Representative survey reveals call for more plant-based options: This is how HelloFresh meets the growing demand

According to Euromonitor International, global dietary preferences are increasingly moving towards plant-based options. A research by the federal center for nutrition in Germany revealed that every second nutrition expert is convinced that plant-based diet preferences will significantly grow in the next few years. As the owner of the richest and largest customer database on taste preferences, HelloFresh can predict a growing demand for plant-based proteins. In Germany, HelloFresh’s pioneer market for plant-based product offerings, the amount of customers who picked a vegan preference in their HelloFresh profile quadrupled the past year. Globally the number of flexitarians among HelloFresh customers has grown significantly. 

50% are convinced that more people should switch to plant-based nutrition

HelloFresh conducted a representative survey with over 7,500 people from Germany, the UK, Denmark, Sweden and Norway around plant-based nutrition. It showed that even though meat is still popular, over 50% of the consumers surveyed think that more consumers should switch to plant-based nutrition. More than two thirds of respondents are at least slightly convinced that eating vegan is more environmentally friendly than eating meat and dairy products. Every second consumer surveyed said they wouldn’t follow plant-based diets because they find it too hard to cook and they want more opportunities to try plant-based meat alternatives in their meals.

HelloFresh’s path towards full menu transparency and modularity 

Lowering the carbon footprint of the ingredients sold with HelloFresh builds a core pillar within HelloFresh’s sustainability strategy. In 2022 HelloFresh published a life cycle assessment which showed that ingredients are responsible for on average 56 percent of the emissions across the HelloFresh value chain. Consumer choices play a crucial role in this. In response to those findings HelloFresh introduced the climate conscious recipe tag in December 2022, which enables customers to make more environmentally friendly food choices and is the first step towards full menu transparency.
Furthermore, HelloFresh joined forces with industry and scientific stakeholders to lobby for a unified food label that offers carbon transparency for consumers within the project Together for Carbon Labeling. 

In order to offer consumers not only full transparency but also the biggest variety in the menu, HelloFresh will roll out a menu modularity feature globally that will offer customers the opportunity to switch their proteins – including to ones with a smaller carbon footprint. While swapping proteins is already possible in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK, HelloFresh will bring this product update to further markets throughout the next year. In order to offer its customers the possibility to switch to plant-based meat alternatives which have a lower carbon footprint, HelloFresh is working on expanding its supplier network. 

Martin Schlegel is leading the international Procurement Team for European HelloFresh markets, responsible for plant-based proteins as well as red meat and shares insights on HelloFresh’s plant-based strategy and the challenges the plant-based industry faces.

Where do we stand with the plant-based suppliers we already onboarded for HelloFresh?
We are currently in the process of building up a supplier network of plant-based food producers, which needs to meet our high standards when it comes to taste, quality, supply chain resilience as well as the purchase quantity we need. Germany currently offers the largest array of plant based recipes and plant based proteins in Europe.
We have great partners in our portfolio already, who have been through quite an extensive journey of trials across multiple HF countries. In Germany we have a selection of suppliers on board to enable our consumers tasty plant-based proteins for several special recipes we offer during Veganuary and hopefully beyond. In Benelux and the UK we already have some suppliers in our core menu already and are currently looking into expanding them to other European markets. As an international brand, we want to leverage other well known players. And there are certainly more to come!

From your perspective, what is the single most important issue companies need to consider who plan to introduce plant-based products into their menus?
Undoubtedly: ingredient quality or the success of convincing customers that their choice meets the anticipated sensory experience of meat or dairy. The introduction of subpar plant based ingredients for cost sake carries the risk of detracting customers from all plant-based products. You might not recover those customers for a long time. It is our collaborative effort with our product and sensory teams to cherry pick the great ones from the inferior ones.

What challenges do you face when expanding our supplier network towards plant-based proteins?
We have to find the sweet spot between great taste and price. Suppliers have to be innovative enough to nail what makes meat and dairy delicious, while still being affordable for our recipes. Short and mid term we have to see a narrowing of the gap between the costs of animal and plant based proteins, so customers have a greater incentive ethically, environmentally and financially to make the switch.

Why does HelloFresh expand its plant-based offer towards alternative proteins instead of just offering vegetables?
Naturally vegan recipes are amazing and people learn how to create them in the most convenient way possible by subscribing to HelloFresh. We actively contribute to the paradigm shift by showing that there is a very tasty way to cook without meat or dairy. Of course, we aim to maintain naturally vegan recipes as part of our weekly menu. 

At the same time we see the need to continue offering “center of plate” ingredients to our growing flexitarian customer base. We have to keep in mind: people have a very special relationship to animal protein. It is deeply rooted in their culture and their lifestyle. We also know our customers don't want to sacrifice the sensory experience. The good news is: they don't have to, because we aim to provide the same culinary experience with the best plant based products we can find.

Where is the journey going - what trends do we expect for plant-based alternatives?
Looking ahead, the competitive landscape will favor products characterized by the degree of innovation (success of convincing the customer of the real thing), adherence to a short ingredient list and competitive pricing. I believe we will see a period of “consolidation” over the next two to three- years when it comes to the general product offering.
Up until now we saw processed plant-based products such as minced meat, burgers, marinated chicken strips, cooking cream, and milk become very popular. I anticipate to see more whole muscle replicas (steak, chicken breast) and a broader spectrum of seafood alternatives (salmon, shrimp) in the short and mid term. I can tell you, there are a few amazing plant based steaks out there already!
Advancements in plant-based cheese are also noteworthy, however there are still challenges of achieving the necessary sensory and textural complexity that e.g. a camembert or a parmesan has.

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