Health, wellness, and plant-based proteins: UAE residents take back control
Residents across the UAE are more dedicated than ever when it comes to taking control of their health, especially now with the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, creating an extraordinary platform for eco-friendly and healthy food brands.
Speaking to Khaleej Times, several experts highlighted how there has been a definitive shift in the attitudes of consumers, driven by concerns about the impact of their diet on the environment, healthy eating habits, and calls for more transparency from food companies.
One of the biggest trends in the food industry right now revolves around plant-based proteins. Future Farm, a Brazilian FoodTech company offering plant-based meat products, entered the UAE market in June 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic, and says that it has already secured over 30 per cent of the market share in the segment.
Marcos Leta, founder of Future Farm, explained the science behind the products and how they are relevant today. “To develop the technology, we studied the molecules of meat and how to replicate their characteristics using only plants. To have the same texture and taste as meat, we use peas, chickpeas, soybeans, and beets as main ingredients. All our products are made with 100 per cent natural ingredients, without GMO and are gluten free. Our goal is to use technology to change the food market, always evolving in flavor, nutrients, and sustainability. The emergence of FoodTechs in the world proposes to bring a food that simultaneously provides a high nutritional standard for its customer as well as a lesser impact on the environment.”
Looking at the events that are unfolding globally like the Covid-19 pandemic, and the other viruses that came from animals like Ebola, HIV, Malaria, and Zika, a change in food consumption has to be made, so that new pandemics will not happen, Leta said.
“We know that continuing with food as it is today, will no longer be possible,” he stressed. “Looking only at Brazil, the number of cattle stands at 218 million, and is higher than the human population which stands at 209 million; we are one of the countries most affected by agriculture when it comes to the environment. Brazil is a world leader in meat and vegetable production and I believe that we have an obligation to be a global player in the plant-based industry and champion products that stand for the decrease of deforestation, conserving natural resources, and reducing animal suffering for our consumption.”
Future Farm currently has five products in its portfolio: Future Burger, Future Mince, Future Meatballs, Future Sausage, and Future Chicken; which are available in Carrefour, Waitrose, Spinneys, and Choithrams.
“We are confident that we can keep encouraging UAE consumers to live a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly lifestyle through their everyday food choices,” Leta said. “We still have a lot of work ahead of us as a category. In the future, ‘plant-based’ will be seen as a ‘new breed’ of meat, and I expect that we will be consuming almost no meat in 20 years’ time.”
Mark Carroll, founder and CEO of Kcal, also highlighted the recent surge in healthy meal planning, as residents prioritize their physical health and building on their body’s immune system. Launched in Dubai in 2010, Kcal’s goal was to provide healthy and sustainable food options for the UAE through as many avenues as possible including meal plans, restaurants, and food delivery.
“Kcal allows you to take charge of your health and wellness without compromising on quality, service, choice or convenience,” he said. “We’re here to help you make simple, sustainable lifestyle changes so you look and feel better than ever. Within our meal plans, we have very personalised options tailored to your specific goals and lifestyle such as weight-loss, new mums, diabetic, gluten-free, vegetarian, wellness, and athlete plans to meet as many different peoples’ needs as possible. We include the calorie and macro breakdown on every single one of our dishes at our restaurants and on our meal plans; from the menu to the box your food is packaged in, you will see the complete nutritional breakdown to help make making the right choice as simple as possible.”
What sets Kcal apart from many other similar healthy food companies, Carroll said, is the personalised support residents get from the moment they register. “The Kcal community is at the heart of what we do; behind the scenes is a huge network of people all wanting you to win. From the chefs, to the nutritionists, to our account managers, everyone is behind each and every journey and rooting for you. Our expert nutritionists are on hand to assess your needs and advise on what’s best for you. You can personalise your menu and enjoy healthy meals designed for your unique goals. Simply select your plan, book an appointment with one of our nutritionists if you like and start your plan!”
Like several organisations, Kcal had to weather several challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At one point, the brand had to close all seven of its restaurants.
“But, we adapted operations quickly to manage the impact,” said Carroll. “We did see a trend of people starting to put their health first and a surge in the return of past customers who want to get their health back on track. We offered free ‘Immune Boosting Shots’ for all our customers at the peak of the pandemic to further support their health journey. As Kcal is one of the first meal plan providers in the UAE, and has a great reputation for quality in both food and food safety, we witnessed an influx of new customers who had previously been with other meal plan providers join Kcal.”
“Looking ahead, we have some exciting things in the pipeline including launching our new app and adding even more goal-specific plans to our meal plan range, but our focus right now is on sustaining the business that we have and to keep delivering uncompromised, quality, service, and convenience to our customers,” he said.
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