INTERVIEW: Heura Plant-Based Chicken Co-Founder Bernat Añaños Martinez On Vegan Revolution “There Is No Stopping Us”
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Bernat Añaños Martinez, CMO of Spanish plant-based startup Heura by Foods For Tomorrow. The 30-strong team, who call themselves “rebels with a cause” at Foods For Tomorrow, have recently partnered up with Green Monday to launch their products in Hong Kong and Singapore on Green Common’s menu and shelves, and at restaurants in the Grand Hyatt Singapore. Below is our exclusive interview with Bernat, who talked about his hopeful vision for the future, innovations for Heura and the plant-based world, plastic-free packaging, the sustainability of soy and being inspired by younger generations.
Founded in 2017 in Barcelona, Heura by Foods For Tomorrow is a vegan self-funded startup offering a range of plant-based chicken products. The Heura brand is available in retail and foodservice nationwide in its native Spain and is now launching across Asia, Europe and South America. In the midst of our current climate emergency, the company’s mission to offer more high-protein and nutritious plant-based foods at a fraction of the environmental cost to our planet has resonated with customers and buyers alike. Their product’s ingredient list is also impressively short and on the ‘cleaner’ side as compared to other plant-based meat products on the market.
GQ: Welcome to Hong Kong! Thank you for coming in to speak with us at Green Queen, we are so excited to be speaking to you. Let’s get started. Can you talk a bit about whether you would consider yourself a vegan, and if so, what is your reason?
BAM: Yes, I am vegan. My main reason for adopting a vegan diet is sustainability. Obviously animal rights comes into the mix, but for me, I want a world for future people, whether or not they are my children.
GQ: Could you tell us a bit about the brand name Heura?
BAM: Heura doesn’t have a specific meaning, but it sounds Mediterranean, which is important because this is where our roots lie as a company. We want to give Heura our own meaning, which started off to just be a name for plant-based chicken, but now we want to define it as any plant-based meat experience. We want Heura to mean the “butcher’s shop of the 21st century”!
Sure, we all have our differences, but most people in the world love animals and our planet.-Bernat Añaños Martinez
GQ: Do you think that it is possible for the entire world to go vegan?
BAM: It will come on its own – it’s inevitable. There are so many companies launching plant-based products, and they are our allies. And there are worldwide movements gaining traction. So people are asking for change, and companies are innovating. Once plant-based meat becomes as accessible, democratic, and looks, tastes and costs the same as traditional meat, the entire world will choose it. Already, many people recognise that our future cannot be taken for granted, and we need to be responsible with our consumption.
GQ: Is that what you mean when Heura says that it isn’t a meat substitute, but a “successor”?
BAM: Yes, I truly believe that when the experience of plant-based meat is the same as animal meat, it will take over. Vegans and non-vegans have almost the same values. Sure, we all have our differences, but most people in the world love animals and our planet. It’s just that meat has become engrained in many food cultures, so what we need to do is to get plant-based meat everywhere. And there is no stopping that.
GQ: What is the biggest misunderstanding about Heura?
BAM: That it is for vegans! It is so annoying when people see Heura, and say that it is great for vegans only. We don’t create products for vegans – we make 100% vegetable-based products for everyone. It isn’t meant for a niche sector, it is for all omnivores, flexitarians and vegans.
GQ: Do you think that a plant-based revolution is already underway in Asia and across the world, or are we not quite there yet?
BAM: It is happening! Meat eaters and non-meat eaters all know that we need change now, even if some have already made bold steps while others haven’t gotten round to it yet. It is a revolution because even meat producers are betting on the plant-based market. This is a great sign – meat manufacturers betting on plant-based protein! There is hope if even meat companies can see that a huge and growing plant-based market and that meat consumption is going down.
GQ: What is the vegan food scene in Spain like?
BAM: It’s getting bigger. Obviously, vegans are still a small part of the population because Spanish food culture has meat at the centre. But in Spain, the younger generation in particular are much more aware about how our consumption affects the world. Whether it is about plastic use, the ethics behind meat eating or carbon footprint, they are really conscious. So we are seeing more people skipping meat, little by little.
We have always been aware about Amazon deforestation, and we have never sourced beans from the region.-Bernat Añaños Martinez
GQ: You just mentioned plastic waste. Can you tell us a bit about how Heura is doing in terms of plastic packaging?
BAM: We have just gotten to the point where our entire frozen range is plastic-free, using only recycled paper and packaged as simply as possible. Our chilled range still uses plastic, but we are actively studying options. As our products grow in volume and become more accessible, we will continue to make our products more plastic-free. We aren’t perfect yet, and we cannot fight all the fights alone. So we are working with partners to build a plastic-free product soon.
GQ: Given what we are seeing in the Amazon, which has raised awareness about the role of soy cultivation in deforestation, can you tell us how Foods For Tomorrow is navigating this problem since the main ingredient in Heura is soy based?
BAM: From a nutritional point of view, soy is really unbeatable. It’s high in protein, and our product has to replace meat protein. For us, we have always been aware about Amazon deforestation, and we have never sourced (soya)beans from the region. We wanted to avoid any kind of deforestation, so we source from Europe, especially from Serbia. Our main aim is sustainability, so we definitely took that into consideration.
GQ: What future innovations in the plant-based food scene do you see?
BAM: We will see at least a doubling of plant-based options, whether it is plant milks, eggs or meat. Heura will continue to focus on meat, and we are already developing 100% vegan beef and pork. Who knows if we will explore fish in the future, or maybe even a duck alternative! I think we will see plant-based options for every single thing. This is great, because no one wants to destroy traditional food culture, we just want to adapt it and make it sustainable.
GQ: Aside from our current food system, what is the biggest environmental issue in your opinion?
BAM: I think perhaps transportation. But again, there is a lot of hopeful innovation happening on that front, like developing more electric cars. Let me think…a lot of things are related to the food system! If I had to pick, I would say the problem is the way the world is not well divided or coordinated. We aren’t doing enough working together. We need to coordinate as one, because in the end, we are one – we only have one planet. So one big step we all have to make is communicating more, partnering up and raising consciousness together.
GQ: What do you think is the biggest challenge that young people face today, and what advice would you give them?
BAM: Young people are giving us the lessons! The climate movement is driven by them. I get emotional just thinking about it. All I can say is that I will stand right next to them to push their mission forward, I want to help amplify their voices. There are no more excuses, and they are telling us that we need to stop, or we will be stopped.
GQ: If you could travel back 10 years, what is something you would tell your younger yourself?
BAM: To act more. To not be afraid of creating something, even if you might fail at first. Marc and I, just two millennials trying to change the world. I couldn’t believe it myself that 2 and a half years later, here I am in Hong Kong, and going to Singapore. So I would say don’t ever be afraid of failure, less talking, more acting!
GQ: Final question – we have to ask: team rice or team noodles?
BAM: Wow. This is actually so difficult! But if I had to pick, I’d choose rice. My favourite rice dish would be curry with rice, and Heura of course!
Lead image courtesy of Green Queen.