Plant-based companies vs COVID-19: How are Good Catch and JUST dealing with the Coronavirus crisis?

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Feature image: Brittani Burns, Unsplash

How are plant-based companies doing in times of Coronavirus crisis? Have their sales skyrocketed as many criticize meat products for the spike of foodborne illnesses?

We talked to Scott Simons of Good Catch and David Wagstaff of JUST to find out how their sales, marketing strategy, consumer profiles and operation models changed within the last couple of months.

Scott Simons, Senior VP of Marketing & Communications – Good Catch

Good Catch is a chef-driven food tech company making revolutionary, 100% plant-based seafood alternatives that are high in protein and free of animal products, mercury and microplastics.

Founded by pioneering plant-based chefs Chad and Derek Sarno, along with impact investor Chris Kerr — all recognized as leaders in building world-class, plant-based brands — Good Catch products offer the taste, texture, nutrition and culinary experience of seafood without any of the harmful impact to our oceans. It’s seafood without the sacrifice.

The Good Catch team has grown to include leading food scientists, sales specialists, marketers and a strong finance team to meet the massive consumer demand for plant-based protein. We’re dedicated to creating plant-based foods for all palates, from vegan to omnivore and everyone in between.

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    Scott Simons, Good Catch

Industry: Which categories/ products have you seen grow above average in sales within the last weeks? Has your consumer profile remained the same or do you observe increased interest from new consumer groups?

Shelf-stable protein has done very well. Our consumer profile hasn’t changed yet — it’s too early to understand those types of changes in our customer base.

Communication: What is your marketing strategy to inform the consumer about the benefits of plant-based products with the COVID-19 outbreak as a context?

Our strategy really hasn’t changed much, other than a greater focus on driving online sales. Considering that people are dying, we are extremely sensitive to any marketing or PR that might appear to be taking advantage of this crisis is any way, or attempting to leverage this situation for a profit. So, we focus on our high protein count and shelf-stable convenience like always.

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Operations: How are you prioritizing your resources and optimizing your workforce?

Being a startup, we’re still “all hands on deck” and so there’s very little to prioritize. Everyone is working as hard as ever and nothing has really changed in that regard.

Sales: How does the current situation impact your sales strategy?

We’ve struggled to keep up with demand under the current climate, so our biggest shift has been not in sales but in distribution and making sure we have our channels open and product flowing to retailers.

Prediction: What will be the long-term impact of COVID-19 outbreak and local operating restrictions on your product category?

I believe consumers will have long-term behavioral changes and a large chunk of our sales will remain online after this is over.

David Wagstaff, Executive Director – JUST Europe

David Wagstaff is responsible for European launch & execution of JUST brand and leading downstream partner engagement in European market sector. At JUST Europe, he is in charge of creating joint business plans for target markets, maintaining high-level retailer / customer relationships and driving team to deliver on budget & brand distribution.

Eat JUST, Inc. (JUST) is on a mission to build a food system where everyone eats well. The company’s world-class team of scientists and researchers leverage a one-of-a-kind discovery platform for food ingredient innovation. Michelin-starred chefs combine these discoveries with decades of culinary expertise to create delicious, accessible, healthier and more sustainable products.

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    David Wagstaff, JUST Europe

Industry: Which categories/ products have you seen grow above average in sales within the last weeks? Has your consumer profile remained the same or do you observe increased interest from new consumer groups?

We have increased our output to meet the growing retail demand for our original plant-based JUST Egg, which is sold as a liquid in a 12oz bottle, and our new four-count folded JUST Egg, which is rolling out this month in the freezer aisles of grocery stores nationally in the U.S.

Liquid JUST Egg velocities erupted in Q1 2020, growing 36% in the grocery category since Q4 2019. Early indications show that folded JUST Egg is performing well in its first weeks on shelf. The product debuted at #3 in the category at a top five U.S. supermarket.

Consumer interest in JUST Egg and healthy frozen breakfasts is surging. A new consumer survey of Americans in our target demographic shows they are now more interested in JUST Egg as well as eating healthier food, cooking more frozen food at home and eating more breakfast.

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Communication: What is your marketing strategy to inform the consumer about the benefits of plant-based products with the COVID-19 outbreak as a context?

Our marketing strategy has largely remained the same as it pertains to communicating the value of JUST Egg to consumers. We offer a product that is delicious, healthier and more sustainable than conventional animal-based proteins.

Understanding that people are now cooking and eating at home more than they are visiting restaurants, we have created original content featuring our in-house chefs that is informative and entertaining, and that people are enjoying.

Each episode of our Instagram TV (IGTV series, "JUST At Home,") highlights a simple recipe using ingredients that make the most of your kitchen pantry. The series encourages consumers to showcase their own creativity and demonstrates the versatility and functionality of JUST Egg.

To date, more than 120,000 people have viewed the videos on IGTV and we have shared the content across our other social channels. Keep in mind, these videos have been shot on our chefs' smartphones while we’re all practicing social distancing in an effort to keep our family, friends and neighbors safe and healthy!

We are also moving forward with plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with a unique campaign that acknowledges that people are rightfully focused on the current crisis, but change often begins at times of great challenge.

Our Earth Every Day effort, which launches the day after Earth Day, emphasizes that the single biggest individual impact one can make for the planet is what you eat. You get three votes for the planet every day -- at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

This campaign underscores that we're learning now, more than ever, about the interconnectedness of our planet and people and we want to continue to facilitate that important conversation among our consumers.

Operations: How are you prioritizing your resources and optimizing your workforce?

The supply chain for manufacturing of JUST Egg has not been impacted to date. Building a stable business infrastructure that can support long-term growth has been a major focus for the company for quite some time. That includes the international strategic partnerships that we announced earlier this spring.

While COVID-19 workplace restrictions cause delay in our research progress, we've made substantial strides in the first quarter of this year and have found ways to adjust to the current situation.

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Sales: How does the current situation impact your sales strategy?

A majority of our business is retail and we continue to invest heavily in that sector. That said, there are a number of restaurants that carry JUST Egg that are continuing to serve their communities by offering takeout and delivery. We're doing everything we can to support those partners during this difficult time.

We were fortunate to gain traction traction with restaurants, colleges and within the healthcare sector before COVID-19 and expect that when foodservice business resumes, those sales will return and continue top grow.

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Prediction: What will be the long-term impact of COVID-19 outbreak and local operating restrictions on your product category?

The diversion of focus by local (EU) regulatory authorities during this crisis may well have an impact on new product innovations getting to market due to elongated approval timelines it will also potentially impact enforcement of non-approved products.

Fundamentally we envision that plant-based as a food category will benefit from this crisis resulting in a heightened interest and a further shift towards consumers increasing plant food consumption & usage.

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