Europe is at the forefront of many sustainability movements and Green&Great is a good example of a company that’s bringing new ideas to the food industry.
We talked with Gonzalo Mijangos, Founder, and CEO, to find out more about Green&Great products, the Spanish landscape, and the next steps for the company.
Green&Great develops and distributes plant-based products for foodservice and retail. These items mimic animal products, such as burgers that look, cook, and smell like ground beef, chicken, and pork.
We started as two partners: me and Jorge Jordana Butticaz. Jorge has been Secretary-General of the Food Companies Association of Spain for 34 years, so he’s a heavyweight in the national food industry. We started looking for plant-based food in 2015 and brought Beyond Meat to Spain in 2017.
Our company was founded in February 2018 and started selling in 2019. We took on another six partners in 2019 with diverse backgrounds, from engineering to tax to finance.
Our strategy follows two paths. Firstly, bringing the world’s first 100% plant-based brands to Spain, such as Beyond Meat, Vegetarian Butcher, and Violife. Secondly, to develop our own products under the brand Green&Great. These products don’t compete with other main brands’ items: black beans and no-chicken burritos, croquettes, and delicious Italian mortadella.
We’re present in more than 500 points of sale – 80% of them are restaurants – and over 1,400 companies are registered in our system.
Our turnover for 2019 was $600,000. In 2020, despite the COVID pandemic, we increased it to $620,000. By mid-2021, we already reached the same amount as the previous year. As the economy is accelerating, we project to reach $1 million by the end of the year.
We do still have to overcome some “pain points” to sell plant-based products. Firstly, the taste. Things have to taste nice and you have to enjoy eating them. This is already being addressed in some products, but it needs to be improved.
Another fundamental concern is price. As a Spaniard, I believe a V-product (Vegan or Vegetarian) must also carry a “B” (for bolsillo, pocket in Spanish). Price parity with ground beef, chicken, and other products is not here yet. When we get there, it will be a huge market.
Classic retailers or distributors still think the Spanish market is old-fashioned – and it’s not! Things are changing very rapidly.
In 2017, three million people in Spain called themselves “veggies,” which includes vegans, vegetarians, and flexitarians. In 2019, there were already four million, and just this morning I saw in a report that there are now five million people. Even people who aren’t veggies are more willing to try out meat alternatives.
Four years ago, any report or survey would depict our target audience as millennials and women. This has already changed in Spain: presently, more men than women are getting into plant-based food.
Also, more and more 40 to 50-year olds are coming to try plant-based habits: the main drive for them is health if they aren’t vegan. If they are vegan, the basic reasons are animal ethics and environmental concerns.
In my “other life” (before Green&Great), I was selling typical Spanish food around Europe – chorizo, morcilla, etc. I saw that all the success came from products that try to imitate animal protein.
We had to make a decision that would make us grow fast. We don’t want to be Evangelists convincing people that these are products that are really good for the planet but don’t taste good. We want to invite people to try good plant-based food.
To use another strategy to convince people in Spain – where we have the Mediterranean diet and some of the best cooks in the world – would probably be a disaster. We think we made the right decision and the market will show in the coming years if we’re right or wrong.
There are four basic things we look for. Firstly, we look for the best products. We don’t have a huge portfolio – around 100 items. We take Beyond Meat, Vegetarian Butcher, Violife, and Good Catch.
Then, we look for constant quality. During the first three years of our business, we took distribution from a couple of small companies doing artisanal products and found that they often didn’t provide consistently good batches of products. We must always deliver something good to our customers.
Also, if possible, we look for items with a longer shelf life. For instance, frozen products with a minimum of nine months, and refrigerator items with 3-6 months. Finally, another thing we look for are companies that don’t break their stock.
We’re starting to sell outside of Spain, in Portugal. We have some contacts in other countries but won’t immediately expand. Europe is our playground but we first want to define our international strategy. Regarding our next steps, we still have room for at least a couple more international brands.
Our main effort would be in developing our products: ready meals, such as pizza, charcuterie products, and desserts, which is a field that hasn’t been covered yet. We’ll probably put an excellent caramel pudding option in the market within 2-3 months.
One thing we’d love to have are products that substitute eggs. There’s a huge gap in the market for that in Europe.