Claire Kelly, co-founder and director of the UK-based e-retailer and manufacturer founded in 2008, told us the company was targeting vegan athletes looking to bulk up with no animal products, referencing a movement called ‘no meat athletes’.
She added the organic range – which included hemp, spirulina, chorella, pea, rice, chia and pumpkin seed protein powder – would also appeal to allergy sufferers and environmentally-conscious consumers.
According to the Vegan Society, there were an estimated 150,000 vegans in the UK last year. Meanwhile, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) said one in 50 people of northern European descent had some degree of lactose intolerance. This rate shoots up to a majority for people of Chinese descent and is also higher for people of African-Caribbean descent.
This would rule out dominant dairy-based protein sources like whey for these groups.
This appeal for people with allergies meant the protein would not just be targeting “extremist” vegans, Kelly said.
The ‘no meat athlete’ movement
On its website the company said: “Vegan Protein Powder has been used extensively by athletes to build muscle mass and increase energy levels.
“For those that require quick regeneration of torn muscle tissue from heavy exercise these powders are the perfect tool to keep high protein levels in the body. For vegan and vegetarians these powders can add a much needed source of top quality protein to contribute to an overall healthy diet.”
Kelly said members of the ‘no meat athlete’ movement had shown that it was possible to be vegan and active.
The movement appears to have been founded in 2009 by American Matt Frazier. His site documents his experience of ‘running on plants’ – including qualifying for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:09:59 when he was a vegetarian.
The founder, now vegan, has 21.7k Twitter followers and 76k Facebook likes. His book was translated into German last year.
Kelly said a real problem currently was that quality, nutritious food was seen as a luxury for those who could afford it. A key message for the firm was that it should be affordable and accessible to all.
“That’s our real social leverage.”
The price of packs, sold on the firm's website and Amazon, depended on the protein source. For the pea protein this ranged from £3.99 (€5.59) for a 100 g bag, up to £18.99 (€26.62) for 1 kg. For the spirulina powder this started at £7.99 (€11.20) for 200 g, up to £34 (€47.65) for 1 kg.
The spirulina and chorella were sourced from an island in the South China Sea. Kelly said this was done to enable a lower price point, but insisted the organic ingredient was still top quality.
“Quality is still key. It’s always a fine balance between the two.”
It was also pushing the idea of incorporating these “dense” supplementary nutrients into ‘whole foods’ like smoothies and yoghurt.
Proteins in context
According to a report from research firm Frost & Sullivan, the Western European market for amino acids and speciality protein Ingredients for human nutrition – which included proteins produced from animal sources, plant sources and algae – achieved revenues of $14.47m (€13.45m) in 2014 and was forecast to reach $20.21m (€18.79m) in 2018.
The report said animal products had attracted “considerable scepticism due the use of genetically modified (GM) products,” meaning plants and dairy were considered more desirable and sustainable sources for proteins by consumers. Algal proteins were expected to take the lead in this market, it said.