Naturli’ Foods has entered Japan, a market where the meat-free supplier’s CEO sees “huge, untapped potential” for plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy.

The Denmark-based business, backed by Nordic food giant Orkla, has secured listings with “a very few high visible retailers”, including National Azabu Supermarket, a retailer in Tokyo focusing on imported foods, Henrik Lund said.

Naturli’ is selling its alternatives to mince, chicken and hot dogs in Japan, a market where alternatives to meat have traditionally focused on products such as tofu and tempura.

“Plant-based meat, as in meat substitute, looking like it, tasting close to it, is not as well developed in Japan,” Lund told just-food. “They already have a number of food subsets that are meat free but they are very concerned about their health. They are starting to suffer metabolic conditions, all of which are helped by reducing meat consumption. They love western style meat dishes. Naturli’ allows them to have both the feeling of eating meat with lower total calorific load.”

Lund added: “Japan is is a very interesting market due to the relatively high meat consumption, both now and historically. This fact, mixed with the Japanese sense of innovation and curiosity in new trends, made us see the huge untapped potential, in meat alternatives but also for dairy substitutes. We are happy with our small launch and will roll out much more with the arrival of our 40-foot container next week.”

Japan is among 18 markets in which Naturli’ does business. Naturli’ is a 30-year-old business that only entered the meat-free market in 2014. The company was set up in 1988, selling alternatives to milk in Denmark, such as soy, rice and almond ‘milks’. The firm has been owned since 2010 by Danish margarine supplier Dragsbaek, which is itself majority-owned by Orkla.

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By GlobalData

The company does not disclose its sales, Lund said, although he noted its net profit was EUR2.2m in 2019.

Asked how Covid-19 has affected Naturli’s operations, Lund indicates some problems with distribution but cites products that have seen rising sales. “Covid-19 has not affected our business that much, but with more problems shipping to far away destinations, we have had our tasks to deal with,” he said. “We see continuous growth on Naturli’ Spreadable, Naturli’ minced and on Naturli’ ice cream, probably due to the uncompromising taste and functionality that is one-to-one versus animal alternatives.”