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Danish Crown, one of Europe’s largest meat producers, has admitted that it failed to recognise the significance of the plant-based trend. In a new interview, the Danish pork and beef giant’s CEO Jais Valeur said it “has become clear” that consumers are no longer thinking and eating meat in the same way they used to—and that the company won’t make the mistake of overlooking vegan meat again.
Danish Crown, Denmark’s largest beef and pork producer and Europe’s largest pork producer, has admitted that they were wrong for underestimating the plant-based meat trend. “It has become clear to me that the way one consumes and thinks about meat is going to change markedly in the coming years,” remarked the firm’s CEO Jais Valeur, in an interview with Berlingske.
‘Beef isn’t climate-friendly’
The CEO went on to acknowledge the hefty carbon footprint of meat consumption. Beef, in particular, he described as a “luxury” that will only be eaten in small quantities in the future, as the climate emergency intensifies and public awareness of the environmental impact of meat production grows.
“Beef [is not] super climate friendly. It will be a bit like champagne, namely a luxury product,” said Valeur.
He also recognised the missed opportunity for Danish Crown to enter the sector and stay in touch with shifting consumer preferences a few years ago. “When I took office five years ago, Danish Crown was challenged in several areas. At one point, we were asked about plant-based foods and climate by some consultants, but declined that it should be on the agenda.”
Related: Denmark recommends carbon-friendly plant foods in new dietary guidelines
We were wrong about vegan meat
“I probably had my Beatles moment there,” Valeur continued in the interview. “Because it was a bit like rejecting the Beatles when they came out. Here, five years later, I would like to admit that we were wrong.”
Under his leadership, the meat giant will now be ramping up production of plant-based meat, as part of its goal to halve its carbon footprint by 2030. The move will also help Danish Crown keep up with consumer trends, as people continue to shift away from traditionally-produced animal products.
According to a Euromonitor global survey, as many as 4 in 10 are now practicing flexitarians who actively minimise their meat and dairy consumption. A separate report from Ernst & Young warned conventional meat producers of the “significant disruption” that this trend will have on their business, advising meat companies to “consider a more diverse portfolio” to protect their returns.
EY researchers estimated that the cost of alternative proteins, such as plant-based meat, will reach price parity with conventional meat by the mid-2020s, and even undercut meat prices by 2030.
Plant-based meat is here to stay
The remarks from the CEO of Danish Crown come as the vegan trend shows no signs of slowing down. It has taken over the F&B industry, from fast food giants like Burger King, which has launched plant-based Whoppers across the world, to high-end Michelin-starred establishments such as Eleven Madison Park, which turned its menu 100% vegan a few months ago.
Valeur isn’t the only company chief that has taken note of the huge disruption that vegan meat will have on the food industry, with Kevin Hochman, KFC president and chief concept officer, also making bullish comments about the future being plant-based.
Hitting back against skeptics who have described the vegan trend as a “fad”, Hochman said in an interview that he “envisions this trend will continue to grow”. KFC will now be aggressively pursuing a plant-based strategy— it has already launched vegan chicken nuggets and burgers across several of its global markets, but ultimately, it wants to develop a realistic 100% plant-based version of its iconic fried chicken product.
“Our plan is to try to replicate that Kentucky Fried Chicken as close as we can, obviously without using the animal,” he revealed.
Lead image courtesy of Beyond Meat.