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What’s next for vegan innovation at Iceland?

The supermarket's head of development Neil Nugent talks about what's to come like cheese-free pizzas and frozen salads.

25 September 2018
burgericelandmeat alternativepizzaplant-basedready mealsvegan

Iceland has launched a range of 13 vegan foods and ready meals, with a dedicated meat-free cabinet to appear in over 900 stores across the UK, but the development isn’t stopping there.

Its head of development Neil Nugent told Food Spark that a number of surprises will be landing in the supermarket in January.

“Pizzas are coming and a few first evers for us like frozen salads. You take them out and defrost them, they are great,” he says.

In what might be a controversial move, Nugent says the supermarket has opted out of using vegan cheese on its pizzas, but he believes it’s the right decision

“So we are using things like hummus, it melts lovely on top of the pizza, as trying to find a decent vegan cheese was not a pleasant tasting experience,” he explains.

Street food is also being explored as inspiration for more vegan ready meals.

No Bull

But back to the new range – what inspired the development?

Earlier this year, Iceland launched its ‘bleeding’ No Bull burger, based on the trend for meat lookalikes such as the Impossible burger in the US. According to the supermarket, the success of the burger took the business by surprise all from way from the boardroom down to the aisles, outselling all other burgers in the range and becoming the retailer’s bestselling product of the summer.

So the new range has been designed to provide customers with a plant-based options for cooking, without sacrificing the taste or texture.

It also includes two ready meals, the No Chick and No Porkies Paella, which is made for one and is filled with meat-replicating chicken and chorizo, as well as range of vegetables and rice. There is also the No Bull Chilli and Rice packed with No Bull Mince, vegetables and rice for a plant-based chilli kick.

On the back of the burger success, Iceland’s new ingredient ranges include a jalapeno burger, an Asian burger made with wheat protein, meat balls, mince and chipolata sausages. Chicken replicas include No Chick Crispy Fillets and No Chick Chunks, while more traditional offerings include tofu vegetable burgers made with wheat protein and green vegetable balls, which contain red quinoa as well.

Social sensations

Nugent says the latest range took around six weeks to develop and was inspired from people’s post on social media showing them creating their own recipes using the No Bull burger – things like bolognaise and meatballs.

There was also a conscious decision to launch the range well before Veganuary in January, which is when other supermarkets will ramp up their ranges, predicts Nugent.

The range incorporates entirely new ingredients for Iceland including tofu and wheat-based proteins, while its frozen offering means no waste and no restriction on shelf life, comments Nugent.

“I would say that it’s the most interesting range out there because we have focused on favourites. Having a good mince that you can then make your cottage pie, your bolognaise or a meatball means you can replace like-for-like the dishes that you are used to making it, so I think it’s the most accessible because of that,” he says.

“What happens is a lot of people are making chicken replacements that have some daft seasoning on it or it’s spicy, but we have kept ours quite plain so you can do the work really.”

There is an added bonus to the vegan trend, as Nugent says people are discovering the range of fruit and vegetables the supermarket sells meaning the whole category is buoyant.

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