Plant based food
Consumer tastes for organic produce and healthier diets are setting off significant changes. The IFFCO Group wants to tap into early enough with its new plant-based meat factory. (Image used for illustrative purposes.) Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: Plant-based meat substitutes is turning out to be more than a trend in the UAE and Gulf, with Dubai-based IFFCO Group launching a dedicated factory to offer these in the local and Gulf markets.

“The investments in our Dubai Industrial City factory are our own, and this is not a mixed-use facility where we also produce plant-based meat options,” said Andrey Dribny, CEO – Culinary at IFFCO. “In fact, there’s no animal protein here.

“The plant-based meat is based on our own proprietary knowhow – and recipes - and we seek to offer consumers a true alternative. This is a region where average meat consumption is 70-72 kilograms (per person) annually, while the recommendations are for 18 kilograms. This is where we come in.”

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IFFCO’s plant-based meat will be sold under the ‘Thryve’ branding and will be available at hypermarkets and food stores. Non-meat options are still a niche offering in these markets, but consumer interest in it has grown significantly through the Covid years and into the present.

Still much convincing to do?

According to Dribny, “We don’t see convincing regional consumers as being all that difficult, especially among the Millennials. Consumers are willing to try out healthier food, and research finds that more than 70 per cent willing to take up such diets.”

It was last year that IFFCO – which has a reach extending into 100 countries for its extended portfolio of food brands – decided to get into plant-based meat.

“If this turns out to reach even 5 per cent of the overall regional market for animal proteins, then that itself would be quite a significant number,” said Dribny.

Wholesale change

Not just on plant-based options, the UAE and Gulf consumers’ tastes when it comes to their food purchases and diets have undergone drastic changes in a relatively short period. This explains the significant demand spikes for organic produce – and that too for those fresh supplies that can be sourced from farms locally. The ‘farm-to-table’ preference is very much part of the psyche.

Another major transition has been the government’s push to develop more areas for farming, and overcoming the climate and ground conditions, where possible. Agritech entities have been received significant funding support as well as subsidised land to make things happen.

More plant-based?

IFFCO will consider adding to its plant-based food portfolio – but one thing will remain a constant. “This Dubai Industrial City plant will remain exclusively for meat alternatives,” the CEO added. “When other categories are added, it will be through separate facilities.”