Nicole Astra: Welcome to Talking Plant Protein. My guests today are going to talk with us a little bit about the story behind our food. We have Benjamin Voiry, Head of Marketing Pea and New Proteins for Roquette, who has been a pioneer in the plant-based market from the beginning and Annette Licitra with Passionette Palate, a holistic wellness coach and vegan chef. Welcome to both of you.
Annette Licitra: Thank you.
Nicole Astra: Thank you so much for joining us today. Let's start with you, Benjamin. Tell us a little bit about your background and what you do for Roquette.
Benjamin Voiry: So, I'm working at Roquette as Head of Marketing for Plant Protein. So, Plant Protein is part of Roquette and as a head of marketing, I'm really trying to develop with those market teams ingredients that will be suitable for this plant-based food, in fact. Answering there is a need for the consumers that are looking for this new type of food. So, understanding what are the expectations and at Roquette being the ingredient suppliers we can fulfill these needs to make it very basic and explain what I do.
Nicole Astra: Okay. And for you, Annette.
Annette Licitra: I'm a certified holistic health coach and also a vegan chef or plant-based chef. So, I focus on transforming people's lives from the inside out, through delicious life giving foods and also some other holistic wellness approaches. And I was actually in the corporate finance industry for quite some time, working within large food companies. So, that's pretty much my background and how I shifted to doing what I'm doing now so I'm working more in the health field.
Nicole Astra: So, let's start there, because you both have unique perspective, a bird's eye view on ingredients, and they just are not all created equal. How has that changed in the last couple of years, the integrity of ingredients?
Benjamin Voiry: Yeah. In fact, so we are talking about food and part of the food is made with ingredients. And I said to Annette there's plenty of different types of ingredients that can make food. And it really depends on what you expect, what you want to target. And back to the expectation of the consumer, sometimes you are very interested in the new patient profile of the products you buy because you are focusing on some key regions like proteins or a little bit of carbs or a little bit of fat, and this can be linked to the way you formulate your products or your ingredients.
But you may focus on the other type of expectation, like your claims, I think no specific ingredients, like no gluten, for example, or no soy sometimes is expected. So you have to formulate like that. But back to your point also in terms of food integrity or ingredient integrity is really of so not to be, not in line with what the customer may expect from the products meaning that if you buy something that seems very interesting, for example, a plant-based food during placement, you expect that its nutrition is not any better, which means if its high fat or higher fat compared to the equivalent that is animal based, it's not so good. So to be true in what you promote and what you sell and protein will be, we play a role in that achieving a right quality of show of your finished product.
Annette Licitra: Yeah. I was going to say, I think it's interesting too, that there are so many formulations that are going on behind the scenes. So working in the corporate finance field is just seeing the products change almost on an annual basis a couple of years and the ingredients. Typically it's about the bottom line. And so it's how do we actually shift the ingredients to make more money for the company? But I think we're also seeing a lot of just the consumers starting to ask for more, a lot more cleaner ingredients, which I think is amazing and so we are seeing a little bit of a shift there.
Nicole Astra: And that's why integrity for where our foods are coming from, how they're manufactured, how they're processed, really how they're getting to market, is more and more prevalent with the demand from the consumer. So Benjamin, what do you make of the rise of the flexitarian? People really making different choices about what they're putting into their bodies?
Benjamin Voiry: Yeah, no, definitely. If they want to understand what they are begging in this case. I mean, it's not just to say it's plant based food. It's plant based protein. It's not a new fat. They are the one to understand what can be the source of the protein. They want to get an understanding of where this protein is coming from. What are the attributes of this protein?
So we see that as back to the practice point in time of cleaner eating, better products, this is a version for sure. Let's not forget also that when it's formulated by any food companies the product has to taste good to get the right texture, which is to keep improving because every time it's easily familiar to also sometimes to achieve this improvement, thanks to the new ingredients or thanks to the new technologies. But it's really then never forget that when you buy your food, you buy your story behind that. It's more and more important for the consumer and if I want to add cues of things that matter for the consumers will be related to a healthier image of the product. And what is growing a lot is the need for sustainability, the impact of buying food, but that's on the planet and this is more and more important, so in addition to the clean label.
Nicole Astra: How has innovation at Roquette been driven by consumer demand?
Benjamin Voiry: I mean, we'll start with an example, not to explain everything, but in an entirely discipline-based food business, growing a lot. In the past you were having access to two main sources of protein. So you're on one side, very famous, severely cost-efficient. A good protein in terms of nutritional quality, having a good amino acid score. I mean, technically, but it's a good protein. And then the other side, you have the wheat protein gluten, but it's largely the [inaudible 00:06:51] but it's good in terms of nutrition, a nutritional standpoint, but too cost-effective. And it was only missing another source of protein and this new source of protein that is now becoming mainstream. It is a pea protein, meaning the target as invested as a negligent manufacturer in this new crop, it's a [inaudible 00:07:16]. So it's a kind of a product that has 25,000 protein inside.
