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Global Expansion Tips for Plant-Based Businesses

Worldwide demand for animal and dairy protein is slated to reach $1.2 trillion by 2030 per Bloomberg Intelligence, reflecting significant opportunities for plant-based brands eyeing global expansion.

“Emerging plant-based companies in the U.S. can theoretically benefit from expanding their distribution internationally as long as they don’t stretch their finance, marketing, and manufacturing resources too thin,” Michael Ashley Schulman, Partner & Chief Investment Officer at Running Point Capital Advisors, told The Food Institute. “International expansion opens up new markets, increases revenue potential, and leverages international trends and demand.”

Global Demand Signals

In a recent survey conducted by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), 88% of respondents expected consumer demand for plant-based products to increase, indicating continued global growth in the plant-based industry.

Additional stats from NSF’s 2022 report reinforce the global growth outlook from multiple touch points:

  • 40% of European consumers plan to reduce their meat intake and substitute plant-based options.
  • 67% of U.K. consumers say their purchases of plant-based meat and fish are driven by environmental concerns.
  • In Brazil, 30 million people reported considering themselves vegetarian in 2018, a 75% increase since 2012.

“It’s becoming clear that plant-based lifestyles are more than just a fad; they’re here to stay,” Matt Taylor, Senior Manager of Consulting, North America, Global Food Division at NSF told The Food Institute. “We expect to see more plant-based companies expanding beyond the U.S. and into other markets globally.”

Tips for Expanding into New Regions

As Schulman notes, emerging plant-based companies may want to establish themselves domestically before learning the ins-and-outs of foreign markets and focus on one country or region at a time when they do initially go abroad.

“Careful planning, understanding of local markets, and product differentiation are essential for successful growth; talking with local companies about potential partnerships or joint ventures may help,” said Schulman.

In a recent article by Green Queen, legal and regulatory expert Mathilde Do Chi shared 10 tips for plant-based brands on how best to label their products when entering new regions. Here are the top five with author’s commentary:

5) Highlight nutritional benefits: “Plant-based products have been viewed as healthier than animal products due to their high fiber content and the fortification of vitamin B12 and iron. Don’t shy away from displaying the other nutritional components of your products such as being high in protein and low in fat.”

4) Emphasize versatility: “Introducing new foods into one’s diet may seem daunting at first and can be easily remedied by guiding people on ways to best incorporate them into their daily life.”

3) Consider the different types of consumers that may encounter your products: “Brands need to convey their message in a way it can be understood by omnivores, flexitarians and vegans, and vegetarians. This can be done by using descriptive and clarifying terms such as plant-based, and meat-free, or by adding the mention ‘does not contain meat.’ ”

2) Be mindful of culture: “Everything you say to a person is filtered through their frames of reference, biases, and preconceived ideas. Culture is part of these elements that influence the perception of products and if this is overlooked it may result in you failing to gain new customers.”

1) Deliver information in local languages: Brands need to be mindful to provide all the necessary information in at least one of the official languages of the targeted country.”