A convenience food company with a difference hopes to take the UK market by storm.
Plantifull is a plant-based brand producing meal pots and jerkies to capitalize on the thriving plant-based sector. In the UK, the market has grown 8% annually, and is now worth £1.8 billion ($ 2.2 billion).
“In just a few years, the amount of people identifying a flexitarian has grown significantly, and we don’t see this trend abating anytime soon,” says Adam Courtenay, 34, who runs the company with his wife Becca, 31.
The founders see their competitors as supermarkets that are creating their own sub-brands of vegan food, for example Tesco’s ‘Wicked Kitchen’; Sainsbury’s ‘Plant Pioneers’ brand, alongside Co-op’s new brand ‘Gro’.
“These developments area change from the past, where supermarkets would look to brands to grow a category, however, because this sector is growing so quickly, they have realized they don’t want to forgo any future profit,” says Adam. “This strategy seems to be reaping rewards for the supermarkets too, and it is also helping consumers have a huge amount of choice.”
The amount of vegans in the UK is still relatively small; the estimated percentage of consumers who identify as vegan, range from 3%-5%.
But Plantifull’s sales come from customers who don’t strictly identify as vegan. Around 80% of sales come from those who don’t identify as vegan, and instead are more focused on reducing their meat and fish consumption.
Recent research shows half the UK population will identify as flexitarian by 2025. M&S’s vegan range has attracted 585,000 customers and helped to increase its meat-free sales by 77 per cent this year, the report said.
“It’s easy to look at the sheer number of plant-based products on the market and assume that supermarkets are over-indexing on vegan offerings,” adds Adam, “but it’s the flexitarian category that’s really driving change.”
Neither Adam nor Becca have a background in food. Becca has worked in consulting and real estate investment, while Adam’s career started in hedge fund trading.
“We both had aspirations to set up our own company one day, and even created concepts for things like a property management tech platform, and a career networking service for students,” Adam explains.
“Neither of this really progressed because, although it’s a cliche, we just weren’t that passionate about the ideas.”
One day late in 2016, the pair watched a documentary on Netflix called Forks over Knives, and “everything changed”.
“Prior to this, neither of us were even vegetarian, and probably didn’t even regard a meal without meat as being a proper meal,” Adam recalls.
“For some reason, this documentary really struck a chord with us; we’re both into fitness in a large way, and the health arguments seemed compelling.”
The next day, Adam explains, they stopped eating meat, fish and dairy.
“We adopted a completely plant-based diet, and we’ve never looked back. We’ve now been plant-based for almost 3.5 years and we have never felt healthier.
“For New Years in 2016, we went on an amazing trip to Australia, and we saw just how many plant-based offerings there were in supermarkets and restaurants compared to London,” Adam adds.
“It’s easy to look at how spoilt we are in 2020, but the landscape was very different in 2016 to 17.”
Adam says his business is different to others in the market through trying to be more authentic.
“There are so many big players in the market with budgets infinitely bigger than ours, but we have never scarified our initial strategy of being open and transparent with our customers. I
“t’s why we openly admit and communicate mistakes we make, it’s why we share the bad parts of our business openly (such as using plastic pots). It’s also why we won’t compromise on using preservatives.”
He added: “Our mantra has always been: if we read an ingredients label and can’t understand half the ingredients on there, it isn’t good enough.”