Vegetarian Butcher Jaap Korteweg links systemic change to economic success

Better than meat

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Published in Storytelling, Sustainability & WDCD by

A new factory producing 7 million packages of plant based meat copycats is the next step in the world revolution Jaap Korteweg is aiming at with his company The Vegetarian Butcher. His story is a well told one about linking systemic change to economic success.

‘The biggest obstacle to a plant-based future are meat and dairy substitutes which lack taste’, says Jaap Korteweg, an undisputed leader of the meatless revolution. ‘Anyone who tries a poor-tasting meat or dairy substitute is unlikely to come back a second time. For that reason, my personal mission is to produce only meat substitutes that taste even better. Up to now, that’s been the case and I’m absolutely delighted. Our new production plant will help give an important impetus to these developments.’

Slaughtering prejudice

Korteweg founded his company The Vegetarian Butcher in 2010, twelve years after he stopped eating meat himself. The farmer’s son missed the taste of meat and didn’t find satisfaction from existing alternatives. So he decided to start making meat substitutes that would be better than the real thing. Soon after opening the first concept store in The Hague – ‘a modern style traditional butcher, where the only thing being slaughtered, is prejudice’ – Korteweg formulated his bold ambition: to become the biggest butcher in the world.

After one year the vegetarian meatballs, chicken meat, sausages, tuna and other products were already sold at 1,000 sales outlets in the Netherlands. Seven years after the start, the products were to be found in over 3,000 shops in 15 countries. Today, practically all Dutch supermarkets sell the Vegetarian Butcher products. Supermarkets in Finland, Germany and the UK are expected to follow suit soon. Even major food companies started to collaborate with the Vegetarian Butcher. You can now find Vegetarian Meatballs in satay sauce and in tomato sauce under the Unox brand in the stores.

New plant

The new production plant in the south of the Netherlands, the first self-owned plant of The Vegetarian Butcher, is the latest step in the ambitious goal of reaching world domination. In 2015, a crowdfunding campaign for the facility yielded 2,5 million euros in less than three weeks.

‘The new Vegetarian Plant in Breda will give us more possibility to develop our line of 100% plant-based products and enable us to manufacture certified organic products more easily, for which there is growing demand,’ Korteweg says. The plant is equipped with a demo kitchen where visitors, after a tour through the production facility, can taste what is made here themselves. The factory, where 7 million packages are produced, also has a lab where new products are developed and tested.

Korteweg: ‘The only way to persuade consumers to part company with meat is if “meat” from plants is at least as tasty and provides other benefits, for example, it’s healthier and better for the climate, nature, animals and global food supplies. Our biggest challenge is to persuade consumers, not only in western countries, but those in emerging economies such as India, China, Brazil and Russia too, to experience the possibilities of a plant-based future.’

An honest story, well told

Surely other entrepreneurs at the origin of meat replacing products are driven by the same ideas. What defines the success of the Vegetarian Butcher is first of all the taste of the products, but also the story that is built around the products. Korteweg is a genuine innovator, who turned the traditional farm of his family into a successful organic arable farm. He also established a wind-energy cooperative, was a founding father of precision agriculture projects using GPS, and developed a nature reserve on agricultural land.

Korteweg’s story is an honest one, but also told in the best possible way. This is exactly the reason why he’s given the stage at WDCD Live Amsterdam to share his ideas on how to link systemic change to economic success.

See all the speakers of WDCD Live Amsterdam 2018 ( 24 & 25 May) here.

Want to know more about the production process of the Vegetarian Butcher? Take a look at this student documentary including a convincing consumer test.

Top image: Jaap Korteweg (photo by Bart Homburg)

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