NEXT! Foods, one of the world’s most exciting and innovative plant-based start-ups, believes that New Zealand will see a huge uptick in flexitarians and reducetarians in 2021 (those choosing to cut down on their intake of red meat, but not going completely vegan) as the pandemic encourages Kiwis to take a closer look at their diets and lifestyle.

Numerous studies have shown that Covid-19 has made plant-based diets more attractive. In the UK, a report from researchers, Mintel, revealed that that a quarter (25%) of young Millennials (aged 21-30) say that the COVID-19 pandemic has made a vegan diet more appealing. Globally, Google Trends data shows that the popularity of veganism is now at an all-time high, surpassing the prior all-time high registered in 2019.

“It’s a rapidly growing, ever-evolving industry and the pandemic has only added fuel to the fire. The global market for plant-based meat alternatives is projected to grow to $2.1 billion NZD by 2022. In New Zealand alone, I would estimate that the plant-based meat market has already grown from next to nothing to $30-40 million annually,” says Biren Doshi, co-founder of NEXT!

“There has been increased consumer interest in healthier eating in general, as a result of the pandemic, and that combined with innovation and the development of more great-tasting meat alternatives for consumers to choose from, has led to a boom in plant-based meats.

“Shoppers are also looking for ways to show compassion and make a positive difference, during what has been a difficult, tumultuous time. Reducing animal protein may be seen as a way of tackling the climate crisis and showing compassion for nature, alongside the perceived health benefits.”

NEXT! Foods recently launched its NEXT! Extra Crispy Bacon Style Strips in Countdown stores across New Zealand. Believed to be the world’s tastiest, most realistic plant-based bacon, the strips cook, sizzle and taste exactly like bacon. But they are completely meat-free.

NEXT is also planning to bring its super realistic Chick’n Chunks to New Zealand next year. It pulls apart like real chicken, and is moist, giving home cooks the satisfying taste and texture of meat without any of the downsides.

“Over the past year, we have seen incredible technological innovation in the plant-based food industry. The quality of products, and their likeness to animal-based meat is astonishing,” says Biren.

“The plant-based meat industry and the technology involved is just getting started, which is extremely exciting. If I had to make a prediction as to what the future might hold, I would say that the lines between meat and meat-free products will become more and more seamless. Plant-based bacon and sausages will increasingly share the same space as their meaty counterparts, in the chilled section.

“Prices will continue to come down as the technology develops and larger numbers of stores bow to pressure from consumers. In years to come, I don’t think we’ll even be talking about plant-based versus meat in the same way – it will simply be an accepted, commonplace choice, in the same way than any of the traditional proteins are. That’s something I can’t wait to see.”

For more information on NEXT! Foods, visit nextfoods.co.

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