PBWE: where next for plant-based?

A visit to Plant Based World Expo Europe (PBWE) on 16 November 2023 , the biggest 100% plant-based trade event in Europe, showcased delicacies from across the globe – including Brazil, Netherlands, France, Germany, Belgium, and more.

Set in the most vegan-friendly city in the world (according to Happy Cow, the online listing service) we were introduced to never-seen-before innovations including Fois Green by French company Aberyne, to calamari rings by seafood brand Happiee.

Some of the foods on show were jaw-droppingly good to taste – take a bow Redefine Meat for its plant-based meat that lived up to the billing of providing the experience of meat with the same taste and texture as traditional meat, but using plant-based ingredients.

Others were not as good; it’s easy to argue that some producers were trying too hard while some had gone in the wrong direction as their products simply didn’t deliver. Despite new product development and promotional activity, the taste (and the price to some extent) of some meat-free products are still major barriers.

The latter was a common finding. This wasn’t my view, but those to whom we spoke – from exhibitors to visitors.

There’s no question plant-based is here to stay, it’s just where does it go next? Companies at the show, including Upfield who manufacture Flora butter, made no secret of the fact their plant-based options are less resource-intensive than their traditional counterparts.

Every category has seen an explosion of plant-based alternatives. The problems is repeated sales activity, particularly when you look at the amount of reduced stickers on a lot of plant-based products across the retailers. It seems the gloss may be fading as the crossover into mainstream and everyday is proving challenging.

Now the hard work begins.

One of the topics that was ventured, time and again, was a move back to basics.

The plant-based industry has the opportunity to re-emerge stronger. This can include introducing new flavours or ingredients, reformulating existing products to make them more nutritious. But, in the end, taste will always win out. Consumers will buy into foods and drinks whose taste they trust. This will help to grow the plant-based industry. Despite current challenges, there is still a lot to play for in the plant-based evolution.

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