The food industry is in the midst of a major shift toward plant-based alternatives, and consumers who already make plant-based foods part of their diet know that their flavour and texture has improved remarkably in the last few years. Some even taste just like meat.
Ontario-based Zoglo’s Incredible Food (CSE:ZOG) pioneered the art of producing plant-based meat substitutes and knows the ins and outs of this fast-growing sector as well as any corporate team, having been in business for nearly 35 years.
The company’s secret to producing top-shelf, plant-based proteins lies in its disruptive technology, which consists of a new extrusion process that builds fibres in vegetable proteins. The technology enables a texture that Zoglo’s Chief Executive Officer Anthony Morello calls “the closest thing to traditional meats that we’ve ever seen.”
Meanwhile, societal trends go hand in hand with Zoglo’s vision to become a global entity.
Studies show that a vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian diet not only has health and environmental benefits, but also a noteworthy impact on lowering food costs. An Oxford University study revealed that a vegan diet can cost some 29% less than a meat diet, while the flexitarian diet was the next cheapest.
In an early December interview with Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine, Morello explained how Zoglo’s leverages decades of experience to distinguish itself in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
Zoglo’s has been in business for much longer than most of its competitors. What makes the company unique in the plant-based food market?
When Zoglo’s first began, we didn’t refer to these products as being plant-based, but rather we called them vegetarian. A lot of products were good, but frankly not great, because of the technology available at that time. Over the last five years, there’s been a real technology shift allowing for plant-based products to come closer to the taste and texture of real meat.
What makes Zoglo’s different is our technology. A lot of our technology does not exist in North America yet. We have a distinct advantage over our competitors in the products that we’re making, which allows us to create a much wider assortment of options.
What do you make of the growing attention around the plant-based industry? Do you think it’s a fad or is it here to stay?
This is not a trend or a fad. Through the course of my career, I’ve seen a lot of trends in the food industry, whether it be sugar-free or gluten-free, but this is a complete food shift. It doesn’t hapepn very often. We’re on the cusp of seeing something that is going to change the way people eat.
There are three distinct groups of people that are looking towards plant-based as a solution for their dietary needs. Younger people, or Gen Z, are looking at it as a need to help the environment, or animal welfare. Older people, like myself, are hearing our doctors tell us that we have to eat less red meat.
In Canada, cultural reasons also play a part: so many people come from different facets of the world, where vegetarianism and veganism are a part of the diet. These three dynamics are making for a perfect storm of food development.
Zoglo’s recently acquired plant-based food producer Monday Swiss UK. What was behind the decision?
We wanted to have its specialized extrusion process at our fingertips. It allows for the production of pea protein or soy protein in a way that will give you a similar experience to meat from a mouthfeel and texture perspective. This is a really distinct advantage because it opens up the category to a much broader audience and attracts flexitarian consumers.
How are you planning to grow the business? Is it going to be organic growth or M&A?
There are going to be a lot of mergers and acquisitions in this space in North America over the next five to 10 years, but I think our growth will be a combination of both. Of all the different competitors we have in our space in North America, there’s a lot of small players that will likely not last. Other large players are going to get into it in a bigger way, and already Kellogg’s is dabbling with Morningstar, and Conagra with Gardein.
They’re all going to need some form of plant-based option within their portfolios. Also, plant-based options are going to appear more in the food service industry with restaurants. There’s great room here for growth and expansion, and certainly for M&A. We want to be the best that we can be in this space and carve out Zoglo’s as a brand that’s recognized globally.
What are the industry trends you’re noticing in the plant-based food market, and how are you attempting to utilize them to the fullest?
Trends are developed by the consumer at the end of the day, and wider acceptance of products is how the trends evolve. There is so much news, attention and awareness around plant-based lifestyles, not only from a food perspective but also from environmental and health perspectives. People are curious, and they’re continuing to evolve and develop their interests.
Our position is a little different than most of our competitors because of the variety that we’re bringing to the market. We’re offering the consumer more options to incorporate plant-based foods into their meals and diets.
Food is more expensive in grocery stores now. Have you found that inflationary pressures have affected your business?
If anything, plant-based food is going to become a more economical way to purchase food. The reality is the resources required to farm animals are getting more expensive. Again, the effect that it has on our climate and our soil is a challenge that we need to deal with.
There is so much more stability in the cost of raw materials with plant-based ingredients. Because plant-based products have a stable pricing structure, consumers can know exactly what they’re going to pay week in and week out for groceries.
Have you had trouble with supply chain disruption, and if so how are you tackling that?
No, we haven’t experienced anything as of yet, which is quite remarkable because we’re currently bringing all of our products from Europe. We’re manufacturing all the products in Europe at Monday Swiss.
Our plan is to open a production facility in North America by the end of 2022, take the technology that we have in Europe and essentially cut and paste it in North America.
That will do two things: it will ease the pressure of capacity in Europe so that we’ve got the capacity to continue to grow there, and it will give us more capacity in North America as we grow our brand and our product SKUs.
With the acquisition of Monday Swiss, we have access to a facility in the northeast US. It’s the right size and the right footprint for what we need. We’re looking at the new facility as a potential location for us, and if not there then somewhere in southeastern Canada.
Finally, are there any misconceptions about plant-based foods among people that you’d like to clear up?
The biggest misconception is that all plant-based food is created equal. We are a perfect example of that. We’ve been in the business for over 30 years. Our green box lineup was made with a different technology than the black box items we recently launched.
If you taste and prepare those products like meals, the food experience is vastly different. It is important to read the ingredient decks, look at the cooking instructions, and make sure that you’re getting what you think you’re getting. There are a lot of counterfeit products out there.
As time evolves, technology has allowed these products to get a lot better. Three years from now, it’s going to be much better again.
This story was featured in the Canadian Securities Exchange magazine.
Learn more about Zoglo’s Incredible Food at https://zoglos.com/.