An interview with Simeon van der Molen, founder of a plant-based burger from the UK Moving Mountains

  • An interview with Simeon van der Molen, founder of a plant-based burger from the UK Moving Mountains (whtsbf-moving-mountains_074-web.jpg)

The Moving Mountains is a plant-based burger from the UK which is currently available in over 1000 restaurants.

As of 17th of January 2019, the burger is served in What’s Beef restaurants in Düsseldorf and Frankfurt, the first two locations in Germany. We talked with the founder of the burger Simeon van der Molen about the science behind the innovative food product, its flavour and ingredients.

What is the story behind the creation of the Moving Mountains burger and how did you come up with this non-obvious combination of ingredients?

We started working on the Moving Mountains burger with a mission to bring real, radical change to people’s everyday diet through a plant-based alternative that can genuinely compete with animal meat in terms of taste, texture and satisfaction.

We have been operating in the plant-based industry for over 20 years but spotted a gap in the market to develop an innovative food product that could affect positive change for the health of the planet and reduce animal meat consumption.

As a vegan myself, I wanted to create something unique, delicious and different. Although there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan burgers available to purchase already, Moving Mountains is the first independent food producer to offer a 100% raw plant meat burger that provides a real viable alternative to eating animal meat products.

We’ve spent more than three years developing the Moving Mountains burger with leading scientists, chefs and farmers and tested over 500 test kitchen recipes to create the final product.

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Which combinations of ingredients have you tested and tasted in the process?

It is important to understand, that making a product is not just simply mixing ingredients, it is about how they are treated and which processes they undergo. If someone decides to copy our product, they might work with the same ingredients yet get an unpredictable outcome.

To develop a truly bespoke flavour, we have partnered with Givaudan — The world’s largest flavour and fragrance company. The Moving Mountains burger formula — which constantly improves as innovative solutions come onto the market — is all natural, completely plant-based and full of nutritious ingredients such as:

  • Oyster mushrooms are the base, which maintains the mouth-watering, succulent texture and differentiates the burger from US competitors;
  • Pea protein is a source of protein;
  • Wheat and soy proteins give a fibrous texture akin to the bite and depth of a traditional burger;
  • Beetroot juice is responsible for a juicy ‘bleed’ at the centre of the patty;
  • Coconut oil provides a fatty, satisfying consistency;
  • Oats give the firm structure to the patty;
  • Vitamin B12, traditionally associated with red meats, vegan-based vitamin B12 has been added so that the Moving Mountains burger can genuinely compete with a beef burger and provide more essential nutrients. Moving Mountains burger contains the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of B12.
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How would you describe the taste of the Moving Mountains burger? Have you tried to create something similar to meat or rather come up with a completely new, unique flavour?

To whet the appetite of meat eaters and flexitarians and provide a viable yet sustainable alternative to traditional beef burgers, the Moving Mountains burger had to genuinely replicate the taste, texture and experience of animal meat.

Although made from 100% raw plant “meat”, the Moving Mountains burger looks just like a regular meat patty. When cooked on a BBQ, it sizzles, smells and browns just like the real thing. And just like a regular burger, when perfectly cooked, the Moving Mountains burger bleeds through the middle — with beetroot juice instead of animal blood.

At the moment, we are working on of the fatty and iron notes to bring our product even closer to perfection. We collaborate with sensory analysts to make sure that its taste, smell, texture and look are 100% identical to the classic version.

What makes us different from other plant-based food brands is that while appealing to the vegetarian and vegan community, the brand targets the growing flexitarian market — people looking for quality meat-free products that taste good enough to convert even the most committed carnivores.

Is your entire production facility based in Great Britain? What is your current capacity, how many burger patties per month can you currently produce? Does it cover the existing demand?

We have production facilities in Great Britain and The Netherlands, where we have the latest high tech machinery to manufacture over 3 million burgers a month. The demand is increasing each month and with recent internal investment into our machinery, we are able to serve this demand and keep all customers satisfied.

How much more expensive is the Moving Mountains burger compared to a meat-based analogue? Are you considering any price change as you expand your reach?

In restaurants, burger joints and cafes, where the Moving Mountains burger is currently available, the price and nutritionals stack up to hold their own against a regular quarter-pounder burger and offer.

Obviously, there are numerous value-adding factors which should be considered when it comes to the price: Moving Mountains burger has zero cholesterol, is free from antibiotics and hormones, contains 25g of pure plant protein and only 180 calories per patty compared to 260 calories in the average beef patty.

Over time we expect the price of the raw materials to become more competitive and impact the price of our products accordingly.

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Moving Mountains burgers are mostly available in the restaurants. Are you also selling them directly to the customers or planning to do so in the future?

The Moving Mountains burger is currently available in over 1000 UK restaurants, bars, pubs and cafés, and this number is growing daily. At the end of 2018, we signed a deal with Brakes, the UK’s leading food wholesale and catering supplier, to make our meatless “bleeding” burger available to over 40,000 more restaurants nationwide. The food tech sector has seen a 6% year on year increase with $4.4bn invested in the sector globally in Q1 of last year, and we plan to grow this further for 2019.

Our Moving Mountains burger sits really well on restaurant menus and lets chefs create their own serves to coincide with different eating occasions and demand from their customers. One of our partners, Lucky Beach Café in Brighton, has six different burger serves on the menu! So, at the moment, we want to keep our burger exclusive to restaurants and food service where they can be served as a whole experience — with a bun, dressing and a side dish. Every chef gets to create their own version and experiment with the serving.

What are your main promotion channels and which feedback have you received so far?

The response has been exciting and explosive! With plant-based food in such huge growth at the moment amongst the millennial demographic, social media has been a natural channel for us to grow huge brand awareness and following from new customers and supporters of the Moving Mountains mission. We have learnt that a burger can evoke interest in the public in a way that other meat products simply cannot.

People love to talk about burgers and compare taste and meaty texture. The excitement around the launch of the Moving Mountains burger has reflected this, with more and more people drawing comparisons between Moving Mountain burger and a regular meat patty.

People have been hugely supportive of the launch and are calling for Moving Mountains to be available at more venues across the UK and around the world.

Which further plant-based food products do you have in mind and when should we expect the launch?

Meat-free is a great and growing opportunity in food service and retail that represents part of a larger movement for the future of food, our health and the planet. We want to continue growing Moving Mountains and keep developing products that can provide a mainstream and viable alternative to meat. Watch this space!

The NX-Food visual branding and website are developed by dombek—bolay and Albert Naasner, in close collaboration with the NX-Food team.