Alpro, owned by Danone, plans to invest around Â£ 41 million in the UK to increase production capacity for its plant-based products at its Kettering facility and “improve” its sustainability credentials. Spending includes Â£ 17 million on a new high-speed production line, a state-of-the-art cogeneration system and a water system that will reduce energy consumption, CO2 emissions and water requirements on site.
At an introductory event, Alpro Managing Director Sue Garfitt described the news as a âguideâ for doing business in Great Britain, a market the Belgian brand entered in 1996.
Alpro has shifted the axis from niche to mainstream
When Alpro first became available in the UK, the alternative dairy products were seen as a niche for people with dietary restrictions, Garfitt thought. Today that has changed.
The plant-based dairy-free sector in the UK has seen “exponential growth” and is now worth Â£ 636 million, according to IRI figures. Alpro played an important role in expanding the category, believes Garfitt. It is the market leader in the category with a sales value of Â£ 259.6m and brought 2.2m new buyers to the range last year. That is 70% of consumers who were new to the alternative dairy sector.
âWe worked incredibly hard to expand the category to the Â£ 636 million opportunity it is today. We have no intention of slowing down. There is no reason why we should “,Garfitt asked attendees at an event to present the investment in Kettering. “Our business has shifted along its axis, no longer just a niche, but very much mainstream and available to every consumer.”
This step into the mainstream has enabled Alpro to increase its brand value. Today is the 27thNSLargest brand in the UK, from 100NSPlace seven years ago, the company announced.
Garfitt intends to build on this dynamic by continuing to encourage more shoppers to try plant-based dairy alternatives. “We have the bold ambition to continue down this path by inspiring more and more consumers to enjoy the many benefits of plant-based products with Alpro.”
Of course, growing categories is easier said than done. However, Alpro believes two megatrends will continue to support the expansion of plant appeal: health and sustainability.
Sustainability in the “DNA” of Alpro
Garfitt said sustainability had become an issue for consumers, especially millennials and Generation Z.
“If we continue to produce and eat food and use the earth’s resources as we are now, we will need two planets by 2030.”The UK manager emphasized that food accounts for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions.
“What can we do against it? What can we do from the point of view of the food and beverage industry? “she asked.
One of the answers that Alpro advocates is: âEat more plant-basedâ. If a buyer chooses to “put plants first for a day,” they could save 1,500 liters of water and 2 kg of carbon, Garfitt claimed. “If we do this as individuals, as families across the UK, we can do this.”she said.
âIt is of the utmost importance to us that sustainability is seen by everyone as the ultimate movement that it is. Our mission is clear from our inception and has been further consolidated in our Feeding Our Future with Plants program … on how we can promote a more measurable diet change towards a plant-based diet by 2025. ”
At Alpro, it’s not just about what we eat, but how and where it’s made. The Kettering site, the âhomeâ of Alpro’s British plant business, has reduced energy consumption per product by more than -40% over the past 13 years and operates zero waste to landfill.
The aim of the latest investment round is to make production at the site even more efficient. It includes the installation of a combined heat and power plant for the simultaneous generation of electricity, heat and cold from the combustion of gas. This will allow the factory, which runs on 100% renewable electricity, to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions, the company said. In the meantime, a new water treatment plant will reduce water consumption and see 218 mÂ²3Water is reused on site every day.
Local production is also important for Alpro’s sustainability history, continues Garfitt. It will cut the number of trucks bringing Alpro’s products into the country by three quarters and reduce CO2 emissions associated with transportation.
âThis is a very important message at the moment, not least because it enables us to produce here …Garfitt explains.
“Alpro is leading the way to a more sustainable and regenerative planet by putting our air, climate, water, land and biodiversity impact first in our business practices.”
Vegetable for the health of people and the planet
The Alpro UK executive believes that increasing consumption of plants is not only good for the planet, but also good for people. In particular, she stressed that increasing the number of herbal products in our diet will bring benefits to the health of the population.
âThere has never been a better time to choose herbal, not just for the health of the planet but the nation as well. There is a growing consensus among policy makers, academics and international organizations that a stronger plant-based diet is a fundamental part of the solution to the challenges of today and tomorrow. “
Alpro pointed to evidence from the UK’s National Food Strategy that poor diet contributes to 64,000 deaths a year and costs the economy Â£ 74 billion in England alone. A study published in the Journal of NutritionNoted that the UK government could cut its health and social costs by Â£ 5.21 billion if only 10% of the UK population included plant-based foods in their diet, noted Nutrition Manager Kate Arthur.
âThere is a growing understanding that a stronger plant-based diet is a fundamental part of solving the challenges of today and tomorrow. This is a consensus of many policy makers, scientists and international organizations such as the World Health Organization, EAT Lancet and the European Commission. “claimed Arthur.
âPlant-based foods – things like fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and plant-based alternatives – tend to be higher in fiber, they are heart-healthy because they are low in saturated fat, and they are jam-packed with a number of vitamins and minerals. “
Arthur said all Alpro products are “really healthy” with no saturated fat, sugar or salt. “They are not high-fat, sugar-salt foods, our entire range is a very healthy range.”she stressed.
Garfitt added: “What sets us apart is the fact that we consider the health and sustainability of the planet and of course its people in all of our decisions.”
Growing distribution in âwhite spotsâ areas
Alpro wants to expand its “mission” to offer consumers “healthy and sustainable” plant-based products by improving accessibility and availability.
Today the brand is available in over 25,000 UK stores – more than twice as many as any other herbal brand, Garfitt noted. âBut we won’t stop here. There are still many stores that we are not in, there are still many occasions that we are not present, you still cannot go to some places and find an Alpro product and that is really our mission. We want to accelerate this further [to] bring the health of herbal products to the nation. It also enables us to think about how we are contributing to the health of our planet and the sustainability of our planet. “
Garfitt told FoodNavigator that Alpro wants to make sure there is a plant-based Alpro option wherever consumers are. And although the brand benefits from a relatively strong distribution in retail and hospitality, it has identified a number of “white spots”.
âWe are working to accomplish this mission, but there are some specific blank spotsâ¦ There are many other places we would like to be. If you work in the travel industry, if you work in the hospitality industry, there are still blank spots that we need to target and provide. “
Food service is a particularly important channel to support consumer experiments and consumption, the plant expert continues. Alpro continues to make progress in this area.
âWe have a very big business with coffee chains, we work very closely with Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Pret a Manger and all coffee chains. That accounts for around 10% of our total business today. We see this as an opportunity.
âHot drinks allow us to try a plant-based coffee, breaking any barrier consumers might have on taste. It makes it very accessible. It’s also very universal. When you think of Starbucks or Costa, there are people of all ages. It is very important to encourage people to consume in this arena. “Garfitt explains.
Looking ahead, Alpro aims to have a positive impact on the health of people and the planet through growth and to play a role in Britain’s efforts to move towards net zero. âWe want to do our part in the 10 years that Britain has set itself the goal of changing the structure of our more sustainable ways of working and living. I am firmly convinced that Alpro has a chance. “