US-based Hormel Foods, which specialises in branded meat products, has said it is making moves to increase its exposure to plant-based products.

Initiatives include creating a vegan pizza topping for the foodservice channel.

Asked about the company’s plans in this area at the Deutsche Bank Access Global Consumer conference in Paris, Hormel CEO James Snee confirmed plant-based food is very much on its mind.

“We understand that it is a shiny new toy. We get that. It is one of our shiny new toys as well,” he said.

Snee said plant-based proteins are not new to our organisation. “We’ve been working on that in multiple channels the last several years. In our foodservice organisation, we’ve introduced an item we call the Fuse burger, which is more of a blend with meat and some plant-based items,” he said.

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He added: “Then we also have in our Burke organisation, which is really a foodservice company, they’re working on a plant-based pizza topping. We also have some innovative retail initiatives that we’re working on that we haven’t been very public about. But it’s something that is certainly on our minds like everybody else, and there’s a lot of work happening both in the marketplace and behind the scenes.”

Burke supplies cooked meat products and pizza toppings to food manufacturers and foodservice operators.

Thomas Day, executive vice president of Hormel’s refrigerated food division, suggested the company could concentrate on ‘hybrid’ meat and vegetable products such as its new Applegate Blend Burger.

“We personally believe in the journey we’ve been on is the idea of combining or blending meat and some plant-based protein in order to find a product that works,” he said.

“We’re in the food business. The product has got to taste good. It has to deliver on what consumers are looking for. But from a standpoint of research, as Jim mentioned, our founder said it best, ‘innovate, don’t imitate’. And so, what we have been doing is innovating, and I think you’ll hear more shortly in regards to some of the things as it comes to market.”

Minnesota-based Hormel owns brands such as Jennie-O, Spam and Applegate.