The rise of blended protein: a Q&A with Clemens Food Group

Sep 08, 2021 / MIN READ

In July, Clemens Food Group announced it was entering the plant-forward protein segment with the launch of its Hatfield Recipe Essentials Blended products, which are 75% pork, 25% mushrooms.

By Andy Nelson, Supermarket Perimeter

Supermarket Perimeter sat down with Michele Williams, Clemens’ senior retail marketing manager, for an exclusive chat about Recipe Essentials Blended, which comes in a 14-ounce package and is available in two flavors: Unseasoned Ground Pork with Mushrooms and Mild Taco Seasoned Ground Pork with Mushrooms.

Supermarket Perimeter: How did you decide to introduce a blended product to the marketplace?

Michele Williams: Plant-forward is in high demand these days, in retail and foodservice, and especially among younger consumers who are seeking balanced, clean-label products. Beef is leading in the category, and chicken is making a big play, but pork is lagging behind. This provides the versatility that consumers striving for — a healthy alternative that doesn’t compromise on flavor. We are a protein company, our core competency is pork. But we feel that consumers are looking for more options, and transparency. They’re looking to put more healthy, balanced options on their dinner tables.

SP: Why this particular product?

MW: Ground meat in general is a growing segment, and ours is the first blended product in the ground pork segment that meets that need. Not only that, it’s also minimally processed. This is a plant-forward product, not a plant-based product. It has fewer than five ingredients. Our Recipe Essentials line seemed like the perfect match. When we decided to launch, and call it Hatfield Recipe Essentials Blended, 84% of people we surveyed said they would purchase the product. The line already offers great convenience, we just wanted to take it a step further with plant-forward.

SP: What customer feedback have you received about the product?

MW: The feedback we’re getting from consumers is mainly based on taste. People are raving about the flavor that comes through, and that they can’t even tell that mushrooms are in there. I use it for Taco Tuesday, and my family doesn’t even realize its blended with mushrooms. Consumers want to have that balanced diet and healthy choices without compromising on flavor.

SP: What is driving demand for blended products?

MW: Consumers are concerned about what’s in their food and more importantly what’s not in their food. “Five ingredients or less” is really driving that demand. With plant-based, there’s often a long list of ingredients. We also see our consumers gravitating to the claims we put on our labels. We’re seeing a high propensity for all-natural, no hormones and other claims.

SP: Can you talk a bit about the packaging you chose?

MW: Buying habits for protein have shifted a little. When you used to think of ground meat, you thought of a tray pack with plastic covering. But with the pandemic, so much of that had to change. People went to Cryovac and sealed. This is something we’ve done for a while, and it was no different with our blended product. It’s a convenient, presealed package, a perfect size for one or many, a space saver in the fridge or freezer. More companies are going that route and more consumers are open to it. You don’t have to worry about where it came from. You know it’s coming from the manufacturer.