Feb 1, 2021
Of all the major meat companies, none has embraced plant protein in the way Canada’s largest meat company, Maple Leaf Foods, has. Not only has the company acquired two well-known plant protein brands—Field Roast and Lightlife—but it’s dramatically expanded those brands’ reach, enabling more meat consumers to enjoy these products.
In fact, Maple Leaf has put nearly a billion dollars so far into acquiring and now growing their plant-based protein lines. Part of that includes building a $100 million tempeh plant along with a $310 million plant-based meat plant, both in Indiana.
These are the kinds of numbers that even the biggest alt-protein start-ups dream of, yet it’s a meat company that’s making it happen.
In this episode, we talk with Adam Grogan, an executive at Maple Leaf’s plant protein division Greenleaf Foods. We’re also joined by the company’s Chief of R&D, Jitendra Sagili, a meat industry veteran who’s in charge of a team of 90 food scientists, many of whom are working to innovate the best new alt-proteins for the meat-eating consumer.
We talk about a lot of things, including whether Maple Leaf sees plant-based meat as cannibalizing their core products or merely as supplemental to them. We discuss their efforts to put plant protein not only into the meat aisle, but also into the meat itself. We learn that ironically, Lightlife was a vegetarian but not vegan brand pre-acquisition, and it took a meat giant like Maple Leaf to convert all their products to be animal-free. And we learn that in just a few years since acquiring Field Roast, Maple Leaf has tripled the size of the business.
And yes, we also touch on the controversial ad that Lightlife placed criticizing fellow plant-based meat purveyors and get their thoughts in retrospect about it. (Here’s Impossible Foods’ response.)
It’s a riveting conversation offering a window into the world of a major meat company that’s trying to diversify its protein portfolio as a way to reduce its footprint and win the consumers of the future.
Discussed in this episode