DUBAI - Fresh from signing an agreement to be the preferred supplier for McDonald’s new plant-based burger, Beyond Meat is launching new products in the Middle East and debuting in India as it faces intensifying global competition.
Beyond Meat was one of the early start-ups that popularized faux meat and now the NASDAQ New York-listed company sees as competition food giants such as JBS, the world’s biggest meat supplier that said last month it will likely set up a new global company focused solely on plant-based products, as well as BRF and Tyson Foods.
The Los Angeles-based company will this year bring its Beyond Meatballs and Beyond Breakfast Sausage Links to the Middle East in response to the growing demand for meat substitutes, the company’s production and distribution partner told Salaam Gateway.
Beyond Meat’s new products for the Middle East will be supplied through Zandbergen World's Finest Meat, a Netherlands-based supplier of animal and plant protein products that has been working with the U.S. company since 2018.
“We’re introducing these two products in late May. Our presence in the region has been very positive in terms of expanding the brand and distribution,” Adriaan Figee, chief commercial officer, Zandbergen World's Finest Meat told Salaam Gateway.
Retail sales of plant-based meats reached $176.5 million in the Middle East in 2019, a small proportion of the estimated $18.6 billion global tally, according to Euromonitor International. The global sector is forecast to grow at an annual rate of 6.7% through 2024, with annual growth in the Middle East projected to be 4-5% over the next four years.
Beyond Meat is also debuting its products in India, already a substantial market for vegetarian foods. The India operations will go through UAE-based food manufacturer and distributor IFFCO, a subsidiary of Mumbai-based halal supplier Allana, according to Figee.
“We have chosen a new partner for India - IFFCO of Allana. They will represent our brand in the country. That’s a big deal for us,” said Figee.
Beyond Meat’s plant-based product range was available at around 94,000 retail and foodservice outlets in 75 countries as of March 28, 2020.
EXPANDING PRODUCTION TO MEET DEMAND
Beyond Meat launched its first product, Beyond Burger, to the UAE in late 2019. Today, its products, including plant-based beef crumbles, burger patties, and sausages, are used at foodservice outlets at hotel chains such as Jumeirah and Four Seasons in Dubai, Starbucks cafés, and by Emirates Airlines. They are also on retail shelves at Spinneys, Carrefour, Lulu, and Choitrams.
“The first market we came to in the [Middle East] region was the UAE. Since then, we have been working with JM Foods [a UAE-based food supplier] and Mezzan [a Kuwait-registered F&B supplier whose main office is in Dubai]. They import the goods from us, from the Netherlands, and distribute them to their customers,” said Figee.
One of the challenges Zandbergen initially encountered was getting registered and obtaining the necessary labels, especially in Saudi Arabia. This was partly due to regulators not being familiar with plant-based meat products as they were still new to the world two years ago, according to Figee.
In mid-2020, Beyond Meat expanded its production capabilities in Europe with the opening of its first co-manufacturing facility in the Netherlands to enable more efficient distribution of its products across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The facility is owned and operated by Zandbergen World's Finest Meat that also produces sustainable packaging for Beyond Meat’s products, including fully recyclable trays.
HALAL-CERTIFIED FROM DAY ONE
According to Figee, one of the first steps that Beyond Meat took prior to supplying the Middle East market was obtaining halal certification.
The company was certified by Netherlands-based Halal Quality Control, the European administrator of the World Halal Food Council, for 13 of their products, under regulations set by Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development (JAKIM) and Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).
“To be halal-certified in this region is a must. We took care of it from the start, when we started to build the facility,” Figee said.
Even though vegan ingredients are by their nature halal, plant-based meat producers are increasingly choosing to get halal certification for their products as a way to gain Muslim consumer confidence.
California-based Impossible Foods’s plant-based meat was the first plant-based meat manufacturer to receive halal certification in 2018. The company’s flagship product, the Impossible burger was certified by the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA) under regulations set by Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development (JAKIM).
Similarly, Al Islami Foods’ plant-based burger, launched earlier this year, was halal-certified for the UAE by the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology.
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