Is vegan the new protein?

Last week we spent time tasting new and innovative food and drink products at Lunch! the contemporary food-to-go show. Food-to-go is the primary focus for all supermarkets as they try to become a foodie destination, competing on a level playing field with the likes of Pret and Itsu. The Lunch! show was a fantastic opportunity to see what the latest trends are; where consumer demand is forcing existing brands to innovate; as well as talking to those developing new and interesting products.  So, what did we learn? 

Protein remains a key message brands are keen to promote.  While some brands jumped on the high protein content of products a few years ago, others like Kind Bars, are launching new products actively promoting the higher protein content. However, the conversation around protein has progressed, and brands are now starting to talk about different types of protein and the source of protein in their products. The question is now whether the protein is from nuts, whey or soy?

Everyone was keen to tell us they had vegan products in their range, it is the new buzz word in the food industry. While they are obviously very proud of their ability to meet this current customer trend within their product range, we know from recent consumer research that a product being highlighted as vegan is often perceived negatively by those who are not seeking vegan products, which is a large proportion of the population! We would therefore offer a word of caution to brand to consider who they’re trying to target, and the impact of messaging on potential consumers.

Consumer consciousness continues, and movements towards sustainable packaging are slowly seeping into food-to-go. Sandwich packaging that is 100% recycled or plastic free dominates new package design; and other brands are starting to question what they can, and should, be doing. We were delighted to discover Tribe have just changed the wrapper on one of their bars which is designed for consumption during exercise, to compostable packaging so if it is disposed of during use, it will decompose.

‘Healthy’ snacks continue to dominate food-to-go innovation.  Cereal bars made with ‘natural’ ingredients. No palm sugar, use of nuts, real fruits….the list is endless, but bars for snacking continue to dominate. Beyond that, you look at brands who are sourcing ingredients that are essentially looking for a healthier alternative to the much loved packet of crisps. We tasted puffed black eyed peas from Bepps, chickpea puffs from Hippeas, and rice crackers widely used by Metcalfe’s, and Peckish.

While we were pleased to see brands demonstrating consciousness and greater transparency of ingredients enabling greater consumer choice, we didn’t see anything revolutionary. However, we had a great time talking with the faces behind the brands about what they’re hoping to achieve in the future, and it was a lovely opportunity to catch up with our client POPS who were showcasing their premium popsicles. 

POPS showcasing their premium popsicles

POPS showcasing their premium popsicles