GULFOOD MANUFACTURING

Flexitarian movement offers opportunities for meat producers

By Aaron McDonald

- Last updated on GMT

Meat producers are being told to embrace the flexitarian trend
Meat producers are being told to embrace the flexitarian trend

Related tags: United arab emirates

The meat industry should welcome the new consumer trend for flexitarian diets, according to ingredients suppliers Hydrosol. 

The German stabilisers company, which attended Gulfood Manufacturing in Dubai this week, encouraged meat producers to have an open mind when it came to vegan and vegetarian diets, plus meat reduction diets such as flexitarianism.

“As a company we’re always quite focused on innovation and bringing that innovation to our customers,”​ Carsten Carstens, head of product development for meat products at Hydrosol, told GlobalMeatNews​.

“An exhibition like this is the perfect opportunity for us to introduce new concepts and to actually show them to a customer. So not just send them an email, but make them look and feel the product properties, and actually taste the products so that they can really get a hands-on experience of what new concepts Hydrosol has come up with.”

The flexitarian trend started in the West, but is also gaining traction in the Middle East. However, Carstens said there were different catalysts for this. He explained that whereas in Europe people were primarily reducing meat consumption due to health reasons, animal concerns and environmental purposes, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) there were two other major drivers.

“One of them would be religious aspects,”​ he said. “Of course, when a product is all vegan, it does not contain any animal protein and of course it is halal. So you can produce a product that is taking the place of the former meat product without having to worry is this beef, or is this chicken really halal, or do I have any other ingredients? If it is all plant based, it sure is halal.”

The second major driver, according to Carstens, related to product safety. “The systems that we are selling, the products that our customers are producing from it, are based on powdered blends. These powder blends are much more stable than fresh meat or frozen meat, where you would need a continuous cooling chain, which in some countries is rather difficult because you have power shortages and you have very long delivery routes so having a consistent quality of meat to have it microbiologically safe is an issue in some countries.

“To be able to produce a sausage or produce a savoury product for your sandwich from a powder blend that has a shelf life of one year without the necessity for a continuous cooling chain, that is a huge logistic achievement in this region.”

Although Europe is still Hydrosol’s biggest market, with Germany being the “trailblazer”​, there are growing opportunities in the UAE. “It’s quite fascinating for us to learn that these vegan-vegetarian products, which we thought were a European thing, to see how much interest they gain here – but for other motives which we haven’t thought of in the first place. We are quite excited about these opportunities.”

Not only meat producers

With the increasingly popular movement showing no signs of slowing down, Hydrosol will be performing a webinar​ with GlobalMeatNews​ on 22 November 2016 entitled Targeting Flexitarians: Innovative Product Concepts.

Carstens, who will be talking at the webinar alongside Hydrosol’s product manager Dorotea Pein, said that the focus would be on how meat producers could learn from the German market.

“What has happened in the German market in the past two years wouldn’t have been predicted three years ago,”​ he admitted. “Hardly anyone would have placed a bat on this happening and it can happen in any other market. We are having projects running right now in other countries where we wouldn’t have presumed we would have projects running on vegetarian products, and they are close to market launch.

“What we want to do with this webinar is to open the eyes of cold cut producers to not perceive themselves as only meat producers,”​ he said.

Meat producers should by open-minded about branching out into the flexitarian market, as they could set the precedent for the market, he said. They ought to have production know-how, including how to market the product, understand the equipment, logistics and ingredients. “It is a great opportunity for meat producers to expand their portfolio and if we look at meat consumption in the European market, in most markets we see a continuous, steady, slow decline.”

A more regular market segment

According to Carstens, demand for meat alternatives and replacements is likely to increase, which can be partly attributed to demand from younger consumers.

“We have a new generation of consumers that are much more open to these concepts,”​ he added. “Kids growing up today, with the current alternatives that are truly delicious and really up to date, they don’t see why they wouldn’t want to eat that. They are growing up with a much more open mind and a less strict stance on these products. I would figure in five or ten years’ time that it will be very normal to have sausage on your sandwich on Monday, cheese on Tuesday and a vegan sausage on Wednesday. Why not? I think it will grow into becoming a more regular market segment.”

To register for Hydrosol's webinar, follow this link - https://vts.inxpo.com/scripts/Server.nxp?LASCmd=AI:4;F:QS!10100&ShowKey=35525&AffiliateData=website-story

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