In this most recent 10 quick questions segment, we are thrilled to chat with Dean Epps, the general manager of Life Health Foods Australia.
LHF are the team behind Vegie Delights, The Alternative Meat Co & Bean Supreme, and together they form many of the new and innovative plant-based products that have hit the Australian market recently.
We wanted to chat with Dean about why the plant-based segment matters and where it might be going in the future.
Enjoy the chat.
1. So Dean, how did you come to be involved with LHF and the plant-based industry?
I have been working in the food industry for almost thirty years and had the privilege of setting up Life Health Foods in Australia and building the business with a great team of people to where it is today as the leading manufacturer of plant-based foods in Australia with a portfolio of brands and products.
I previously worked with Sanitarium Health Food Co in Australia who also promote plant-based foods and I personally follow a plant-based diet so you can say I have enjoyed working and living with aligned values.
2. What is your best selling product and why do you think people love it so much?
The Alternative Meat Co. Sausages are our best selling product in the range. Aussies enjoy a BBQ as much as anyone so we’re not surprised this is AMC’s top seller. Like the rest of the range, they’re high protein, a source of iron and suitable to chuck on the BBQ.
We developed the sausages with a vegan casing that helps the “skin” to crisp up just like a real beef sausage. With 18g of protein per serve, and good source of fibre and now also iron, they really are a great choice.
3. The world seems to be far more receptive to plant-based options in 2020, but what is still the greatest challenge for the industry?
We asked over 1000 Australians what they thought of plant-based foods and the study (run in conjunction with Food Frontier) identified three key barriers holding back greater consumption of plant-based meat alternatives: (1) Nutritional concerns – such as would I get enough protein, vitamins & minerals; (2) Price & availability concerns, that a plant based diet would be more expensive and hard to source; (3) Taste and texture and a perception plant based alternatives taste inferior to meat.
*1 As the category evolves, opportunities continue for manufacturers to address these concerns through new product innovation, new ingredients and new manufacturing capabilities.
4. What are the greatest opportunities?
With four in ten Aussies actively reducing their meat intake, the biggest opportunity is to cater to a whole new audience to plant-based meat alternatives – flexitarians and meat reducers. Plant-based meats used to be exclusively for vegans and vegetarians; Nowadays people are starting to consume more plant-based foods in their diets with the motivation of being healthier. With “health” as a primary motivation for consumers, there are lots of opportunities to present meat alternatives as a healthier option, focusing on things like cleaner ingredient labels and functional fortification, such as using hemp to deliver a natural source of iron, as we have done with the new improved recipe of Alternative Meat Co. beef style products.
5. What technology do you see becoming more important in the plant-based industry?
Delivering the taste and texture experience of eating real meat is a big focus for the plant-based industry. Many companies have created products that look just like the real thing. However, there is still room for growth when it comes to matching the taste and texture of real meat. This will continue to drive demand for new ways to prepare and produce new generation products.
6. If you could have one celebrity ambassador who would it be and why?
With any celebrity ambassador, we want them to be genuine, passionate and have values that match our own. And, of course, they need to be die-hard foodies like us! We’d love to connect with any celeb – big or small – takings steps to be more plant-based for their health or the planet.
7. Over the next 5 years, what are some of LHF’s goals?
We expect to continue to scale up to meet the growing demand for plant-based foods. Since we opened our doors on the Central Coast in 2015 with 40 staff, we’ve added more than 100 extra members to our team to produce and supply locally in Australia and increasingly into export markets. We’ll continue to focus on innovation and product development, looking for new and better ways to deliver tasty, healthy options. And we will continue to be motivated by our purpose & values as we believe enjoying plant-based eating enables everyone to live healthier, more sustainably.
8. Are there any food groups or product segments that LHF is looking to tackle next?
We’re always working on new things! We’ve just recently launched Alternative Meat Co Chicken, and also an amazing new Vegie Delights Pepperoni-style product which is getting rave reviews. There’s more to come, but we’re always careful not to give the game away too soon!
9. We love the new alt chicken, has it sold the way you had hoped so far?
The initial feedback has been really positive so, selling through Coles and appearing on menus such as with Huxtaburger. Our biggest challenge so far has actually been keeping up with demand! With Summer BBQ season and Coles dropping the price to $7 every day, we’ve got big expectations for the new Alternative Chicken offer over the holiday period.
10. You can eat a vegan meal with whoever you like in the world, what are you eating and who is it with?
Having dinner with Lewis Hamilton. To spend time with a world-class athlete at the peak of his powers with seven F1 driver championships under his belt as well as his desire to use for good his fame that has been built would be an amazing experience. Of course, I would be showing off the latest products we are making so it would be a ‘pepperoni’ pizza starring Vegie Delights plant-based Pepperoni pizza.
Amazing, thank you for taking the time to chat with us Dean, it sounds like LHF is a great fit for your own values and that it will continue to lead in the plant-based market well into the future.
To find out more about the brands visit the links below:
And for all the innovative ways to use plant based products and ingredients be sure to visit our Recipe Section Here for tons of amazing vegan meal ideas 🙂