And that has been processing it to incite this protein, but it can be used by the food industry. And this new protein was really matching the new expectation from the consumers. So to this extent, we were innovative by providing to the market this new protein, and then after building on that the aim was not just to provide this protein to the market it was really also to provide some things in terms of functionalities to be incorporated in different food metrics that we're looking for in this plant based protein. Basically that's part of the innovation that we were providing at Roquette.
Nicole Astra: And that's awareness around the environmental impact of the things that we eat. Has there been a shift for your manufacturing or processes?
Benjamin Voiry: I would say it's really in the world value chain that it has a value. So the value is for the farmer. Let's start from that. As a farmer has an interest to cultivate the crops such as PEA in addition to what they have in term of [inaudible 00:08:28] if they add this into their crop. So when safely in five or six years for example, the plan PEA and PEA has the ability to fix nitrogen from the air, meaning that you don't have to add this fertilizer. So this is a great thing for the farmer, but also in term of under [inaudible 00:08:52] and then this is then valued also by us by taking these whole materials. It's just one part of the story, but it's really valuable for everyone to get new crops, a new source of protein that can be cultivated in North America, in Europe.
It's also cultivated in Russia and other parts of the world, but it brings a lot of value for the farmers and the meanings that it has a value when for the final consumers that may value this, something that is local, a local protein. So for these main markets of North America and Europe, and having this sustainability attributes, but can be valorized by food companies, but they all have a different approach, but it can be the right by some food companies.
Nicole Astra: Annette, how about you with the clients that you deal with? Has there been more of a priority for them for eating local? For eating organic?
Annette Licitra: Yeah. I am definitely seeing a lot more of that where people want to join kind of the slower food movement or trying to support more local, just to try to get a little bit more variety, because eating, even from farmer's markets, you're going to get a lot of different types of foods there that you may not actually see in the mainstream supermarkets, but there's definitely a push because people are really focusing too on their immunity and wanting to just feel better. I'm seeing a lot of people just not feeling well and a lot of people within the chronic illness or auto-immune categories. And they're feeling that, and they're just starting to become more educated in what's going on their plate and they're focusing a lot more on plant-based because they know it's working, they see it's working, they see that it's actually helping in the healing process and just making them feel so much better, giving them so much more energy, better sleep.
But yes, there's definitely a drive for that. And I'm really finding a lot more people are seeking out gluten-free and also plant-based eating whether it's plant-based protein, but it's just there's a lot more people that are becoming more aware of how their bodies are feeling and how they should be feeling. So, yes, they're definitely sourcing more plant-based and especially more local.
Nicole Astra: And the options now have become so much more sophisticated plant-based in food and beverage, health, beauty, wellness, nutritional supplements, the applications are endless. So where do these big ideas come from? Might be too broad of a question even, but where do these big ideas come from that companies like Roquette then really start to dig in with their R and D?
Benjamin Voiry: This is a good teacher, is that Roquette has always been in the plant based business and the plant based activities. So it's for us, it's not to say it's against animal activities and it's not the point, but it's good that we have been in the plant-based activities. That being also close to our customer and trained to understand the consumer, you may have tried things. It may fly. It may not fly, but it was to be with this pea protein in maybe at the right time and after we may have a more positive approach because back to the point of Annette, the meaning of this is people are going to plant-based for plenty of different reasons. I saw because they are a matter of education, a matter of personal feeling for when they reach [inaudible 00:12:26].
So we follow that and we want to bring our additional solution to that. Meaning that, as I said, we said that we have a solid return on the PEA and maybe a new protein source will be needed or new format, or the way you consume. The example you were giving us on the fact that there's a nutraceutical different plant based meat from this theory is also the fact that they are people who want to consume this in a different way. So there are a lot of expectation that brings us to be innovative, to conserve its needs.
Annette Licitra: There's a lot of allergies and food sensitivities to soy and to wheat. So I think having alternative proteins is essential because so many people are feeling the effects of eating soy or eating corn or eating wheat. And people are starting to look for different things too, in place of that. And it is essential to have some sort of alternative or substitution, which is driving I think part of the demand as well.
Benjamin Voiry: No, it just to confirm if this is one of the attribute of PEA that was brought to the market, it was really to visit different statutes in terms of to name them allergenic statutes. Even if, let's be cautious, when you consume you need to be aware of what you are consuming. So we recommended ways to say it's pea protein. It's very important, but also related to the GMOs that use whatever you think about it, things like that were of importance for the different consumers.
Nicole Astra: Let's talk about projections, where do you see the plant-based market going next?
