Maple Leaf bullish on meat im­i­ta­tors for ‘flex­i­tar­i­ans’


WIN­NIPEG Af­ter decades of of­fer­ing tra­di­tional deli fare, Canada’s largest pack­aged meat com­pany is now stock­ing shelves with plant­based im­i­ta­tors like ve­gan ba­con and veg­gie hot­dogs.

Lightlife Foods, ac­quired by Mis­sis­sauga-based Maple Leaf Foods Inc. in 2017, is rolling out nine of its top-sell­ing plant-based pro­tein al­ter­na­tives to Cana­dian stores in Au­gust as part of its push to be­come a dom­i­nant player in the fast-grow­ing space.

Mas­sachusetts-based Lightlife is al­ready see­ing “sig­nif­i­cant” dou­ble-digit growth in the U.S. and ex­pects the seg­ment will pro­vide long-term growth in Canada, where it sees “tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity,” said Dan Curtin, the com­pany’s pres­i­dent.

“There’s the hard­core ve­gans, the hard­core veg­e­tar­i­ans, but we’re see­ing more and more flex­i­tar­i­ans or re­duc­etar­i­ans that are re­ally look­ing for” plant-based options, Curtin said, not­ing the prod­ucts are be­ing sold in re­tail­ers in­clud­ing Wal­mart and Sobeys.

Maple Leaf is just the lat­est ma­jor meat com­pany that sees a fu­ture in plants.

Tyson Foods Inc., the largest U.S. meat pro­ducer, in 2016 ac­quired five per cent of ve­gan burger pro­ducer Be­yond Meat, which has also got the back­ing of bil­lion­aire in­vestor Bill Gates. Tyson has also in­vested in com­pa­nies that make lab-grown meat.

Con­sumers have grown more wary of tra­di­tional pro­tein amid con­cerns about the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of the live­stock in­dus­try, an­i­mal wel­fare and maintaining a healthy diet.

Maple Leaf ac­quired Lightlife for $140 mil­lion and Seat­tle-based Field Roast, which makes grain­based meat and ve­gan cheese prod­ucts, for $120 mil­lion.

Global sales of plant-based meats are pro­jected to soar 39 per cent to $3.1 bil­lion by 2022, com­pared with 20 per cent for con­ven­tional meats, ac­cord­ing to Euromon­i­tor data.



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