Maple Leaf Foods: Plant protein won’t replace poultry

There may be a growing demand for plant-based protein foods, but Maple Leaf Foods CEO Michael H. McCain does not think that means there will be a decreased demand for poultry or pork.

Roy Graber Headshot
(Field Roast Grain Meat Co.)
(Field Roast Grain Meat Co.)

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series that looks at the growth of the plant-based protein industry and how it could impact the poultry industry.

Not long ago, Maple Leaf Foods was known primarily as a Canadian company that specialized in the production of chicken, turkey and pork products.

But that changed in 2017, as it entered the plant-based protein sector with the acquisition of Lightlife Foods, which was finalized in March. Later that year, Maple Leaf Foods announced that it would acquire another plant-based protein company, Field Roast Grain Meat Co. The Field Roast transaction closed in January 2018.

While Lightlife Foods product sales have been good since the acquisition, Maple Leaf Foods continues to operate strongly in the poultry and pork industries. CEO Michael H. McCain has said he does not believe that most poultry and pork consumers will eat less of those products, even when more meatless protein sources are made available.

“There’s a significant consumer trend to not eat less meat, but to increase protein consumption in a more balanced way. … It’s really about consumers’ choice, not one or the other, it’s typically both and finding the balance for both.” McCain said after Maple Leaf Foods

McCain added there were “tremendous consumer research and evidence and insights that underpin” his views.

Plant protein demand ‘rapidly growing’

Maple Leaf Foods recently released its financial results for the 2017 fiscal year, and while the acquisition of Field Roast was not finalized in that fiscal year and therefore did not impact the company’s earnings and sales, McCain was pleased with how the Lightlife Foods acquisition helped Maple Leaf Foods’ financial picture.

“Lightlife Foods contributed, as the brand continues to participate in the very dynamic and rapidly growing categories of plant protein,” McCain said in a conference calls with shareholders when announcing the FY 2017 results. “Lightlife has exceeded our expectations by every measure.”

Since the acquisition was finalized, Lightlife has seen double-digit sales increases, McCain added.

Because the Field Roast transaction was finalized so recently, Maple Leaf Foods can’t yet quantify how it has helped the company’s bottom line, but McCain expects it to do well.

He says Field Roast’s customers are “fiercely loyal,” and Maple Leaf will further invest in Field Roast to fuel its growth beyond its existing customers.

McCain expects to see further growth in meatless protein sales in both the United States and Canada.

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