In The Competitive Plant Meat Space Is Vegan Jerky The Next Big Thing?

Feb 15, 2024

In case you hadn’t noticed, plant meat is here to stay. Plant mince is now in supermarkets alongside meat trays, and plant burgers, sausages and nuggets are in freezer cabinets. One New Zealand company is hoping that plant meat snacks will become just as familiar.

It’s probably surprising to learn that most employees in growing vegan jerky business Off-Piste Provisions aren’t vegetarian. In fact, founder Jade Gray previously worked in the meat and dairy business for 20 years and was Head of Butchery Operations for meat supplier OSI in China.

Sales Manager Will Baldock feels this is an advantage in the space. “A lot of people expect us to be preachy when we’re talking about vegan products, but I’m happy to tell them that after we chat, I’ll be off for a steak down the road,” he says.

“We know the market is expanding and more people are adopting flexitarian eating incorporating plant foods into a meat diet for health reasons. While plant meat has been done to death, the associated products space is still largely untapped. We want people to know we’re offering an alternative healthy snack.”

A gap in the market

Having gained popularity during WWII as a handy snack for troops, the worldwide appetite for meat jerky has grown exponentially. This is partly due to the increased demand for protein-based snacks compared to carb-heavy options.

According to recent data published by Meat and Livestock Australia, meat jerky is worth $40 million nationally with a “high growth opportunity” in the future.

But with few companies making vegan jerky in New Zealand or Australia, three years ago Jade saw a gap in the market and spent time in R and D to come up with a pea protein alternative which was lower in calories and fat compared to traditional jerky. He was later joined at the Auckland-based business by Will whose food industry background includes senior positions at Kellogg’s and Botany Group.

With Jade a keen skier and adventurer, he knew how important healthy snacks are when you’re in the great outdoors – hence the name Off-Piste Provisions. Respect for the environment and sustainability are fundamentally at the core of the brand.

Now selling in 600 stores across numerous channels, Will feels the company’s ethos and identity has played a part in its success.

Wait .. this isn’t real meat?

Having showcased the products to Australian industry at Naturally Good 2023, which was the company’s first event outside of New Zealand, Will says people were impressed.

On show was the entire range of jerky, biltong and newly released Plant-Based Crackling which amazed with its replication of the real thing.

“In order to call the product crackling we had to prove there was a difference between a crack and a crunch, so external testing was completed to validate this,” says Will. “We’re very science driven with all the products. It all comes down to texture and taste. If it doesn’t feel similar, then people won’t buy it.”

Most visitors to the stand were initially curious as to what was in the product. “We’d explain that we are the only plant-based jerky on the market made from pea protein that is also gluten free and dairy free which has a texture that is exactly like real jerky.

“Before going on any further I was asking people to try it. Nine times out of 10 people were floored after eating it. We even had some people trying the sample without knowing anything about it and not realising it wasn’t real meat.”

Will says the show was a great opportunity for the company to get feedback on the product and meet other exhibitors and suppliers. “We were also approached by buyers from WH Smith who wanted us on their shelves just four weeks later which we didn’t expect, so that was amazing. It gave us confidence that there really was a market for the product in Australia.”

Showcasing again in 2024, Will says the company wants to keep the momentum going by securing more Australian retailers. The business is also looking to expand into other countries and is poised to push harder into the US.

Off-Piste has also partnered with researchers in Singapore to create alternative meat from fermented bio-waste. The business is raising $14 million to build an export-grade plant to support its global ambition and expand the fermentation opportunities


The role of the conscious consumer in the market

One area of the market Off-Piste is sure will swell is that of the conscious consumer.

Environmentally, the statistics around meat production are startling. “We came to the realisation that the biggest personal impact on climate change is through the greenhouse emissions of our food choices with 37 per cent of New Zealand’s emissions coming from livestock,” says Will.

Considering that 1kg of New Zealand beef has 15 times the emissions as 1kg of legumes, as consumers become more educated about the effects of mass meat production on the planet, there is expected to be a larger demand for more sustainable products.

“There’s a lot of plant-based synergy at a show like Naturally Good and visitors are already opened minded,” says Will.

“However, it’s still all about the taste. That’s why we’ll continue to refine the product that will satisfy plant-basers and entice the most hardcore of carnivores. It’s been really exciting so far and we’re proud to be playing a part in creating a regenerative food system that will serve us well into the future.”




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