Flavour is important for plant-based proteins, but to spark real change in what people eat, texture is everything, says Anna-Kajsa Lidell, co-founder of Swedish plant protein firm Food for Progress.
Using a Dutch extrusion technology for soybeans, the company developed Oumph!, a range of soy-based strips, chunks and fillets, available unseasoned, or in varieties like Thyme & Garlic, Salty & Smoky, and Grill Spiced. Although the brand is clearly meat-like in its texture and flavours, its creators have deliberately avoided calling Oumph! a meat substitute.
“What makes it different is that we decided not to look at it as a meat replacer. We decided that we wanted it to be good enough to stand on its own,” said Lidell. “We don’t believe that people want to eat something that’s a substitute for something else. We believe people want to eat something that’s tasty.”
The company is driven by a mission to create truly sustainable food, and Lidell is clear that money is not its sole driver. Measuring the company’s success also involves changing the way people look at plant-based foods. “To create massive change, texture is everything. As far as we believe, we are working with the best texture and taste in the world. It is the combination of those things that is the real jackpot,” she said.
Despite disagreement over the exact environmental impact of meat – estimates of its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions range from about 10% to as much as 51% – there is a growing consensus that moving toward more plant-based diets is necessary for a sustainable food supply. The Oumph! brand was developed with this in mind.
“Food for Progress is all about food that fits within our planet,” said Lidell. “We call it ‘one planet food’, a wording with roots in the WWF. We have to eat in a way so that one planet is enough for nine or ten billion people.”
Scandinavians have a strong interest in sustainable eating, so the brand intends to appeal not only to vegans, but also to meat-eaters looking for tasty ways to include more vegetarian foods in their diet. But with so many meat alternatives available, how is it possible to convert meat-eaters to this particular product?
“We just make them taste it,” she said. “It has such a wow effect that they want to have more of it and share it with their friends. That’s how we get the snowball rolling.”
The sector is extremely promising, she says, and Oumph! has attracted interest from around the world. It is already in major Scandinavian retail chains and is set to launch in Whole Foods Market in the UK. In addition, Lidell said that not comparing the products to meat was a powerful tool, allowing consumers to draw their own conclusions. “When they get it into their mouth, they make the comparisons themselves. That’s the strong thing: we don’t tell people what to expect.”
About Anna-Kajsa Lidell
Anna-Kajsa Lidell is co-founder of Food for Progress, a Swedish company that aims to lead a shift toward green proteins in the Nordic region, both through its own brands – Oumph! and Beat – and by bringing a new mindset to the global food sector. Anna-Kajsa and her partner Anders Wallerman aspire to implement a new food logic that can rapidly transform the market. Originally a communication strategist, she is now Head of Progress Strategy at Food for Progress.