Opinion

The Killer Salad, The Fishless Fish and The Carnivore

11 October 2018

nic_jooste
This column originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of sister publication Produce Business magazine.

On ‬the day I started writing this column‭, ‬two things happened in my life‭. ‬As I was driving to work in the morning‭, ‬I passed a delivery truck bearing the slogan‭ ‬‘Making Killer Salads‭.‬’‭ ‬The slogan really caught my attention‭, ‬and when I arrived at the office I immediately went to the website‭.  At last‭ ... ‬A company making salads and fresh produce sexy and hip‭. ‬

On the evening of the same day on my way home‭, ‬I stopped at my neighbourhood supermarket to pick up some lamb cutlets for a barbecue‭. ‬Arriving at the refrigerator where the lamb should have been‭, ‬I was confronted with a sight which would horrify any carnivore‭. ‬The entire lamb section had been replaced with‭ ‬­‮—‬‭ ‬wait for it‭ ‬­‮—‬‭ ‬bean and broccoli burgers‭, ‬soya steaks‭, ‬seitan banger sausages‭, ‬tofu Italian sausages‭, ‬fishless fish‭ ‬‮…‬‭ ‬I knew there were‭ ‬vegans out there‭, ‬but the meteoric rise in diversity of vegan products has just astounded me‭. ‬

Having one passionately vegan son‭, ‬I have some affinity with the subject of‭ ‬‘food for the future‭.‬’‭ ‬In two of my recent articles‭, ‬I wrote about Generation Z fearing the destruction of the world by our consumption-driven society‭ ‬‭(‬July 2018‭ ‬­‮—‬‭ ‬From The Mouths Of Babes‭)‬‭. ‬I also wrote on the great projects that some companies are running in terms of the circular economy‭ ‬‭(‬March 2018‭ ‬­‮—‬‭ ‬Turning Nickels Into Dimes‭)‬‭. ‬

But whilst my research for writing these opinion pieces highlighted a fundamental shift in the world of food‭, ‬I still was looking at it from a distance‭. ‬Having grown up in South Africa‭, ‬I love eating meat‭. ‬Yet‭, ‬slowly but surely‭, ‬I have become increasingly‭ ‬uneasy about this‭. ‬Maybe the need to radically lessen our meat intake is not welcomed or evident to everybody‭ (‬there are none so blind as those who will not see‭), ‬but once the meatless bug bites you‭, ‬some amazing examples pop up all over the show‭. ‬

A case in point is Jaap Kortweg‭, ‬also known as‭ ‬‘The Dutch Vegetarian Butcher‭.‬’‭ ‬When he launched his company‭, ‬he posed holding a meat cleaver‭, ‬a butchered bunch of carrots and an apron smeared with carrot‭ ‬‘blood‭.‬’‭ ‬This set the tongues wagging‭, ‬and being an outspoken person by nature‭, ‬Jaap flourished in confronting the meat purveyors‭. ‬Jaap’s story certainly captured the attention‭. ‬Jaap became a vegetarian after witnessing the large scale-slaughter of pigs and cattle‭ ‬following an outbreak of swine fever and mad cow disease‭. ‬

However‭, ‬his love for the taste of meat resulted in a 10-year search to develop meat substitutes with a great bite‭. ‬Jaap collaborated with experienced chefs and food designers‭, ‬and today‭, ‬protein-rich products are made mostly from Dutch organic lupine‭ (‬plant of the pea family‭). ‬The Vegetarian Butcher is THE vegan/vegetarian trendsetter‭, ‬with an amazing array of products‭. ‬I just love his advertising and tongue-in-cheek communication‭. ‬Truly a vegan with a smile on his face and a mission in his mind‭. ‬

Driving to work some months ago‭, ‬I listened to an interview of our No‭. ‬1‭ ‬breakfast show host with Vivera‭, ‬one of the first companies in the Netherlands to embark on plant-based meat substitutes‭. ‬Together with researchers from the Dutch Wageningen University‭, ‬Vivera created a ground-breaking‭, ‬100‭ ‬percent plant-based steak that was the first of its kind in the world‭. ‬Tesco‭ ‬­‮—‬‭ ‬the largest retailer in Europe‭ ‬­‮—‬‭ ‬jumped at the opportunity and immediately listed the product‭. ‬Others soon followed‭, ‬and today the meatless steak is found in many countries‭. ‬I have tried it personally‭, ‬and let’s be honest‭: ‬after a while the smell‭, ‬taste and bite comes very close to that of a real steak‭. ‬

So‭, ‬from a consumption‭, ‬marketing and creative perspective‭, ‬all is well and flourishing in vegan land‭. ‬But why is this important‭? ‬Rewind to the day on which I encountered the killer salad guys and the meatless refrigerator in my supermarket‭. ‬That evening‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬after my fishless fish dinner‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬I read an article on megatrends‭, ‬and I quote‭: ‬‘With our population expected to reach 9.5‭ ‬billion by 2050‭, ‬there is increased pressure to go from growing food to making it‭. ‬Our‭ ‬already scarce natural resources ‭ ‬­‮—‬‭ ‬ farmland‭, ‬water‭, ‬energy‭, ‬etc‭.‬ ‭ ‬­‮—‬‭ ‬ won’t be able to keep up with the increasing number of mouths to feed‭. ‬So‭, ‬unless we expect our largely carnivorous culture to become vegetarians overnight‭, ‬we need more options for producing meat without depleting our resources‭.‬’

According to HP’s‭ ( ‬Hewlett-Packard‭) ‬megatrends analysis‭, ‬climate disruption such as water scarcity and rising temperatures‭, ‬as well as unpredictable weather patterns‭, ‬have the potential to significantly impact food production‭. ‬To meet the needs of the hungry billions‭, ‬there is no way around the fact we will have to rethink global food supply and demand‭. ‬Not only will we have to be more caring in‭ ‬terms of our natural resources‭, ‬we will‭ ‬have‭ ‬to develop new ways to sustain mankind‭. ‬At the center of this is one truth‭: ‬we will have to change our views on food‭. ‬

Writing this article and reading extensively on the subject has convinced me we have to radically reduce the consumption of meat‭. ‬As a fresh produce marketer‭, ‬this is giving new motivation to play a significant role in convincing consumers that fresh produce‭ ‬­‮—‬‭ ‬if produced in a sustainable manner‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬is on the side of the angels‭. 

Nic Jooste is the director of marketing and CSR at Cool Fresh International‭, ‬a Rotterdam-based global marketing organization for‭ ‬fresh produce‭.  ‬

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