14 October 2020, 08:44 AM
  • Despite a global pandemic, the food and drink industry has seen a surprising number of brands and products launched in 2020. We take a look at five of this year’s most exciting start-ups that are tapping into new trends and catering to shifts in consumer needs
Five 2020-launched start-ups you need to know

Chosan by Nature
As a result of the 2020 pandemic, many consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact that their purchases have on people and the planet. This, combined with an increased sense of community, support for small businesses, and an ever-increasing focus on health means that 2020 start-up Chosan by Nature has hit the nail on the head.

The emerging artisan food brand recently unveiled a new range of baobab-enriched jams. The baobab used to make the spreads is sourced from female farmer’s cooperatives in Africa, supporting low-income communities while protecting the future of the baobab tree. Chosan by Nature founder and entrepreneur Eliza Jones also works closely with The National Association of Food processors to support fellow female food producers to develop and sell their own food products.

Aside from being an ethical company, Chosan by Nature’s jams tap into several new consumer trends we’ve seen throughout the coronavirus pandemic, including a focus on health, and experimenting with more exotic flavours and foods. The baobab is known for its health properties, as it contains antioxidants that are said to boost immunity – the health topic that’s been on everyone’s lips this year. What’s more, Chosan’s artisan jams are all vegan, gluten-free and free from artificial sweeteners and additives.

Insane Grain
Did you know that the average Brit will consume nearly 70,000 snacks in their lifetime? That’s according to a study commissioned by Love Fresh Berries which showed that the average person will munch on 21 nibbles between meals every week. While many consumers are turning to comforting treats like ice cream and chocolate, others are reaching for healthier options. It’s a trend that’s predicted to grow, and it’s informing strategies across the sector, with start-ups launching to fill gaps in the sector.

One such brand is Insane Grain, which recently won a cut of the £1.8m accelerator and venture fund put forward as part of a new accelerator programme by Mission Ventures and the Good Food Fund. The programme sought healthy challenger brands, with a focus on products that could help tackle childhood obesity yet would appeal to all demographics.

Insane Grain’s puffed snacks are made with sorghum, billed as an ancient African supergrain. The snacks also contain more iron than spinach, at least ¾ more potassium than a banana and are good for gut health, making them a strong challenger brand in the snack category.

Wilfred’s
According to a new report from Sainsbury’s, Plate of the Nation: The Drinks Dispatch, which revealed the top drink trends in a post-COVID-19 future, personal wellbeing is expected to drive a trend in “purposeful drinking”. In fact, Sainsbury’s itself has witnessed a 35% increase in sales in the NoLow alcohol category this year. The industry has certainly witnessed an increase in product launches in the sector, from existing brands to LoNow start-ups.

One such start-up is Wilfred’s, a new non-alcoholic British aperitif that uses zesty bitter orange, herbal notes of rosemary, rhubarb and a hint of clove to create a crisp and citrusy non-alcoholic alternative to a spritz. Wilfred’s was started by engineer and inventor Chris Wilfred Hughes, who was inspired by new ingredients and tastes he experienced during his time in Japan and Argentina, as well as the aromatic flavours of his childhood. After years of experimenting, he landed on a recipe that celebrates naturally bittersweet flavours that aperitifs are well-known for, while catering to a new wave of consumers who want to enjoy great-tasting cocktails without the calories and hangover. Tapping into the emerging wellness trend, Wilfred’s is not only alcohol-free, but contains no artificial flavours, sweeteners or colourings, making it the ideal healthy alternative.

PEP Kitchen
Sales of plant-based products have gone through the roof since the onset of the pandemic as an increasing number of consumers try to reduce their meat and dairy consumption. So it’s no surprise that we’re seeing more vegan start-ups and product launches across the sector, from snacks, meat alternatives and dairy-free cheeses, to ice creams and ready-made desserts.

With this in mind, PEP Kitchen’s launch earlier this year couldn’t have been more timely. What’s more, most consumers are spending more time at home, and while many are using this time to cook from scratch, ready meals will arguably never go out of style.

Bringing convenient, healthy, plant-based meals to people’s doorsteps, PEP Kitchen is on a mission to keep the nation’s freezers stocked with street food-inspired vegan meals. The start-up was founded by chefs Joe Coulter and Ben MacAndrews who took inspiration from some of their favourite street food experiences to create vegan meals that can be cooked in under ten minutes. After trialling their dishes at Venn Street Market in Clapham in December 2019, the duo honed their recipes and launched PEP Kitchen with the most in-demand meals from the trial.

PEP’s range, which includes dishes like Szechuan Mapo Tofu and Jackfruit Massaman Curry, is designed to be tasty as well as nutritious, with dishes largely coming in at under 400 calories. The meals are also gluten-free, high in fibre and good sources of protein. What’s more, they’re delivered across the UK via a carbon neutral delivery service, and are packaged in 100% home compostable or recyclable packaging.

“Creating highly nutritious food is vitally important to us,” Ben says. “We are determined to make it easy for people to make positive changes to their diet, both for themselves and for the environment.”

Addressing the needs of meat-reducers, health-conscious consumers and ethically minded diners, PEP is off to a strong start.

Bright Barley
There’s no denying it: the plant-based sector is growing exponentially. Its growth was already predicted pre-pandemic, yet it seems that COVID-19 has only spurred on its potential.

According to research from Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), 23% of all new UK food product launches in 2019 were labelled as vegan, compared to 17% in 2018. And a huge part of that category is plant-based milks. While oat, almond, coconut and soya varieties lead the charge, there are plenty of new crop contenders, and some are causing quite a stir.

The latest launch comes from start-up Bright Barley, which launched in May 2020. Made with the supergrain barley, the range boasts eco and nutritional credentials that will certainly rival the likes of coconut, almond and soya milks, which have been linked with deforestation, bee population declines and health concerns.

Founded by Jiali Jiang, Bright Barley focuses its messaging around health and wellness, bringing vitamin-, calcium- and fibre-rich drinks to the market for adults and children alike. What’s more, the brand uses organic barley sourced from the UK, in an effort to reduce food miles and support independent producers. It’s certainly likely to become a more appealing option for those who are reducing their dairy consumption yet want to choose a more ethical option with provenance.

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