The Food Industry’s Latest Plant-Based Deal Is A Regenerative Mic Drop In The Face Of Big Food

A Farmer, a Foodie and a Fisher walk into a boardroom…  While it might sound like the beginning of a joke— it’s actually the fishiest chapter in plant-based food’s most recent brand disruption, featuring a strategy that could just have what it takes to break through the big food glass ceiling— using plants.

But rest assured, people, the planet, and profits all play a central role in this story…

Today Lionel Kambeitz’ and Martin Williams’ vertically integrated, plant-based food company, Above Food, announced a binding transaction agreement with Douglas Hines’ Atlantic Natural Foods (ANF), a global market leader in plant-based seafood alternatives, meals, and egg replacements, adding alternative eggs and seafood to its alternative meat and dairy portfolio of more than forty plant-based food products.

The deal, valued in excess of $30 million, closely follows Above Food’s other recent acquisitions, including Farmer Direct Organic, Only Oats and Culcherd, and ultimately expands upon its portfolio of plant-based brands across categories.

And while Atlantic’s sheer size, influence, global reach, and affordable, delicious and nutritious, shelf stable products make this deal disruptive in and of itself, the vertically integrated and regenerative backdrop adds to this partnership’s truly transformative value.

Here’s why.

Remember those geographically and logistically complex food supply chains that used to breed a lack of transparency, inflate food prices, create enormous waste, damage soil and wreak havoc on natural ecosystems? Oh wait— those still exist…

Well, through its successive acquisitions and partnerships in the plant-based space, and by controlling its tightly synchronised and purpose-driven supply and value chains, Above Food’s “Farmer and Foodie” duo of Kambeitz and Williams is achieving the diversified offering and economies of scale that have typically been relegated to big food companies— but without all of the bad stuff.

In addition to adopting Atlantic’s brand inventory, Above Food plans to integrate ANF’s scaled manufacturing facilities in North Carolina and Thailand into its production ecosystem, adding a deep team of seasoned consumer packaged goods operators, under the leadership of Hines, the organization’s current Chairman.

“Above Food’s seed-to-fork approach in plant-based foods is something we were independently building towards, as we believe owning the entire value chain is the only way to drive the scale of change necessary in the food system and create a true long term business model,” says Hines.

Vertical integration is one of the key differentiators in Above Foods’ seed to fork platform— allowing the brand to offer traceability, affordability and environmental accountability to its customers. And with its great tasting and nutritionally and environmentally responsible products, coupled with the benefits of shelf stability (removing the need for refrigeration) the Above Food-Atlantic deal is a regenerative mike drop in the face of  industrial food processes. It also offers the possibility of feeding a growing global population and the food insecure.

But let’s venture back to where the very first seed of this idea was sown— no, not the proverbial seed— the literal seed.

Lionel Kambeitz— “The Farmer,” “Ag-tech guy,” Co-founder and Executive Chairman of Above Food— was born and raised on an intergenerational farm in Saskatchewan, Canada. The 70,000 acre regenerative Kambeitz Farm was selected as the North American representative for the Expo Milano in 2015 for sustainable and scalable agriculture, and is what the team refers to as its laboratory, feed lot, fishing fleet and ocean. After all, the meat, the dairy, the eggs and the fish— the entire alternative protein ecosystem of Above Food— is grown in no-till soil.

Now to the fork of the story… “The Foodie” and “CPG guy”… Martin Williams, Co-Founder, President and Chief Innovation Officer of Above Food. Like Kambeitz and Hines, Williams has a highly refined palate for good food and believes in the value of novel plant-based ingredients and “boutique crops” such as faba beans, yellow peas, chickpeas, canary seeds, oats and lentils as animal protein alternatives.

With 20 years of experience in Consumer Packaged Goods in innovation, marketing, operations and product development and 12 years advising Fortune 500 CPG companies on innovation and go-to-market strategy, Williams believes in taking custody of all ingredients and steps of production across the supply chain.

The true value of this strategy, according to the team, lies in the ability to create better unit economics, unparalleled traceability, superior nutrient density and quantifiable sustainability.

“When a consumer buys an Above Food branded product, they can guarantee their vote for the environment,” says Kambeitz, who reveals that the brand plans to indicate on its labels, the value in carbon credits associated with each of its products.

A huge proponent of environmental accountability, Douglas Hines— “the Fisher” and Chairman of Atlantic Natural Foods— believes that “Feeding the global population sustainably, with high quality nutritious plant-based foods is how we will drive true change to address healthier foods with a healthy planet.”

As a former C-level executive at a top-three United States’ canned-tuna brand, Hines is an insider to the unsustainable practices of large food companies and the canned tuna industry in particular, and acquired Atlantic when he left the industry a decade ago.

“Seafood people don’t like me,” he says dryly.

Available in 25,000-plus retail locations across 30-plus countries, Hines has an unrelenting commitment to mainstream access to ANF’s high quality, sustainably manufactured and nutritious plant based foods.

ANF’s plant-based inventory, which includes the Loma Linda brand, America’s oldest plant-based brand, founded in 1890 by Dr. J.H. Kellogg, TUNO, a shelf stable plant-based alternative to canned tuna that offers tuna texture and flavour using plant-based ingredients such as seaweed and DHA algal oil, and Neat, an innovative egg replacer and plant-protein mix brand, successfully builds on Above Food’s vision to enhance its diversity and scale.

With its current product offering, Above Food values its market (which includes plant protein ingredients, plant-based meat, plant-based dairy, plant-based snacks, plant-based baby food, plant-based bakery and natural whole grains) at $88.9 billion.

In 2022, Above Food will also be launching New Ocean, a complete portfolio of plant-based seafood products that it says will tackle any opportunities and gaps in the category.

With its rapid growth, upcoming plans and by scaling healthy, regenerative foods through its vertically integrated operations, Above Food is looking to disrupt the entire food industry, as we know it.

Kambeitz, Williams and Hines say that they are now able to advance their vision of getting nutritious, plant-based, shelf stable and affordable foods to “all people” and not just the typically “high end” consumer of specialty vegan and gluten free products.

“We are going beyond Whole Foods WFM 0.0%, to Dollar Stores and Aldi’s,” says Williams of how Above Food has redefined regenerative and plant-based, making it scalable, affordable, shelf safe and ultimately— accessible. And with Above Food’s control over the entire supply chain, the brand is also able to offer trust and transparency.

Turns out this deal is not that fishy after all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *