Vegging Out

Vegging Out

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Nutrient-packed, healthy fruit and vegetable juices are proving to be the liquid lunch for a new generation. Gebran N. Bekhazi, managing partner of The Food Studio, weeds through the trends and picks out the winning ideas.

There are an estimated one billion vegans and vegetarians worldwide and this community is growing fast, as consumers, especially the younger generation, act on concerns about the impact of what they eat on both their health and the environment. The big players in the beverage industry, such as Coca Cola, Pepsi and Starbucks, have all ventured into the healthy fresh juicing industry. Their current main market of North America will open the door for European-based concepts that can become dominant brands in Western Europe, while facilitating a possible move into other parts of the region.

Taking a closer look at the market, we have noticed the following general, non-exhaustive trends, which are eventually expected to spill over into the Levant and the GCC:

  • Pret A Manger made its Veggie Pret popup, experimental concept in London permanent and opened a second branch in Apr 2017. More Veggie Prets are soon to be launched in Hong Kong. In a separate move, Pret A Manger has installed a bright green, veggie fridge throughout most of its stores in London. Research undertaken by the chain found that 52 percent of Veggie Pret customers typically eat meat, but are trying to cut back on consumption in order to be healthier.
  • Freshii was set to expand in the UK in 2017. This Canadian health-oriented, but not exclusively vegan concept, operated 244 restaurants in North America, South America, Europe and the UAE as of September, 2016.From these, 11 are in European markets including Austria, Ireland, Sweden and the Netherlands. During Freshii’s debut on the Toronto Stock Exchange earlier this year, the CEO announced an aggressive expansion plan, which will see it target the setting up of 840 venues worldwide by the end of 2019.
    Freshii’s primary focus is food, rather than juices and smoothies, while cold-pressed methodology is not something it promotes.
  • In 2016, the owner of the organic food restaurant Le Pain Quotidien opened an organic, vegetable-based, fast-moving, casual restaurant in NYC, titled Le Botaniste. Plans are in the pipeline for the food and wine bar, which serves its dishes by the bowl, to expand in the EU.
  • Against this backdrop, green has become the dominant color of food, with ‘juiceterias’ on the rise, according to Baum and Whiteman, Global F&B consultants.
  • Modern living is busy and the pace of life is only getting faster, with the result that people don’t always have time to sit and eat wholesome meals. As a result, nutrient-packed, healthy wholesome fruit and vegetable juices, often marketed as new versions of the ‘liquid lunch’, are becoming increasingly popular.
  • In North America, PepsiCo jumped ahead of the curve, when it invested in the Naked Juice brand, while rival Coca Cola entered the cold-pressed territory in 2015 by buying a minority stake in the organic juice-maker, Suja Life, which had a USD 42 million turnover in 2016. Meanwhile, Starbucks rolled out its maiden line of cold-pressed juices in March 2016, under the Evolution Fresh brand.
  • Herb cultivators are certainly a trend to watch. A rising number of hotels and restaurants, especially properties in the Middle East, are adopting this technology to grow their own fresh herbs and greens in a sustained, controlled environment.
  • With rising demand for super foods, especially among millennials, new and trending ingredients are regularly appearing in recipes and in a cold-store near you. Here’s a few making waves: Chlorophyll, Kombucha (from the tea family), Wheatgrass, Guaranimal (a herbal form of caffeine), Alkaline water, Bee pollen and Camu camu (a fruit from the Rain Forest packed with Vitamin C).
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The Med Diet 
Recent studies have proven that Mediterranean food has many benefits. As far back as 1980, Professor Ancel Keys found mortality rates were lower in Greece and Italy than in other countries, when publishing the results of his investigations into cardiovascular-related deaths in various countries.
The ideal Mediterranean meal includes:
– High quantities of vegetables, beans and grains
– A moderate quantity of meat and fish
– Low amounts of added iodized salt, but instead features sea salt
– Plenty of herbs and spices for seasoning, reducing the need for salt
– Monounsaturated fat (olive oil)

The challenges and opportunities
The cold-pressed juice industry is extremely fragmented, comprising many small players, but without a market-dominant brand.

Only a few juiceterias have a wholesome offering that includes vegan or healthy foods.
Barriers to entry are minimal, with startup costs low (around USD 150,000-175,000) and a 20-25 percent average cost of goods sold. The startup costs include a USD 30,000 cold-press juice extractor and USD 20,000 licensing fee for buying a franchise, without investment in human capital or consultants.

Data produced by Persistence Market Research in February 2017 predicted that the global cold-pressed juice market will be worth USD 845 million by the end of 2024.

Gebran N. Bekhazi,managing partner of The Food Studio

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