Launching in the UK later this year, The Simple Root is a new global plant-based brand using the creamy texture of root vegetables, herbs and spices to create delicious dairy replacements. The pipeline covers cooking sauces, dips and cheese alternatives. The initiative is backed by Pilot-Lite ventures and McCain, working closely alongside creative ventures firm, And Rising.
Consumer growth of plant-based alternatives is pointed skyward. Over the past year, there has been a 40% increase in vegans in the UK, reaching over 1.5 million. Participation in Veganuary also increased over 25% to 580,000 and looks set to be even more significant in January 2022. The US is reporting similar figures, with growth in the population identifying as vegan going from 0.4% to 3.5% in just two years.
The main reason for becoming vegan is animal protection (46%), with personal health and the environment being secondary drivers. Meat production is a primary planetary concern. With plant-based and meat replacement technologies becoming lower cost and more giant in scale, it seems likely that many of us will be eating significantly less of it in the years to come.
But to get to scale, plant-based technologies are going to have to tackle more than just animal cruelty and the environment.
In 2016, teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse bought an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette from Pret A Manger in Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport. She began to feel ill during a British Airways flight and suffered a cardiac arrest. Despite her father administering two EpiPen injections, she died from anaphylaxis. Later, it transpired that the baguette contained sesame seeds.
From October 1st of this year, "Natasha's Law" will require labelling that will help better inform consumers of what's going into their food. But there's no getting around the fact that dangerous food allergies are on the rise. In the US, the number of people suffering has doubled every decade, with two children in every classroom now susceptible. What's odd is that parents of these children most often don't suffer anything themselves. Research points to a combination of better diagnosis and environmental factors.
Plant-based foods are core to the movement of 'free from' foods marking a shift in what we put in our bodies. The health problems associated with the foods we eat give an important ulterior motive to switch. Whilst we claim we want to help the planet, and we may want to signal this to others, every consumer decision is fundamentally a selfish one.
US research completed in 2017 illustrates this cognitive dissonance well: 99% agree we have planetary problems to face, but only 1% think those problems will affect them personally. Adopting a plant-based diet is promoted widely by documentaries like Netflix's "The Game Changers" as a source of personal health, wellbeing, vitality and strength.
But "Natasha's Law" has brought a different perspective: buying a baguette in Pret A Manger seems dangerously close to home. Both nuts and seeds are used in a lot of plant-based alternatives to provide texture or taste. There is little point in saving the planet if we are at the same time putting our own health at ever greater risk. Our adoption of plant-based alternatives can only happen if the right brands step forward between personal and planetary motivations.
The Simple Root is the latest major brand in this category to launch in the UK. It promises to offer people the simple 'route' to enjoying snacking, cooking and sharing favourites. Louise Wymer, UK CEO of The Simple Root announced:
"The versatility of our unique ingredient base enables us to quickly follow our UK launch with a robust innovation pipeline of plant-based products from The Simple Root, like desserts that offer the indulgence that consumers crave, but without dairy or nuts. We can't wait to launch this game-changing range in the UK."
The Simple Root uses innovative technology to transform root vegetables into a creamy taste and texture that people love from dips, spreads, sauces and 'cheeses' with barely any processing, low carbon footprint and locally sourced ingredients. People can now enjoy dairy treats without dairy or other allergens such as nuts, soy, and eggs.
The Simple Root puts taste and flavour at its heart with versatile cooking sauces such as bechamel, truffle and cheese, pesto and a range of dips such as roasted garlic and herb and smoky chipotle.
Lara Spizzirri, Global Chief Technology Officer for McCain added:
"Our patented technology truly delivers a creamy and smooth ingredient base so we can create dairy and nut-free versions of consumers favourite foods, like cooking sauces, dips and cheese spreads, making it easy for them to upgrade their food choices easier, but with no sacrifice to taste or texture."
In the end, consumers adopt new foods because of their tastes. Being plant-based or allergen-free is not an end in itself. This is what makes The Simple Root so important. By thinking food, not cause first, the plant-based movement can step even further towards the mainstream.