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New Zealand foodtech startup Off-Piste Provisions has launched one of the country’s first vegan jerkies. The launch follows a record-breaking pre-seed funding round that saw the young company raise NZ$1.5 million in just 48 hours. The capital has enabled Off-Piste to break into the growing plant-based snack market, one whose sales are predicted to reach US$73 billion globally by 2028.
Development of the perfect jerky texture was the result of a year-long R&D project between Off-Piste, Massey University, and Callaghan Innovation, as well as a government grant of NZ$200,000. The result is a pea and fava bean-based snack that is soy and gluten-free, with a hefty 45% protein content. The vegan jerky comes in three flavours including Sweet & Hot and Teriyaki, and offers what Off-Piste claims is the realistic chew that cured meat provides.
Protein-packed vegan snacks
According to founder and CEO Jade Gray, Off-Piste vegan jerky is a response to not only a shift in buying habits but also consumption style. Gray has identified that younger generations are no longer looking to eat at regular junctures and favour grazing throughout the day instead. Despite snacking, the same consumers are also more health-conscious, choosing nutritious small-portion foods to keep them satisfied. “Millennials and Gen Zers on a plant-based diet don’t want dead calories: they want every bite to count, both nutritionally and as an eating experience,” said Gray.
Designed for meat lovers
After dairy, the red meat market is New Zealand’s second-biggest export market, and is backed by a strong group of legacy players. Persuading consumers to try a vegan alternative is no small feat and the fact that Gray used to manage a beef cattle farm helps to build bridges with meat-loving consumers. As part of this bridge-building, Off-Piste has accepted a NZ$20,000 grant to participate in a Foundation of Arable Research study that aims to educate progressive farmers about the potential of a plant-based meat sector in New Zealand. Findings will be published in 2022.
Leading by example, the company has earmarked the latest funding for further R&D, expansion, and distribution increase. Starting with the North Island and three products has allowed for a manageable uptake. Now, thanks to an agreement with Foodstuffs South Island, a further nine products will be hitting the market in early 2022. The supermarket chain operates over 200 stores, guaranteeing brand exposure.
New Zealand’s growing alt protein ecosystem
Alongside Off-Piste, a number of startups have sprung up across the country to offer meat and dairy alternatives in response to a rising demand from environmentally conscious consumers, in order to make a meaningful contribution to the COP26 commitments made by government officials. Livestock currently accounts for 86 percent of New Zealand’s methane gas emissions, so by offering animal-free alternatives startups are driving sustainability forward.
Daisy Lab is an alt-dairy manufacturer out of Auckland using precision fermentation founded by a former dairy professional. As the world’s biggest dairy exporter, making inroads into country-wide systemic change is critical. The country’s powerful dairy lobby was recently exposed in Milked, a recently released documentary detailing the industry’s many ills.
After a successful crowdfunding campaign earlier this year, Christchurch-based Berkano Foods announced the development of a range of vegan meats. The company already produces plant-based ready meals, but the development of proprietary pea protein and tofu meats is a significant expansion. Products will include vegan beef, lamb, and pork, with market readiness expected by 2022.
A growing demand for animal-free jerky
Expecting to see demand increase, Gray is readying the Off-Piste jerky team for another funding round, in early 2022. “We have been blown away by the interest shown in our products, despite it being early days for the venture, and are subsequently gearing up for a seed round in the second quarter of 2022 to ensure we can meet demand,” he said, adding that “2022 will be a big year for the fledgling brand as we also plan to launch into key global export markets.”
The vegan jerky sector is a growing one, with plant-based alternatives to chewy protein-heavy snacks more popular than ever. A number of companies have either adapted their business models to focus on vegan ranges or launched to tap into the promising sector.
Canadian company Noble Jerky made the bold move of switching to only non-GMO soy plant-based products in 2018, having previously been a meat jerky manufacturer. This resulted in a 70% increase in revenue in 2020.
Meati, an American food tech based out of Colorado, is using mycelium to create its vegan-friendly jerky, shunning more common soy, pea and wheat protein bases, the use of mycelium is designed to be ultra sustainable and tasty.
Over in Hawaii, Moku offers up jerky that tastes like bacon. It’s made from king oyster mushrooms. The company’s notable backers include the founders of Thrive, Casper, and Soylent.
Lead image courtesy of Off-Piste Provisions.