Plant based food in Poland

There is enough space for new companies, new products and research for the plant-based sector in Poland, that is something all experts and speakers underlined during the New Food Conference organized by ProVeg Polska on September 7.

 The New Food Conference, as the organizers declare, is the first and largest conference in Europe devoted to alternative protein sources. The Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands was a strategic partner of this event.

vegetarian finger food
©A.Murawska

The population of our planet could increase to 10 billion people by 2050. Each year we have fewer resources, and we will have to feed more and more people. Food production has a significant influence on the condition of our planet. In view of the deepening climate crisis and the loss of biodiversity, we should focus on more sustainable methods of food production and more environmentally friendly food. This is where plant-based foods come in.

The plant-based products sector is one of the fastest growing in the agri-food industry.

The global meat-substitutes market size is estimated to be valued at 1.615 billion euro in 2021. It is projected to reach 3.4 billion euro by 2027. For example, 15% of milk market in US is occupied by plant-based milk alternative products. In the US, the market for plant alternatives is growing faster than for their animal counterparts (the freshness effect of the market). In Europe, the situation is steady, but we are also seeing an increase in the value of this sector.

More and more companies producing animal products are starting to invest in the market of plant alternatives (e.g. Cargill that invested in Bflike, German super group – PHW which is one of the biggest producers of poultry, invested in Beyond Meat and strengthens the cooperation with other plant-based producers).

The sources of plant-based products are soy (highly imported to EU countries), wheat and peas. In the EU, companies are focused mainly on peas (peas have a good image among consumers in Europe), which is important due to the new EU policy.

Plant-based products and especially plant-based meat substitutes are becoming more and popular not only in Western countries, but also in Poland.

ceasar salades with plantbased 'meat'
©Murawska

Polish market of plant-based products

The increase of the plant-based products market in Poland by 49% within last 2 years is observed. 8.4% of Poles declare that they are vegans or vegetarians. 93.3% of people consuming an plant-based alternatives, consume meat. A certain change in the eating habits of Polish consumers, slowly growing awareness of consumption, greater care for the environment, according to many consumers, is associated with reducing the consumption of animal-based products are observed in Poland. Polish consumers of plant meat substitutes are looking for new solutions to exclude meat and animal products from their diets.

Undiscovered areas of plant-based products are eggs, seafood, fish – especially on the Polish market. In the case of plant substitutes for fish and seafood, NoVish products which were present on the Food Forum were of great interest. NoVish is the Dutch plant-based fish and seafood producer. As Rafal Czech, founder of Bezmięsny-Mięsny - the first Polish plant-based ‘butcher’, said: The market is highly absorbent and there is still plenty of free space for new companies.

All plant-based producers presented on the New Food Conference underlined that dialogue with the consumer  and understanding the needs are a very important elements of development. Marcin Tischner from ProVeg concluded: There is still a lot to be done when it comes to the quality of plant alternatives.

vegan burger
©Pexels

Stores, commerce and the consumer

The Polish consumer is currently (due to pandemic) very confused about purchasing decisions. He visits stores less often but buys more at a time. +3.2% increase compared to the previous year for food products is observed. This increase was also favorable for the plant-based foods sector. Marcin Tischner from ProVeg stated that in the covid period, the value of the alternative plant-based products market was increasing despite fears that it should be shrinking.

As already 37% of polish consumers strive for a meat restriction in their diet, mainly in the big cities, the market segment of plant-based foods is growing. The highest annual growth is in plant-based yoghurts - almost 60% increase in sales. Moreover, the sales level of plant milk and drinks is increasing (stable growth of about 20-25%) and ready meals (especially in the last pandemic year). Retail stores see the potential, proven by Biedronka – one of the largest retailers in Poland – already promoting plant-based foods in their advertising and marketing.

Many retail-stores are expanding the offer of plant-based products and create own brand of plant-based products (own brand in this sector are 39% of all purchased products in this section in Poland). It is very important for Polish stores not to misuse the names of animal-based products, especially due to new EU regulations and to reduce the list of ingredients of all plan-based alternatives, especially due to Clean label (that is a term used in the food industry, emphasizing that the product is natural and does not contain artificial additives) - became the basis element of local and healthy products.

Portal Happy cow- logo
©HappyCow.net

HoReCa sector

Warsaw is the 6th most vegan-friendly cities in the World according to the popular ranking made by HappyCow (2021). Although interesting plant-based alternatives to meat for consumers are still lacking. This is especially visible in the HoReCa market.

Search for improvements to meat imitation products is one of the biggest and most important challenges in this industry. There is there is still a large shortage of these products, especially in HoReCa sector.

We should not be afraid of “meatiness” in plant-based products. Rafał Lankosz, from Unilever, argued. Plant-based products are allowed to look, feel and taste like meat, and especially in countries where meat is an important part of the diet, consumers are looking for such products. Sebastian Tołwiński from Upfield agreed with him, stating that the current decade is the time for the flexitarians. Today, flexitarians make up the most important consumers of Polish plant-based products companies. It is for them that new alternatives to animal products are created, it is for them that the market changes. 55% of Dutch people and 30.5 % Germans are described as flexitarians, that is, ready to give up meat for a few days a week.

According to experts, a big threat to the plant-based food in HoReCa is the boredom, the price, the time-consuming nature and the taste of the vegetables. The dishes must also
be insta-friendly. This is a major challenge for the market (especially during pandemic), that is why companies also invest in the education of business partners, including chefs, chefs and managers.

As Marcin Tischner from ProVeg Polska pointed out: There are still a shortage of certain categories of plant-based products on the market - cheese, ready meals, meat substitutes, bakery products and of course, eggs.  Creating new plant-based products for specific purposes, e.g. plant-based milk for coffee (more intense, better foaming) in one of the goals for plant-based food companies.

Carbon footprint

Eliminating animal products from the diet can reduce our carbon footprint by up to 73%, Magdalena Wróbel-Jędrzejewska states, from the Institute of Agriculture and Food Biotechnology. During the Food Forum, many food producers emphasized that the problem is trying to make carbon footprint information an element of marketing. Despite this, there is still no detailed information on the carbon footprint labeling. It was stressed, however, that honesty, inclusiveness and transparency are the values by which producers of plant-based foods should be guided.  

 It’s not just consumers but also education, science, government. Science and government should support consumers choices, Carolien Spaans, Agricultural Counsellor at The Embassy of The Netherlands in Warsaw, stated in her speech. Carolien referred to the Dutch Protein Strategy – a wide and ambitious plan to reduce dependency on protein imports (especially soy) and to increase production of plant proteins at the EU level. This strategy is at its core designed to make The Netherlands and its food production and consumption more sustainable for the future.

Plant-based will help to increase sustainable food production. And as stated above, the Polish plant-based food market is growing  but there is also still plenty of room for new products and new companies. Polish consumers are waiting with curiosity and enthusiasm for new solutions.

According to experts presented at the New Food Conference the question is not that will plant-based products dominate the food market, but when it will happen.

LAN-WAR: own report: OH