Even after 25 years we still get super excited to see new vegan products on the supermarket shelves. We often wonder … how did they get there? Who came up with the idea? Well we are delighted to chat with Simon Northcott who is likely to have developed several of the foods we are enjoying right now!

Simon, super chatting with you. Can you tell us more about what you do and your role developing vegan options?

I work for Greencore (One of the biggest fresh food producers in the country) We have most of the major supermarkets as our customers and we cover most of the food categories (convenience, food to go, sauces etc). I work on convenience and how it works is that we will get a brief from the customer. Sometimes this will be very specific and other times it will be pretty open to our own interpretation.

So they might say that having looked at the market our competitors have this particular product, we would like that too, or it might be we would like to offer a new vegan Christmas centerpiece or a valentines meal for two.

We would then pull together some ideas, generated from what we have seen on the market already, food trends etc and would develop a short list of ideas to be turned into kitchen made products.

This would be shown to the wider NPD (New product development) team and we would discuss which ones to take forward to show the customer.

Within the conversation at these meetings other than the actual food we would talk about how it could be produced on a wider scale within the factory – Is it possible and cost effective to make? Once we are satisfied with our offering, we move into the submission stage of the process and show it to the customer. If they are happy with it that it meets all of their needs then it goes into production.

*This is a very condensed explanation of the process that does in fact take months!

Are you making anything you can spill the vegan beans about or that you have created that we may be eating now Simon?

There are in existence a couple of plant based products that i have made mostly for Sainsburys including:

Beetroot and Pomegranate slaw and the Edamame, pea and toasted seed salad pot.

Also created a line of Vegan Protein Dips for M&S, which were really good, they haven’t been released yet and they are still interested in doing so. (The Buffalo Dip is really good, if I say myself!) And I also was involved in developing a “no beef burger” for M&S.

Sounds delicious! So what’s on trend right now?

There are many different resources out there to see what is trending and future food trend predictions. Inevitably what trends now in America comes over here a bit down the line. At the moment, particularly due to Covid, you’ll see a lot of products with a functional foods message on them regarding ‘Immunity Boost’ or ‘Revive’, ‘Refresh’ those types of messages.

Plant based looks set to continue to grow – we can actually stop calling this a trend now, i think everyone can see that this is now mainstream and is here to stay. This is backed up by the big players investing millions into plant based food production like Nestle and even big meat producers like Tyson.

Thanks for talking with us VeggieVision TV Simon – Do let us know of any new vegan options that you create!

Will do! Super chatting with you VeggieVision TV!