GERMANY, Rheda-Wiedenbrück. Within two years, the Tönnies Group has multiplied its business in the veggie segment. It is to continue at this pace. The share of total Group sales will nevertheless remain small for the time being.
About six months ago, the Tönnies Group bundled its activities in the vegetarian and vegan segment under its own business unit Vevia 4 You GmbH & Co. KG. Now the East Westphalian food manufacturer is taking stock. And the company in Rheda-Wiedenbrück is satisfied with the results. In addition to the broad listing of products under the Gutfried, Veviva and Es schmeckt brands in food retailing, consumers have also confirmed that the company is on the right track. For the group of companies, this product range is an integral part of its own sustainability agenda, according to a statement by the group.
"It has paid off that we have focused on quality rather than speed in product development," Maximilian Tönnies emphasizes. Accordingly, the company's goal is to score points with products that are convincing in terms of taste. To this end, extensive taste tests have been carried out, he says. "In the area of product development, we have made a big leap in a short time. Consumer panels show the acceptance of our products among consumers. We now want to establish ourselves here," Tönnies announced. However, according to the group's own figures, it is already recording a sharp jump in sales with meat-free alternatives: while revenue in 2019 was still at € 8.3 mill., Tönnies is planning on sales of 30 million euros by the end of this year - an increase of more than 250%. The share of total Group sales is around 0.4%.
This is expected to be driven by the market for meat substitutes following the successful start in the sausage substitutes segment. Tönnies' range in this segment is aimed not only at vegetarians and vegans, but also at flexitarians, i.e. those who want to do without meat from time to time. "For this target group, taste and sensory perception are quite important. Our goal is for both to come very close to the meat product," explains Maximilian Tönnies. And that's exactly what they've managed to do with the new products in the "Wie" series, Tönnies is sure. "The chicken nuggets, chicken schnitzel or fish sticks taste like the original. Our product developers have done a huge job there. Even my father tastes it now," said Maximilian Tönnies. The company worked on these products for two years before they were ready for the market.
The "Wie" series is nearing completion, with only the finishing touches still missing, the company adds. But there are already broad listing commitments for the products, it said. "We have been able to convince food retailers above all with the taste," Maximilian Tönnies is pleased to say. With a multi-channel campaign (including TV commercials), the company is also launching a corresponding marketing offensive in September.
The vegetarian and vegan articles are produced at the company's own plant in Böklund. Capacities there are to be further developed and expanded. Tönnies plans to invest a double-digit million sum here in the coming years. This will also involve expanding the product range and further optimizing the products. There is a clear business plan for this: For example, Germany's largest meat group is planning sales of around € 24 mill. in the sausage substitute segment by the end of this year, and around six million euros in sales in the meat substitute segment. By 2025, total sales in both areas combined are expected to rise to more than € 120 mill., which would be around two percent of group sales. In 2020, the Group generated sales of € 7.05 bn. (previous year: € 7.3 bn.).
For all its meat substitute products, the company avoids rainforest soy and instead relies on European soybeans as raw material. "This is part of our t30 sustainability strategy, which we continue to drive forward unwaveringly. We want to produce enjoyable, healthy food that is as sustainable as possible," says Maximilian Tönnies.
Even though meat and sausage production will continue to make up the group's main business, Maximilian Tönnies says: "We have long since ceased to be a pure slaughterhouse, but a food manufacturer." Among other things, he points to activities in the convenience sector - for example, with cheese products under the new "DeKoepers" brand, which can be prepared in the microwave or on the grill in a short time. Likewise, the company has snacks, sauces or even grill items on its radar. "We still have some good ideas up our sleeve there that consumers can look forward to."