With the 2020 edition of Veganuary going through the gears and new vegan products coming thick and fast, the Co-op have moved to trump their competitors with what they claim is “the largest ever product rollout of own-brand vegan products by a supermarket.”
The new range, named Gro, launches with 35 meat-free products this month, with the Co-op now boasting over 1,000 vegan food and drink products in total.
Some of the products in the Gro range are takes on classic British staples, such as the chilli con nachos and the vegan sticky toffee pudding. Six ready meals, two desserts and a host of food-to-go options make up a large part of the release.
Ready, set, Gro
The Gro ready meal selection includes two different pasta options, with the supermarket looking to take advantage of the recent trend for the Italian staple in the UK. The first is bucatini (thick spaghetti-esque pasta with a hole in the middle) in a mildly spiced tomato sauce topped with cherry tomatoes, sliced black olives, yellow baby plum tomato halves and a basil puree.
The second – portobello and porcini-stuffed ravioli with garlic and herbs – is both gluten and dairy-free, with mushroom (cited as a potentially prominent ingredient for 2020) featuring heavily throughout the Gro range.
The food-to-go (FTG) sector as a whole is coming out of a booming 2019, and the Co-op have responded to this with items like the slow roast tomato pasta salad accompanied by grilled courgettes, peppers, spinach and a sundried tomato dressing.
Vegan chicken and vegan duck (styled as chick’n and d’ck respectively) headline the Gro’s FTG. The latter appears as part of a soy and hoisin wrap with spring onions and cucumber, as well as in a protein pot with edamame in a sweet and sticky hoisin sauce.
The chick’n, meanwhile, comes in a sandwich with herby sage stuffing and slaw, while the spicy squash and mex bean salad, sold with an avocado dip and tortilla chips, is another FTG highlight.
Easy come, easy Gro
The Co-op have one pizza in the Gro launch portfolio: the Kashmiri Spice, a single-serve stone-baked pizza topped with spiced cauliflower, spicy Kashmiri-style sauce and MozzaRisella (a branded, Italian-made, vegan cheese alternative made from sprouted brown rice).
Kashmiri cuisine, hailing from southwestern India, is known for its bakery traditions, hot spices and (rather amusingly) for its clear focus on meat.
Two hot food-to-go options launch a little later this month (on January 22), with the Co-op unleashing their own vegan steak bake, hot on the heels of Greggs’ high-profile version earlier this month.
Also launching are six chilled alternative proteins (including soya and mushroom sausages with black pepper and herbs, as well as bean burgers made from chickpeas, black turtle beans, roasted red pepper, sweet potato and butternut squash with smoked paprika and chipotle chilli flakes) and two frozen options (including vegetable burgers with sweetcorn, carrots, peppers and peas).
Overall, the Gro range seems interesting. The three things that stand out to me are the chilli con nachos mainly because this could be a positive sign of things to come. The market for vegan/vegetarian foods has mainly focused on fresh foods but merging these trends with the push for convenience might shake up the market a little.
Although I’m still not keen on products that use the meat names in their title, I think the steak bake sounds good. A lot of the original ideas surrounding meat replacement was to use mushrooms to develop an intense savoury flavour in order to disguise the lack of meat. The push for more direct replacements came later, but I think the better way forward is the old way – creating foods that simply don’t need the meat.
I’d have a similar sentiment about their spicy squash and mex bean salad: it’s a product that doesn’t need the meat to be good and doesn’t attempt to shoehorn in some loose association. I like the idea of the side of chips and dip to go with it to make it a little more exciting than the basic salad.