NutreeLife is a prime example of this transition. The company, which only launched a website last November, started out with Vegetarian Society-approved protein bars and powders, as well as functional snacks. More recently, however, they’ve moved into new territory with the launch of a meat-free burger mix.
Just add water
Last year, market researchers Nielsen found that sales of plant-based alternatives rose 8.1% over the course of 12 months. Product development and research in the area has skyrocketed – just look at the winners at this year’s World Food Innovation Awards.
It’s in this environment that NutreeLife hopes its gluten-free, soya-free, lactose-free, vegan-friendly release can make a mark. “We’ve really focussed on the free-from market,” acknowledges Bradley Nichol, the company’s digital marketing manager.
“When it comes to the health and the nutrition market, there’s a lot of protein after-workout products – powders, bars – but there’s not protein-rich foods that are also free from gluten, soy, wheat, especially in the plant-based market. So we’re just trying to provide consumers with something different.”
The concept is simple: stir the pea-protein-powered mix with water, shape into a patty (or sausage or ‘meat’ ball) and fry until golden brown. A packet sells for £14.99 and has enough for 14 servings; each of these servings contains 17.1g of protein, 2.7g of fibre and 126 calories.
“For people looking for a quick ready meal, this is a healthy alternative,” says Nichol. According to the company, it takes 10 minutes to go from raw mix to cooked burger, balancing consumer desires for quick eats and DIY meals.
Brands like Granose (owned by manufacturer Symington’s) and Amisa are selling similar meat-free products, though neither have gone the whole hog with the free-from claims. The former is available through Asda and Morrisons, while the latter appears at Ocado, Whole Foods and Planet Organic.
For now, NutreeLife’s products are sold solely through Amazon and its own website. The company plans to be “quite aggressive” with product launches, with chocolate vegan spreads round the corner.
Fire it up
Adding fuel to NutreeLife’s vegan burger mix are its spicy flavour options, which include fajita and piri piri, as well as the slightly tamer Italian herb.
“I think particularly fajita and piri piri, it’s been driven by Nandos,” says Nichol. “A lot more products are focussing on those spicy flavours.”
It’s not just spice that’s getting a kick; vegan junk food is on the rise in restaurants and in retail. Response to the recent opening of American vegan import By Chloe – with its tempeh-based burger and quinoa hash browns – has been positive, while Iceland’s executive chef, Neil Nugent, announced at the beginning of March the launch of the supermarket’s own-brand No Bull Burger, hoping to lure in flexitarians with soya protein, beetroot and paprika.
Just yesterday, Tesco added to its vegan junk offering with three products from Swedish brand Oumph: The Chunk (chicken alternative), Kebab Spiced (meat alternative) and Pulled Oumph (pork alternative).
So is Sparkie up for playing vegan patty cake?
The potential for a DIY burger mix would be quite high. Personally, it’s not something I have seen yet in the meal kits section, so it would be quite exciting to see a new addition.
I am not convinced that a powdered version will go down very well though, because the trend for meal kits goes hand in hand with authenticity and the perception of natural foods. But with the right packaging making it clear how the drying process works, products like this do have a lot of potential.