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Plant-based eating is all the rage right now – and not just during Veganuary! The number of people adopting a vegan diet skyrocketed by an astounding 40% in 2020, as health and sustainability became top priorities for many.
Better Nature was created to bring to market delicious and nutritious meat alternatives. With a 14-fold increase in sales within the last 12 months*, Better Nature is stocked in 200 locations across the UK and recently launched with Mindful Chef to bring plant-based innovations to even more households across the country.
We sat down with Better Nature’s four co-founders, Christopher Kong, Amadeus Driando Ahnan-Winarno, Elin Roberts and Fabio Rinaldo to find out what’s in store for the brand.
What is Better Nature all about?
At Better Nature, we make protein without compromise – all-natural protein products that are just as nutritious as they are delicious. We do this using tempeh – a plant-based protein originating in Indonesia, typically made through fermenting soybeans! Tempeh is high in protein and fibre, packed with micronutrients and is awesome for the gut. It’s also incredibly versatile, meaning we can use it to create a whole range of exciting plant-based, protein-packed products.
What were you doing before this that got you excited about disrupting the plant-based market?
Before founding Better Nature, all four of us were working in pretty different fields. Driando was working hard on his PhD on tempeh fermentation at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Chris was interning at McKinsey as well as working with some startups to help them raise investment, Fabio was working as a product developer at the meat-free company 3FBio, and Elin was working as a marketing strategist in ad agency Golley Slater.
We came together through an uncompromising love for people, the planet and animals – and tempeh, of course! Though we were all relatively young and inexperienced in our fields, we knew that we were onto something really exciting with tempeh and were confident we had the skill sets to bring this vision to life as we hoped to. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since then, but we’re so glad we took the plunge and committed ourselves to making protein without compromise!
Meat-free is a hot topic right now – what does Better Nature offer that other competitors in the market don’t?
While there are so many incredible meat-free products out there right now, there is a very heavy focus on replicas. There is certainly a huge (and growing!) demand for these, but as flexitarians make up about 35% of the UK population and they are 18% more likely to want a plant-based protein that doesn’t replicate meat rather than one that does, we feel there is a real gap in the market for natural meat alternatives that are just as nutritious as they are delicious. This is where we come in! Rather than trying to perfectly replicate meat, we’ve instead focused on creating meat alternatives that are tender, juicy and incredibly moreish, while also being packed with nutrients like protein, fibre, calcium and iron. Luckily for us, tempeh has given us the perfect way to do just that!
How did you go about developing the technology for meat alternatives that doesn’t include anything artificial?
We can’t take too much of the credit – tempeh does a lot of the hard work for us! The 300-year-old process of tempeh fermentation that we innovate upon has been the key to Indonesians consuming tempeh as a natural meat alternative for centuries. It’s thanks to this fermentation process that we can naturally produce products with a meaty taste and texture, using whatever bean, seed, grain, or legume we ferment! This is how we create naturally delicious, tender and satisfying products without the need for any artificial additives.
In order to create the tastiest, most high-quality products possible, our amazing R&D team is working on cutting-edge tempeh research to optimise our tempeh fermentation and improve the nutritional and sensorial properties of our products. Our incredible Product Development team then takes it from there, testing out lots of exciting new flavours and formats for this optimised tempeh, to really bring its full potential to life.
What have been some of the most significant growth milestones for the company so far?
There have been so many exciting milestones, but we have to say that filing our 4 patents have been real highlights. They demonstrate that what we’re doing is totally unique and novel, expanding the food industry’s potential to create all-natural, hyper-delicious and versatile plant-based products that are as appealing and accessible to a wide range of people as possible. For us, that’s what it’s all about!
What products do you currently offer and which ones are you working on in the pipeline for the future?
We’re kicking things off with our all-natural meat alternatives range. We already have our tasty organic Tempeh, Tempeh Rashers and Tempeh Mince on the market and in May are expanding to some delicious BBQ Ribz, Sweet & Smoky Rashers, Roast Bites and Kebab Strips. Down the line, we’ll be releasing our Better Burger, made using our Better Matrix – a juicy, meat-like matrix, made using tempeh (of course!). After that, we’ll be releasing our tempeh-based protein powder Betterein, which will also form the basis of plant-based dairy products, confectionery and snacks. There’s very little tempeh can’t do, so we have lots of exciting product ideas lined up. Watch this space!
