Plant-based products provider Plant-It began trading in Ireland in mid-January. While it hasn’t been easy launching a food brand during a Level 5 lockdown, marketing director Mark Ryan reports that the brand is performing well beyond expectations.
"We want to be a brand that meets the demands of an expanding flexitarian consumer base and broadens the existing portfolio of meat-free options,” says Mark Ryan, marketing director, Plant-It. “For us, it’s about improving choices so that consumers that want to have a little less meat in their diets are not compromising on taste or the variety of meals that they can enjoy.”
At their production facility in Dublin, where all Plant-It products are made, they have developed their own in-house texture technology which, they believe, allows them to mirror the taste and texture experience of meat while being reassuringly plant-based.
“We use real chopped and sliced vegetables, frozen at source to lock in their goodness and avoid unnecessary waste, all sourced as close to home as possible,” says Ryan. “Finally, we deliver an eat that is a viable alternative to meat, and we do this by adding vitamins and minerals to our blends. These are vitamins and minerals that tend to feature minimally, or not at all, in traditional plant-based diets.”
Your range of meat-free, chicken-free and vegetable products are available in Spar, Avoca, SuperValu, Fresh and Tesco. Will you be expanding the range of retailers that you supply to this year?
We started with the likes of Tesco, SuperValu and Spar in January, with Avoca and Fresh coming on board a few weeks later. We had been running tests in around 50 Tesco stores and 30 SuperValu stores, so the first quarter was all about proving the concept with these retailers. On the back of a strong promotional launch and targeted marketing campaign, both tests performed above expectations. In addition, Plant-It was named as Ireland’s favourite meat substitute brand at the V Awards by wasted.ie, within three months of its brand launch.
In the past month we have now expanded into the majority of Tesco superstores in Ireland, and with SuperValu we are rolling out into 154 stores from the end of April, with another 200 Centra stores to launch in June.
We know that the frozen food category is in good growth at the moment but space is a real barrier to entry for frozen food products. As a result, we’ve installed branded ‘treezers’ in a number of stores and that has helped drive brand awareness and has added a bit of theatre to the frozen food category in-store.
As Ireland begins to hopefully open up over the next few months, we’ll be bringing the Plant-It story to deli, foodservice and QSRs across the country.
Our expansion ambitions then move on to the UK, the US and Europe as we plan to have a presence in at least five other markets by the end of 2021.
Why did you decide to partner with Trees on the Land?
It was a logical fit, given the name of the brand, and we wanted to give something back to the communities that were buying our products. Trees on the Land are industry experts with sites all across Ireland and they were really happy to work with us.
They have also been a big help in connecting us with similar partners in other markets as we expand into the UK, Europe and the US over the next few months. The vision for Plant-It remains the same: wherever our products are sold, we plant native trees in that market.
What portion of the sales from Plant-It products is dedicated to reforestation and planting initiatives in the UK and Ireland?
At the moment it is more than 100%, as we have invested in this initiative ahead of our launch. Ideally, over the next 12 months we would like to get to a point where we can tell consumers that for every two or three Plant-It products purchased, we plant a tree, but we are not there just yet.
We have already planted around 15,000 trees across eight locations in Ireland and we have ambitions to double that amount by the end of the year as we broaden our availability across Irish retail.
How important is the widespread adoption of veganism to the creation of a more sustainable world?
Rather than focusing on promoting veganism, we want to bring more consumers into the plant-based category. We know that 75% of the Irish adult population are open to meat-free once a week (Pollfish survey, January 2021) and we want to cater to that audience and help make going plant-based more mainstream.
In terms of sustainability, it’s at our core, in our name, and in our commitment to making an environmental difference.
We recently announced our new partnership with Thalia Heffernan, who is a great fit for what we want to do as a brand, and we are excited to grow our platform and spread the ‘Choose Good, Do Good’ message.