Plant-based burger 1-1 Steak & ale pie

Posted: 27 November 2023 | | No comments yet

In what has been the year that plant-based was brought down to Earth with a bump, could sporting events be a key area of growth?

planted at forest green rovers

Planted offered their meatless products on matchdays at Forest Green Rovers Credit: Planted

Plant-based products have become commonplace on menus in almost every conceivable venue – whether it be fast food outlet or Michelin star restaurant. But what about your local stadium? Is the dominance of the (meat) pie and a pint waning? Like almost every other corner of the food and beverage market, plant-based options are beginning to permeate through.

In fact, Planted has become the latest plant-based manufacturer to partner with Forest Green Rovers, the world’s first vegan football club.

The manufacturer’s plant-based pulled-meat range is on sale in certain areas of the club’s New Lawn stadium, and fans have had an opportunity to sample the new products on matchdays.

According to Planted, the partnership was a no-brainer: “We wanted to partner with someone who had the same ethos as Planted and Forest Green Rovers fit the bill,” said Rob Reames, VP of Commercial, Europe. “We approached them to see if they’d be interested in featuring our products on their menu and it was a resounding yes!”

“As a Certified B Corp it was such a natural fit for Planted to partner with Forest Green Rovers. Our growth is driven by a hunger to create a sustainable, healthy, and compassionate future for all – consumers, planet and animals and we believe FGR shares the same goals and beliefs as us. They’re continually looking at new ways to push the boundaries of environmental consciousness in sport and that’s why FIFA branded them the greenest football club in the world.”

Matchday menu revolution

Planted’s foray into matchday menus is evidence of a growing trend in this sector of the food industry. Plant-based offerings are becoming more and more visible at big sporting stadia across the world.

You don’t have to travel back to the times of laced footballs and standing terraces to see an alternative – even just ten years ago you might have struggled to purchase anything outside of a pie, hot dog or a burger at most football grounds in the UK.

Fast forward to 2023 and 16 out of the 20 Premier League clubs specifically highlight vegan options on matchday food kiosks (others may well offer said products, but this information wasn’t clearly visible on their websites). Chelsea became the first Premier League club to offer a fully vegan food kiosk back in January 2020, partnering with catering provider Levy UK. Back then, Jon Davies, managing director at Levy UK, said: “There’s a demand for football stadiums to follow consumer demand for more sustainable, responsible and diverse food and drink options. Adopting a reductionist approach where possible will allow us to provide great-tasting, plant-based food as well as combatting food waste and reducing our impact on the environment.”

Across the Atlantic in the US, major sporting stadia have been offering plant-based options for some time now, with the Las Vegas Raiders’ Allegiant Stadium serving vegan pizza slices and the Atlanta Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium serving Beyond Meat burgers and vegan mac and cheese.

Planted’s Reames sees this trend only continuing, as more and more vegans and even flexitarians are represented in attendances across sport.

“Currently the vegan food on offer at most sporting events is lacklustre,” said Reames.

One in eight Brits are flexitarian, so there’s a huge market to cater for. Sporting events need to get with the way people want to eat nowadays and offer a better option – which is healthy, protein rich as well as tasty.”

Despite this opportunity for growth, there is no denying the fact that it has been a turbulent few months for the plant-based sector, with some big names experiencing a chastening 2023.

But Reames is confident that long-term planning is the key to success in this extremely crowded market.

“It’s been impossible to ignore the chatter surrounding the apparent decline of plant-based products in the UK market,” he told New Food.

“Despite the backdrop of mixed signals, certain truths remain evident: the brands that excel in delivering on taste, price, and sustainability continue to gain in popularity. The plant-based sector is still unfolding, and it’s the brands that invest in the long game – focusing on quality, authenticity, and innovation – that are poised to redefine our food landscape.”

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