The range, which was launched in the US last year, will hit foodservice channels first, with retail swiftly following, starting with Italy in January, but with the UK not far behind in the first half of 2021. "If you subtract Asia, UK is the second largest [plant-based] market in the world," Brett van de Bovenkamp, president of Tyson Foods Europe, told Food Manufacture. However, foodservice was 'well underrepresented', he added.
When asked if Tyson was considering public sector and catering customers as well as restaurants for the Europe-wide launch, de Bovenkamp, said: "The answer is yes. We are very well developed across all the sub-channels within foodservice ... and we are going to go after all of them.
The company has highlighted five products gearing up to initial launch. They are: Light & Crispy Battered Nuggets; Crunchy Breaded Nuggets; Garlic & Herb Dipping Fries; Hot & Spicy Popcorn and Hot & Crunchy Tortilla Nachos in 700g bags. All flag up their soy-free and palm-oil-free credentials, as well as being free of artificial flavours, colours or preservatives.
While the initial products highlighted use fully recyclable 60% biobased plastic, de Bovenkamp stressed Tyson continued to explore the potential for all forms of eco-friendly packaging materials, from fully recycled to compostable. "We're looking at everything. Sustainability is core to Tyson's corporate strategy. It is very core to our newly evolved strategy - we just built a five-year plan.
"We don't think about sustainability as one issue base. We look at it system-wide across five pillars, from food safety to animal health & wellbeing to the environment to the communities we live and work in to our team members. Embedded in that are things like packaging, so we've got the offering within this range and we continue to look at other avenues to accelerate that, based on availability, based on ensuring the technology can keep up with ensuring food safety.
"We've found a great partner in the Netherlands. We partnered with them on our recent launch on the Tyson brand in the summer and we're accelerating that here."
Commitment against deforestation
The focus on sustainability dovetails with Tyson Foods' announcement on 12 November that it was pursuing a strong commitment against deforestation within the food supply chain over the next five years. "That will have an impact on palm oil and many other things - packaging, soy and the like."
Tyson Foods announced a Forest Protection Standard focused on reducing deforestation risk in its global supply chain of four commodities: cattle and beef; soy; palm oil; and pulp, paper and packaging.
Earlier this year, Tyson Foods partnered with Proforest to conduct a deforestation risk assessment. The assessment concluded that nearly 94 percent of the company’s land footprint was at no to low risk of being associated with deforestation. To address the remaining 6% that was found to be at risk, the Forest Protection Standard was developed.
“As one of the world’s largest food companies and a recognized leader in protein, we have an important role in protecting forests and other natural ecosystems,” said Dean Banks, Tyson Foods president and chief executive. “We are asserting our ambition to make protein more sustainable and look forward to working with our supply chain partners, customers and other stakeholders to do our part on this important issue.”
To support the Forest Protection Standard, specific Commodity Action Plans are being developed to outline the work required in each commodity area to support deforestation free sourcing. Progress towards meeting the goals of the Forest Protection Standard will be outlined in the company’s annual Sustainability Report.
Referencing Raised & Rooted's ingredients, de Bovenkamp said: "If you look at our protein substrate that we're focused on, first and foremost the product has to be of great quality. Alternative proteins have been around for decades. The challenge is the quality was never there. So, first and foremost the quality experience has to exist and meet the nutritional requirements that the consumer's looking for.
"In many cases it's about ensuring they are maintaining the protein levels they are looking for, so there's many different protein sources. In that space, we are really trying to focus on things like fava beans and pea protein. One [they are] more sustainable, but number two: the eating experience is much better."
Fava bean and pea protein
In relation to the clean label approach to the products, de Bovenkamp said using fava bean and pea protein as a base helped here. "It does deliver on the quality, the texture as well as the protein.
"Not just around our plant-based initiative, but in totality ... we have made very specific goals in the next five years around our entire portfolio and how we are going to clean up the decks, because if you look at some of the products in the market, the ingredient decks are, to any consumer that's looking at them, certainly questionable in terms of whether this category for them is seen as a healthier alternative."
Asked whether Tyson Foods Europe currently had production capacity to meet demand for a fuller roll out of Raised & Rooted, de Bovenkamp said processing would take place predominantly at its Netherlands site. However, added capacity would be needed. Third party contracting would be looked at and he did not rule out inorganic growth through acquisition.