Actual Veggies, which makes vegetable-only burger patties, has announced a distribution partnership with Plum Market. In a bid to tempt meat-eaters away from conventional burgers, its products are being merchandised next to meat items. Actual Veggies does not attempt to recreate meat flavours or textures. Its burgers are a clean label alternative to animal products, not a substitution.
The decision to display next to meat items builds on a trend set by Beyond Meat when it launched its Beyond Burgers in 2016 at a butcher counter in Whole Foods in Boulder, Colorado.
Why no plant-based meat?
Founders Hailey Swartz and Jason Rosenbaum created Actual Veggies in 2020 after not being able to find restaurant-quality vegetarian burgers in grocery stores. They did not want plant-based meat, just clean, vegetable-tasting burgers. What started as a passion project to create food items they wanted to eat turned into a viable business opportunity.
Today, the company is backed by Big Idea Ventures, amongst others and has secured $3 million so far, with a Series A raise is planned for later in 2022. Products were released to market in under a year, with all recipes tested and developed in-house in the company kitchen. 600 retail locations currently stock Actual Veggies, including Sprouts, ALDI, and Plum Market. Within the next four months, an additional 1,500 locations are expected to come on board. Online availability remains in place, with Canada’s Vejii being the latest platform to stock the brand.
Give the people what they want
Talking about targeted demographics, Rosenbaum told Green Queen, “Our ideal customer is anyone looking to replace meat with healthy alternatives. We are out to prove that veggies taste amazing for everyone.”
He went on to clarify whether Actual Veggies is competing with plant-based or conventional meat. “Both. Some retailers, like Plum Market, have placed us next to real beef burgers in the refrigerated section. We are actually the first veggie-tasting burger to be placed next to real beef in the refrigerated/fresh section. This is a huge milestone for us and we are expecting other retailers to follow suit.”
When designing the products for Actual veggies, Swartz and Rosenbaum worked to the principle that 50 percent of meat alternatives eaters do not want their food to taste like animal protein. They coupled this with research that told them 90 percent of Beyond Meat customers regularly eat animal products but people are switching to plant-based options for their health. They cite health as the primary reason consumers choose meat-free food. Creating veggie burgers that look and taste like their constituent ingredients, the packaging took cues from Beyond Meat. “Our packaging is meant to take the form of Beyond Burger and just like Beyond Burger, retailers can place us in the freezer or in the refrigerator,” Swartz revealed.
Despite new distribution channels opening and future funding rounds planned, Actual Veggies faces a challenging time. Launching when tasting events could not go ahead has meant raising brand awareness has been tough. Gaining recognition as the first-ever vegetable-tasting and looking burgers to be sold alongside meat options is hoped to remedy initial difficulties.
Clean label as an emerging trend
As consumer awareness grows about how and where food is produced, clean labelling is becoming a trend. Brands that already align with minimal ingredients, all of which are recognisable, are ahead of the curve and offer health conscious shoppers an alternative to heavily processed or unnatural ingredients.
Last year, Canada’s Chinova Bioworks announced it was helping companies pursue clean label status. The development of a natural preservative, made from upcycled mushroom stems, will assist manufacturers in removing artificial ingredients that consumers are starting to avoid. It can be used in food and drink products, without affecting the taste.
Madrid’s Pink Albatross is making its mark as a plant-based ice cream startup with no nasties. The company prides itself on using only ‘ingredients you can draw’ in all of its flavours.