Mediterranean Ivy: Barcelona’s Plant-based meat is spreading across the continent

Plant-based movement is gaining more and more recognition in 2022 and it’s not all about vegetarian or vegan lifestyles. As I wrote in my previous article – Plant-Based Meat: Big Food Is Getting Ready – such products have been around us for quite some time, in fact, for more than half a century. Today, we have hundreds of businesses embracing the benefits of plant-based foods; looking beyond the positives of such diets for human health alone and also focusing on the environmental impact, animal wellbeing, implications and connections between food production crisis, food poverty and wasteful resource allocation. Those of you who follow our journey here at Nør are already familiar with big names of Beyond Meat and Oatly, their goals, mission and commitment to shifting from animal to plant-based products. This article will bring another name to your attention and hopefully to your fridge and freezer as well – Spain based Heura Foods.

Heura, plant-based, chicken sandwich

Founded in 2017, Barcelona, Spain, under the legal name of Foods for Tomorrow, S.L., the brand has been quick to enter the European plant-based market. Led by local activists Marc Coloma and Bernat Añaños Martinez, its mission is to create solutions that will leave the existing food production and consumption system obsolete and accelerate the transition to a world where animals are out of the equation. Their Mediterranean culinary heritage is heavily reflected in their products: clean label, high nutritional values and great taste. That’s exactly how Heura positions itself on their website as well – ‘… created as a social mission-turned-business which would empower people to change the current food system to a more sustainable, healthy, and nutritious one.’ Furthermore, ‘In addition to offering 100% plant-based products, we are 100% Mediterranean. What do we mean? Our products live and breathe Mediterranean heritage and cuisine – we use high-quality ingredients like olive oil, which have a clean label, high nutritional values, and an incredible taste.’

So how do they do it? It’s a 5 step process:

  1. Only high-protein and GMO-free legumes are used to create Heura products.
  2. Once selected, the team grinds and re-grinds these legumes until a vegetable flour, full of high quality concentrated protein, is made.
  3. This step, according to Heura, is where the magic happens. They mix the flour with water and apply different levels of heat, pressure and humidity, to achieve such ‘WOW textures that can trick even the most carnivorous person.’
  4. A touch of mediterranean culinary follows next – plant-based products are marinated with the best ingredients known to locals; extra virgin olive oil, spices (thyme, basil, cumin, and more) and other natural ingredients.
  5. Finished product is then packed in nearly fully recyclable packaging (let’s get rid of the cling film) and delivered to stores and restaurants around the world. Heura is currently present in 13 countries and growing!
A huge billboard in Madrid read in Spanish: ‘One hamburger pollutes more than your car’. November 2020.

Just like my previously covered plant-based companies Beyond Meat and Oatly, Heura Foods was quick to make its name across the industry thanks to brave, provocative and incredibly creative marketing campaigns. However, coming after livestock industry’s impact on the environment, health, and animals can only result in one thing – lawsuits. The above billboard as an example, stated that ‘One hamburger pollutes more than your car‘ and unsurprisingly caused a huge backlash from Spanish meat industry associations. They sued Heura for inaccurate and misleading claims, putting the brand in the same boat as Beyond Meat and Oatly. Although Heura removed the billboard within a month and even invited key meat industry players to discuss how they could work together to create a more sustainable industry, the associations nevertheless took the brand to court and even filed for precautionary measures. However, after reviewing the case, about a year ago (April 2021) the Spanish court ruled in favour of Heura and said: ‘Heura’s advertising messages have a scientific basis and are extracted from scientific reports and studies issued by prestigious publications and organisations, such as Science, Nature or FAO.‘ Following the verdict and led by activists, the ‘Mediterranean Ivy’ wrote on Instagram: ‘This step is not ours it is for all the companies, projects, organisations and people who are pushing for a plant-based future.‘ Such and similar actions/statements over the years proved that Heura is not just all talk, not just another plant-based food brand but the actual player in the industry looking to change the way we consume and produce food, all for the better. A separate section in their website – Food Activism – visualises their commitment to the cause perfectly!

To back the article’s opening line that plant-based movement is gaining more and more recognition in 2022, look no further than Heura and their latest crowdfunding campaign. Not even a week ago, in early April 2022, the company has raised over €4 million in just 12 hours, consolidating its name as one of Europe’s fastest-growing plant-based startups. The campaign launched on Crowdcube saw 4,500 investors from across Europe join a mission to accelerate the transition from animal to plant-based foods. According to EU-Startups, ‘The Barcelona-based startup smashed its initial goal of €1 million in just 30 minutes. Adding to the trend of going against the status-quo, almost ​​half of the investors are 18 – 35 years, and 42% identified as women – reflecting a new generation for foodtech.’ This round of crowdfunding comes on the heels of doubling sales in 2021 and increasing worldwide POS by 333%. The management of Heura said that these funds will be used to build the Heura Lab 2.0, generate cutting-edge low footprint technologies, and develop and distribute plant-based foods internationally. Over the course of 2022, the company is also aiming to develop up to 10 new product innovations, all animal-free that not only taste amazing but deliver great nutritional value as well.

My first encounter with Heura. North London, UK. March, 2022.

Heura is a type of plant which spreads rapidly, filling the world with life, nature and colour‘ says their website and if you were to translate the name from Catalan to English, you would learn that it literally means ivy, an evergreen climbing plant. Heura’s Original Burger and Mediterranean Chunks climbed into my shopping basket while I was strolling across North London a couple of weeks ago. The burger, following our tested and trialed Beyond Meat patty’s recipe, turned out to be amazing. The halloumi cheese or regular pulled chicken wrap that I do enjoy maybe a bit too often has been swapped for Heura chunks and it worked incredible well too. Both products definitely passed my criteria in terms of taste and the effort required to make it, therefore I am very excited with a prospect of even more similar foods coming out of Spain.

To wrap it all up, ‘Mediterranean Ivy’ is growing exponentially and spreading across the continent. According to Meticulous Research’s latest report, the European plant-based food market is also expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.1% from 2022 to 2029 and reach $16.7 billion by 2029. Therefore, taking all things into consideration, from market trends, Heura’s product portfolio, cause driven team and mission, to increasing demand across general population for plant-based foods, this privately held company and its fantastic products are getting onto my radar to not only change up my diet but also as a potential investment opportunity.

Heura finding its space in my shopping basket.

P.S. I own individual stocks of both BYND and OTLY, no position with Heura as of April 2022, nevertheless this article is in no way or form a financial advice. I just love the mission and brands behind all 3 companies. Owning stocks or purchasing their products only reiterates my commitment to the global mission – transition from animal to plant-based meats and drinks.

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