How Trends Like Flexitarianism Are Increasing Product Demand #YNYERFutures

27 November 2017


IN the second of our think pieces about productivity, Kevin Brennan, CEO of Quorn Foods explores how sustainability isn’t just a nice to have anymore. Particularly with the rise of flexitarians and millennials it has real consumer demand.

“AT Quorn, when we produce protein, we don’t start where other people start with livestock, we source our protein from the earth, for its long-term benefit.

Quorn Foods is a business that is meeting the needs of a growing demographic who are switching to alternative sources of protein for health or environmental reasons. The innovation required to create such products places the brand and Stokesley on the global stage and at the heart of an important issue for generations to come. Contrary to the food sectors predicted difficulties, Quorn have seen a 19% global growth in H1 of 2017. It’s a shining example of how innovating in line with consumer trends and building a brand considerate of wider global issues, has put Quorn and Yorkshire on the map.

A trend towards flexitarians

According to data from Mintel, 35 per cent of people in Britain say they are “semi-vegetarian” while research by Barclays shows that Generation Z consumes 57% more tofu and 550% more non-dairy milk than millennials.

The global population is demanding protein sources that are both healthy and sustainable. Big food conglomerates that once dominated in the 80s and 90s have seen sales plummet and are beginning to see the cold, green shoulder of the increasingly health conscious and sustainably minded millennials and generation Z.

Many are part of a growing movement of “flexitarians” who eat meat and animal products sparingly. This is not just because of the health benefits, it’s also due to the environmental impact. In the digital age people are becoming more conscious of global, ethical issues. It’s becoming hard to ignore the calls to think more sustainably when the effects are so widely broadcast. It’s easy to see the impacts of intensive farming, the sweeping destructions of tropical storms and the research pointing strongly towards long term, climatic change. The evidence has become a simple few mouse clicks away as information has gone viral.

A global corporate sustainability report published by Neilson in 2015 indicated that 66% of consumers would pay more for a product if it came from a sustainable brand. 73% of global Millennials were willing to pay more for sustainable offerings.

The millennial generation has a wider range of consumer choice before them than any other generation. Sustainability seems to be on their radar and they’re even willing to pay more for it.

Combined with generation Z, they’re swiftly growing in terms of buying power. This will only keep expanding as more and more of the generations reach peak purchasing power. They’re defined by their technological savviness and increasing immunity to usual business tactics.

How are Quorn addressing these market trends?

Mycoprotein (Greek for fungi-protein) is the main ingredient of Quorn and has several distinct advantages that reduce its manufacturing impacts

  • 90% lower carbon footprint than animal protein such as beef.
  • It takes just 2kg of wheat to make 1kg of Quorn product, compared to 12-24kg of feed needed to produce 1kg of edible beef.
  • The fermentation process requires less land and water.

Building a sustainable brand is more than just production however. Quorn’s operations are also environmentally conscious. In 2012 Quorn was the first global company to achieve Carbon Trust certification for a number of its products. In 2015, Quorn achieved zero waste to landfill at its Stokesley site, while the Methwold site followed closely with 99%.

Quorn also recently invested £2m in a new CHP plant, in partnership with Veolia, which resulted in a vast improvement in CO2 savings of 2000 tonnes per year.

These sustainably minded investments are paying off. Contrary to the sectors predicted difficulties, Quorn have seen a 19% global growth in H1 of 2017. Regardless of Brexit forecasts, Quorn foods growth has been strong in the EU, where the company continues to invest. Growth has also expanded outside the EU, with business up 40% in the US and 35% in Australia while new markets in Asia continue to expand. It’s expected to be a $27 billion brand by 2027.

Gone are the times when sustainability was just an ethical businesses choice, it’s a market trend that’s showing no signs of slowing down.

An ethos that resonates with Generation Y and Z

Modern consumers are demanding more from brands. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is being given an ever higher premium by consumers. Conveying this CSR to Millennials and generation Z requires an open, honest conversation and effective storytelling.

Quorn foods isn’t a company that’s simply jumping on a market trend or food fad however, producing food that’s has both conscious of the health of its consumers and the planet is at the centre of its ethos. And is clearly something that resonates with the consumer of today.

This is a great example of how Quorn are benefitting from a market trend. Understanding about how market trends are relevant to businesses is one the of the questions we are asking as part of the discussion on our strategy, so please contribute your view by filling out our short survey.