How would you describe your company culture and has this changed at all as the company has grown?
Since starting Better Nature, we’ve always stuck by six core brand values: Human, Brave, Optimistic, Fun, Curious and Better-Bound (yes, we made this one up – it means being committed to living life without compromise!). For us, these six words perfectly encapsulate the kind of company and brand we want to be, and we do whatever we can to foster this in our team and of course the work we all do. This includes relaxed weekly catch-ups with different team members, an incessant sharing of GIFs on Slack, free mental healthcare through Spill, an ambitious Belonging (Diversity & Inclusion) Framework, an environment that encourages and celebrates new, innovative ideas and so much more. While the company culture naturally has evolved as we’ve grown, with new team members joining especially, we always stick to these core values and don’t plan for that to ever change!
What’s one piece of customer feedback that meant the most to you?
That our products have helped someone eat more plant-based foods in their diet. We know that eating more plant-based foods can sometimes be a challenge, whether through an allergy, struggling to feel full, not being able to find the tasty, all-natural products you’re looking for. These are all things we’ve really tried to keep in mind as we develop our products, and continue to do so as our new range comes out in May. While of course we can’t be everything to everyone, hearing that people are now able to eat a more plant-heavy diet with the help of our products is all the encouragement and motivation we need, and drives us to keep making protein without compromise!
What are you looking forward to most about this crowdfund?
We’re just so excited to have our friends, family and wonderful, loyal community of customers and followers become an even bigger part of our journey and (hopefully!) reap the rewards as we continue growing. It’s such a unique opportunity to include more people in our business and we just couldn’t be happier with the overwhelmingly supportive response we’ve had so far!
What’s your favourite meat-free product on offer right now?
That’s a good question! Beyond our own delicious tempeh products which we eat about 99% of the time (no joke), we all have different favourites:
Elin: I’m really loving Strong Roots’ Kale & Quinoa burgers at the moment – they’re so tasty and satisfying!
Chris: I love a good spag bol – while I usually have it with our Tempeh Mince, sometimes I mix it up with a Meatless Farm mince which is really delicious!
Driando: I love Green Butcher’s meatless maranggi satay in Indonesia!
Fabio: I really like the HECK Ultimate Vegan Burger – I love the fact that they’re made up of natural ingredients like beetroot and mushroom. They are really tasty as well!
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone new to plant-based eating?
Another great question!
Elin: I’d say just take it slow and focus on finding foods that you really enjoy that are plant-based, rather than thinking too much about what you need to cut out. By doing it that way I was able to properly enjoy exploring new foods and notice how great I felt eating more plant-based, which just spurred me on to keep going!
Chris: Adopting a plant-based diet is a marathon not a sprint, but unlike most marathons there’s no finish line, no pacer and no need to even finish if you don’t want to! As such, just take it one step at a time and don’t go into it too headstrong. For example, after watching Cowspiracy, I started off by reducing my consumption of red meat and, when I found that I actually felt great as a result, removed it from my diet. Once the snowball started rolling, there was no going back.
Driando: Find your own pace that is natural and sustainable! Take one step at a time, forgive yourself during low times, understand the science, listen to how your tastebuds and body react, respect your emotional need to ‘say goodbye’ to your childhood foods (after a while, you’d be surprised by how differently you perceive these foods compared to what you had in your memory), hang out with fellow plant-based eaters and hang out with animals — and most importantly, enjoy the great feeling of doing something good for your body, the planet, and animals!
Fabio: One of the most exciting parts of a plant-based diet is all the new foods there are to experience. So take advantage of a new reason to expand your culinary horizons. Make some Indian food, or go to a Thai or Mexican restaurant and try new dishes to get you inspired. Allowing yourself to experience all these new flavors and textures will take your attention off of what’s missing from your plate, and shift it to what’s new and interesting!
Better Nature’s campaign recently closed with over £1.6M raised.
*Based on unaudited management accounts.