- Nearly a quarter (23%) of all food launches in the UK were labelled vegan last year, according to Mintel
- Two-thirds of Americans say they are eating less of at least one meat, a study by The Nutrition Society claims
- Poultry now accounts for half of meat consumption in the US, up from a quarter in the 1970s, stats from the US Department for Agriculture reveal
It’s a good time to be in the UK meat replacement game. According to market research firm Mintel, the proportion of Britons who have eaten food containing meat substitutes rose from 50% in 2017 to 65% in 2019, with sales of meat-free foods growing 40% in that time to an estimated £816m.
Daring Foods, the Scottish-born meat alternative company, are relatively new to the plant-based arena, having only launched in January 2019. But, since then, they have seen strong sales growth in the UK and, from next month, their products will be stocked by several major retail and foodservice chains in the US.
Rastelli Foods Group, a leading US food manufacturer and distributor supplying hotels, restaurants, retail markets and other commercial customers, has committed $10 million to Daring, an investment that combines cash with infrastructure, sales and distribution support.
Daring co-founder and CEO Ross Mackay has now moved the company’s headquarters to New York and he believes that while sales of the company’s products in the UK are going well, it’s in America where the bigger opportunity lies.
“It’s really down to consumer demand,” Mackay tells Food Spark.
“Although in the UK the meat alternative market is strong and growing year on year, the US is still several years ahead of where the UK market is.”
A clean-label deal
While a number of Daring’s products, such as their Moo-less Meatballs, Moo-less Burgers and Cluck-free Fried Burgers, are all still being supplied to foodservice operators in the UK, the company is solely focusing on a plant-based chicken alternative product called Daring Pieces for the American market.
With poultry accounting for half of the meat consumed in the US, coupled with a huge movement towards meat-free meals in the US, Daring Foods’ American investors predict its chicken alternative product will be a massive hit with consumers.
And they’re also banking on transparency.
“We are the first ever clean label alternative chicken product, meaning there’s nothing on the ingredient list that you don’t recognise and understand,” says Mackay.
Daring Pieces are made of five main parts - water, non-genetically modified soy, sunflower oil, salt and natural flavourings (a mix of paprika, pepper, ginger, nutmeg, mace and cardamom).
“Most plant-based meat alternative products are high in fat and high in sodium but this is plant-based meat that’s actually good for you,” explains Mackay.
“We have a high protein content coupled with almost no sodium, fat or carbohydrate.”
What’s more, Mackay says Daring Pieces are extremely close to chicken in look, texture and taste. They come in frozen strips and can be cooked without being thawed in about eight minutes.
Sticking with chicken
Although Daring Foods was born out of Mackay’s experience of struggling to find healthy meat alternatives when he turned vegan five years ago, it’s not just vegan customers the brand is appealing to.
“For the planet’s sake we need meat eaters to eat less meat,” says Mackay.
“The answer is through great alternatives to their favourite protein. There’s no doubt vegans are looking for these products, but at the same time there’s a huge amount of data out there to show that consumers in general want to eat less meat.”
Daring Pieces will also be available for American consumers to order from the Daring website for delivery direct to their homes from February.
In addition, there are plans to develop more Daring products for the American market, such as “different sizes and cuts of product”, and different spice blends, but the company has no intention to stray away from chicken.
“People are steering away from red meat and particularly moving towards chicken and fish,” explains Mackay.
“But there’s going to be a move away from chicken at some point and that’s where the opportunity lies – that’s why we are focused on chicken alternatives.”
Daring Pieces will continue to be manufactured in mainland Europe, particularly as US customers see that as an additional sign of quality when making food choices.
Mackay says: “The US market has been quite excited that our product comes out of a European factory, because the European food market is deemed to be of higher quality.”