Cauliflower outperforms meatless burgers

11-06-2019

Tiny entrepreneurial start-up Caulipower’s vegetable-based pizza achieved $45 million in US sales in 2018, its first full year on the market, and is anticipating $100 million this year. That’s a far more impressive performance, says Julian Mellentin, director of food business consultancy New Nutrition Business, than that of meatless burger maker Beyond Meat, which managed US grocery sales of $50 million in the same year, despite massive publicity, hype and over $200 million of investment.

“The success of Caulipower – and other plant-based brands just like it – underscores that consumers don't want extruded plant protein burgers as much as they want convenient, all-natural vegetables,” says Mellentin, author of a new report, “How to succeed with the plant-based food trend: Four strategies for success – and one to avoid”.  

Caulipower – and tens of brands like it, from PepsiCo’s Off the Eaten Path to Love Beets – align closely with what the health-conscious consumer wants, says Mellentin. Plant-based products with short ingredient lists that are ‘natural’ and ‘least-processed’ link strongly to the eight consumer motivations that are driving the plant-based food trend, he adds.

For many consumers, for example, having even just 20% or 30% of veggies in a burger, cookie or pizza crust gives the product a health halo that makes it seem like a better choice – and, in the case of Caulipower, offers a gluten-free alternative to a conventional pizza. 

“The plant-based food trend presents companies and brands with a major growth opportunity, but they need to choose strategy carefully,” cautions Mellentin. “There are five strategies that food companies can choose from. One of these – plant-based meat substitutes – is already a hyper-competitive market. But there are four other strategies that offer much better opportunities for building a profitable and sustainable business.”

“Burgers made from plant proteins are held up as the next growth market – and Silicon Valley investors are getting excited about their money-making potential,” he says.

“But many of these investors will be disappointed, because the meat substitute business is already underperforming and seriously overcrowded compared to other plant-based offerings, and fails to meet consumers’ needs for simple, natural and least-processed foods.”