufactures at its factory near Eindhoven, using advanced technology such as 3D printing. The brand explicitly targets meat eaters with products that match the meat experience in terms of taste and texture. “Ultimately, it has to become even better than meat,” Bark says in an interview with RetailDetail.
After a development process of more than three years, Redefine Meat deemed the products good enough to step into the gastronomy channel in early 2021. The company boasts that reputable chefs – including Dutch star chef Ron Blaauw – are endorsing the products and putting them on the menu. “We are hugely focused on quality: we have analysed on a molecular level what makes meat really meat, and we have looked for the plant-based equivalent for that.”
To the retail channel
After less than two years, Redefine Meat’s products are already served in over 5,000 food service locations, but now the time is ripe for the next step: “We love meat, but current meat consumption is unsustainable and our purpose is that we want to fix the food system. If you want to have impact, you have to have the ambition to grow and be where meat is consumed. So we also need to be present in the retail and e-tail channel.”
The producer has partnered with British online supermarket Ocado, and its products have been available at Dutch online supermarket Crisp since a few weeks. It has now also started selling through Albert Heijn’s webshop last Monday. “The first results are encouraging,” he says. A pilot with market leader ICA is starting in Sweden: a national listing will follow in early 2024. In addition, the company is in talks with all major European supermarket chains, including in France and Germany.
Penetration and frequency
The market for plant-based meat substitutes recently experienced a growth slowdown after strong growth during the Covid years. In the United States, there is even a small dip. “All countries are following that s-curve. That is a result of a big boost in offer, which makes a lot of people start trying. But unfortunately, the average quality of plant-based meat is often not good enough. Disappointed consumers call it quits, and it takes at least a year for them to return”, Redefine Meat knows from market research.
But the outlook is not as negative as media reports suggest: “Unfortunately, we only have one listed company as an indicator for the sector. Garden Gourmet and Impossible Foods are doing well, but nobody writes about them. We need to turn this negative sentiment around. We will ensure that both penetration and frequency increase, thanks to better quality and a versatile range. You can use the products in all your favourite dishes.” The retail range consists of six products: Minced Beef, Premium Burger, Lamb Kebab, Bratwurst, Pulled Pork and Pulled Beef.
For meat eaters
Meat lovers are Redefine Meat’s primary target audience: “We think real meat, while other brands tend to profile themselves as veggie, sustainable and green. Everything we do breathes meat: the colour codes on the packaging with black and red, the images… That’s why we call this ‘new meat’, as a new category. Meat eaters don’t want to be bothered with what is green and sustainable: they want the simplest transition possible. They don’t want to be embarrassed by what they put in their shopping cart. We love meat but we do think it can also be plant-based, and kind to animals and planet.”
Initially, the brand is launching a frozen range exclusively online, with a chilled range on shop shelves to follow early next year. Frozen has the advantage that it avoids food loss and contains no preservatives, but in shops there is a barrier: “Shoppers usually buy their meat, fish or meat substitute next to vegetables and fruit. You only find freezers at the end of the shopping route, right before the checkouts. People are not used to buying their protein there and you don’t change that behaviour overnight. You don’t have that problem online: people see a dish and click on the list of ingredients. Then rayon placement is not an issue.”
Unfair playing field
Meat substitutes are sometimes criticised for being textbook examples of ultra-processed food, but Bark does not feel addressed: “Our products are low in salt and fat and contain no cholesterol while being high in protein. They are good, whole food sources. Nobody asks the question: what’s in our meat? How many pesticides did that cow ingest? We think we are going to beat the cow: we improve our products every six or nine months while a cow or a lamb no longer innovates.”
And the price? “We are positioning ourselves at the level of quality meat. Price should not be a barrier. If it tastes good, people will keep buying it. The truth is that a lot of subsidy goes to meat: some 800 million euros a year in the Netherlands, compared to 17 million development money for plant-based meat. That’s an unfair playing field. Economies of scale are going to help us, though. In that sense, I am optimistic.”
Whether cultured meat can’t eventually become a better proposition for the conscious meat lover? “It’s interesting, but we’re here to fix the food system and that’s urgent. We don’t think you can quietly wait another five to 10 years for that. And that’s how long it will take before cultured meat can be produced at competitive costs and have the taste and texture of real meat. I have already had a chance to taste it and it disappointed me a bit, apart from the extreme cost. And meat contains cholesterol. We have a better proposition.”