Benjamin Voiry: Yeah. And in addition to that, it means that in terms of market categories at the beginning, there was specialized education. So let's say nutraceutical products are for weight management or sport nutrition that move very quickly to this new plant based protein. Now we know that the dairy alternative has been growing a lot and is quite mature. A significant percentage of the sales force data, let's say we often say 10% is taken by plant-based alternatives compared to the dairy counterparts. And we know that this momentum is also moving to meet where it's less. So that means maybe we are closer to 2 or 3% of the meat that is plant based, but that there's also a de-growth to come. And also it means in terms of developments, it will not be limited. For example, if we take plant-based meat like burgers also to a more sophisticated alternative what we used to call the [inaudible 00:15:18] obtained by also new technologies.
So there's a big move to give access to more format, not type of food. And we even believe at Roquette that in terms of projection for the future in let's say mid, long term, even the comparison with animal parts will not be done. That means because the new generation will be educated differently. We'll add a taste of plant protein, and sometimes we will not make the comparison with the animal parts. It will be a kind of new cuisine, new type of products and even when we come back to that new texture or renew tastes. And it's a journey for the plant data upon this food. And it can go in several directions.
Annette Licitra: And I also think too, with the rise of even just seeing wellness centers and just more holistic methods happening, people exercising, doing whatever it is that they're doing and watching more documentaries, wellness documentaries even rolling out. People are becoming a lot more aware and as things are shifting in that direction and people are feeling it and seeing it, I just see things continuing to grow and that market really continuing to expand.
Nicole Astra: And I think that education and awareness really is what's driving that demand for integrity as well. What are some of the top reasons behind this explosion?
Annette Licitra: I definitely see that there, we need to do better on this planet. We really do to take care of this beautiful place that we live. And we're seeing just lots of different things happening with the amount of animal protein that is being raised and how quickly it's being raised and how they're eating is what we're eating. If you're eating animal protein and what they're being fed is not necessarily the cleanest options and also when they get sick they're administered a lot of antibiotics, which is something that when we're eating animal protein, we're consuming. So we're consuming a lot of that. So, I mean, there's a huge health reason, but then it's also, how is it affecting the planet in a sense of how much room do we need to raise all these animals?
What type of gases and emissions are they emitting because it's just pretty gross actually, but there's so many reasons, we need to not just take care of, of course our health, but also be very cognizant of how we're treating our planet. This is the only planet we have to live on. And how is it degrading? And that just goes in so many different ways. It could be with the land, with the water, with the air. There're so many different drivers to that.
Benjamin Voiry: Yeah, exactly. I can share three. It's not just a personal behavior. Part of it is for health reasons, you take it for you because you see a value to that, but the sustainability, something better for the environment or the planet is very important. And there's also when you do some survey that there's a link between what is healthy and sustainability. It has to be both at the same time. You may have sometimes some of the things unlike animal welfare, but in this case, it will be more related to people that are vegan in this case. When we know that also a big part of the group of plant-based food is linked to a more flexitarian diet. That means when you eat less of the animal base proteins. So there's not just one reason, but the health, yes, the statutes of the products, the fact that it's better for the environment as a reason to buy this type of product after the reason not to buy it. But if you sell the two main reasons to go for a more plant based diet.
Nicole Astra: Annette, what excites you the most about the plant based market growing so rapidly?
Annette Licitra: Everything. There's so much available, and there's so many beautiful foods to play with. And when I say play with, I just mean create in the kitchen and just it's an art. I mean, culinary is an art and there's so much available. And when it comes to baking and being gluten free myself, I find it to be extremely helpful for me to see so many different options out there and alternatives and ways to bring that to my clients and just bring it to the world, is just being able to play with so many different foods and create so many different foods. But seeing all of these products come to market really helps with shifting the type of plates and recipes that I'm able to create.
Nicole Astra: Well, and to your point, consumers want it all, right? We want it to look good, taste good. We want that exceptional culinary experience. And so if there's anything the plant-based market is lacking, it might be that as a whole, but we are headed that way. And that's what's so exciting. Benjamin, can you let us in on any secrets coming up for Roquette or anything that excites you that we should be looking out for?
Benjamin Voiry: I mean, for me, what is very exciting is, first it's because it's related to food and I do like food.
Nicole Astra: That's why we're all here.
Benjamin Voiry: Very interesting. Yeah. And, and after that it's really because I think we all work to make things better because we have some challenges and it's exciting also because we know that we target things done in a better way. So it's not that I like problems, but we like to work together with our customers, because we all learn for this side is something new.
So we have to learn to make the things that are good back to the point of the things that tastes and textures are a reason. Sometimes it's not to go for plant-based. So people would like to consume them but if they are not satisfied with the taste of the textures, we miss once there's a need. So I tell you, I think to work on to improve what we provide today is already, I believe good. What you find on the market from several players brings a real value for the consumers, but we will improve and we will continue to improve. So this is very exciting.
Nicole Astra: And it's just not going to stop. There's going to be more and more product available to the consumers. It is very exciting. And I thank you both for joining us today, bringing your unique perspectives to the story behind our food.
Annette Licitra: Thank you so much.
Benjamin Voiry: My pleasure.