After two decades in the US market, fermented meat analogue company Quorn is poised to grab a much bigger slice of the chicken business.
“I’m sure you’ve heard of the chicken sandwich wars that are going on in the industry right now and you know, we want to play in this space with a product that we think is better than a chicken sandwich,” he said. said Judd. Zusel, president of Quorn Foods USA. “So not a meat alternative, but really, better than the real thing.”
Quorn, which is currently the world’s largest producer of mycoproteins for food, has always offered a product offering suitable for vegetarians. Mycoprotein, created from a fungus through fermentation, is said to be versatile, nutritious and produced with a minimal carbon footprint. But as more QSRs improve their chicken sandwich offerings and more consumers seek out plant-based chicken, the British meat analogue brand is seizing the opportunity.
Days after parent company Monde Nissin’s $1 billion IPO on the Philippine Stock Exchange last year, executives said one of their top priorities was to expand Quorn into the United States. . After the IPO, Quorn CEO Marco Bertacca told Bloomberg that the brand’s ambition is to be the world’s leading alternative chicken supplier. World nissin committed to spending nearly 16 billion pesos ($335 million) to expand Quorn’s US presence.
As new Quorn products hit stores, its offerings are discussed by “head of mums” Drew Barrymore and a new marketing campaign is underway, Zusel said the company’s ambitions are in line with what she can achieve. Quorn is able to meet consumer expectations, he said.
“We want them to have an amazing experience the first time around,” Zusel said. “We want them to taste the food and say, ‘Wow, that’s not an alternative. I’m not doing an exchange. It’s actually as good or better than what I usually eat.’ “
Targeting American taste buds
Quorn’s products first entered grocer’s freezers in the United States in 2002, making it a veteran brand in the meat alternatives category.
Zusel said the recent trend toward meat substitutes has supercharged the brand’s potential. Quorn has historically been most popular in the UK, where it was founded based on research dating back to the 1960s. Around 90% of Quorn’s sales in 2020 were made in the UK and Europe, Bloomberg reported.
To make products more targeted to the American palate, Quorn opened a Culinary Development Center in Dallas last year. In the 10,000 square foot facility, the company tests culinary equipment and coatings on mycoprotein. It has a commercial kitchen to replicate restaurant conditions ranging from fine dining to fast food. And it has a new product development lab to help design offerings for the American consumer. Zusel said the center can both create new products and refine those developed in Britain to make them ready for American consumers.
“We want to play in this space with a product that we think is better than a chicken sandwich. So not a meat alternative, but really, better than the real thing.”
President, Quorn Foods USA
Quorn now also has a US-based executive chef. Steven Kalil comes to the company with three decades of experience at major food companies, including PepsiCo, The Cheesecake Factory and Chili’s Grill & Bar.
Late last year, Quorn launched its new US-centric products, which are on their way to grocery store shelves. They include new meatless ChiQin cutlets – sandwich-sized breaded patties in Spicy Homestyle and Kickin varieties – and meatless ChiQin wings – breaded pieces that mimic boneless chicken wing appetizers.
“There’s been a lot of time and effort put into the process of the breading system, the breading, the flavor profiles, the heat of the Kickin’ product from a Scoville perspective,” Zusel said. “A lot of research done there with consumers, a lot of testing done with Chef Steven, a lot of people involved in the process.”
So far, Zusel said, Quorn is getting positive consumer feedback on new products. Quorn currently has the highest repeat purchase rates of meatless products at Kroger, he said. And Zusel thinks the high rate of repeat purchases isn’t an anomaly – consumers will continue to buy Quorn products if they have a good experience, he said.
Step into the limelight
In addition to improving its product offerings for US consumers, Quorn has big plans to increase its marketing and positioning, Zusel said. It aims to go from a brand buried in the freezer section to a brand that is talked about, seen in social media and pop culture, and loved in restaurants across the country.
As Quorn ramps up its marketing and redesigns its packaging, its first decision was to partner with a well-known spokesperson. Zusel said her partnership with Barrymore as chief mom is perfect for the direction Quorn hopes to take in the United States.
“Drew is our target consumer,” Zusel said. “She’s a mom. She has kids. She wants to give her kids healthier food. She cares about the environment. She cares about the planet. She really loves the brand.”
Barrymore has previously promoted Quorn through segments on his show and Instagram posts to his nearly 15 million followers. She also made headlines on social media after offering to rapper Cardi B to help her switch to a vegan diet. Zusel said the deal with Barrymore is profound and will provide an authentic voice to influence both consumers and future product development.
Messages on Quorn will be communicated to consumers in other ways over the course of the year, Zusel said. The company’s new marketing campaign will focus on its claim that Quorn products are healthy and good for the planet. Zusel described messaging as a “cornucopia of good” that the company presents. Quorn has a long history of telling consumers about the water, electricity and emissions it says it saves by consuming its products rather than animal-based equivalents. As consumer interest in sustainable food intensifies, this message may resonate more than ever before.
And Quorn is also likely to come out of the grocery store freezer checkout. Zusel said the company is talking about partnerships with restaurants, which weren’t previously a US priority. He wouldn’t talk about specific plans just yet, but Quorn is working on unique products for catering businesses at its Culinary Center – similar to its “Zero Chicken” sandwich at UK restaurants KFC. Quorn also recently hired Kevin Eiden as vice president of catering to work on building and deepening restaurant partnerships. And last year, Quorn has partnered with the Boston Red Sox’s Fenway Park, where its wings are sold in the main concession area, suites and restaurant.
The road to becoming the best alternative chicken maker is up to Quorn to take, Zusel said. People who haven’t tried the company’s products will give them a shot as more grocery stores and restaurants expand meatless options, he said.
“It comes down to amazing food, and part of the reason I joined Quorn and why I love working here is because I feel like there’s the best food out there. market,” Zusel said. “…I think having the best food and having innovative new product development ideas will be very important to winning in the future.”