The plant-based meat substitute space just got injected with a heavy-duty growth hormone. This, as Kellogg’s Away from Home announced on Tuesday (June 22) that it is expanding its partnership with Sodexo, a company that operates scores of college cafeterias and other foodservice venues and will now offer alternative proteins in roughly 3,000 locations.
The three-year partnership will bring Kellogg’s cheekily-named “Incogmeato” brand patties by Morningstar Farms to Sodexo chefs beginning in the healthcare sector.
“Our Incogmeato lineup is a delicious plant-based solution for Sodexo’s guests who are craving a truly meat-like experience,” Zach Ramos, general manager at Kellogg’s Away from Home, commented. “We are proud to offer our operator partners go-to plant-based options that give their guests what they’re craving — especially as consumer demand for just-like-meat products continues to grow.”
Notably, Kellogg’s research finds that this type of “just-like-meat” experience (like the popular hamburger substitutes by Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods) is the go-to plant-based choice for 40 percent of the Gen Z-ers and millennials that the company surveyed. Sixty percent actually prefer options such as black bean burgers that do not imitate the meat experience.
The fact that the expansion of this partnership begins in the healthcare sector makes sense, given the emphasis many plant-based businesses place on their products’ health benefits. However, there is an even clearer overlap between the audience for plant-based products and the consumers that Sodexo Catering and Kellogg’s Away from Home serve, one that could mark a huge opportunity for both companies as this partnership progresses: colleges and universities.
Studies consistently find that Gen Z, a group between the ages of six to 24 in 2021, is leading the shift toward plant-based eating. A 2019 report found that Gen Z-ers were more than twice as likely to report eating a flexitarian diet than older boomers, and a report from earlier this month (June 2021) found that 71 percent of Gen Z-ers would be willing to switch to alternative proteins for the sake of the planet.
As of 2017, Sodexo worked with more than 1,000 universities, colleges and independent schools in 36 countries. Kellogg’s Away from Home has a robust amount of business among colleges and universities as well (featuring, on a couple of campuses, a cereal-serving robot).
Given that Gen Z-ers make up the vast majority of university students, and that many of these young consumers are eating on their own for the first time — establishing habits that will last for years, if not for a lifetime — there is a significant opportunity for Incogmeato to build a loyal and enduring following among campus eaters.
Rob Morasco, senior director of culinary development at Sodexo, noted in a statement the “growing demand” for plant-based foods in the foodservice industry. Sure enough, studies find that the global plant-based market is projected to reach over $20 billion by 2030, up from $7 billion in 2020.
“There is no question that consumers are becoming more aware and interested in plant-based foods,” Steven Cahillane, CEO and chairman at the Kellogg Company, said on a call with analysts in May. “Morningstar Farms has increased its household penetration in the last year to a level that remains well above any of our competitors, and yet it’s still only 8 percent, suggesting significant room to expand.”