by Brigitte Hoarau
One of the recent trends in dining and nutrition is the growing popularity of plant-based proteins. We’ve seen the explosion of burger and chicken alternatives in fast food, sit-down restaurants, and grocery stores, alike—all made from produce instead of livestock, which proponents claim is beneficial to human health and the environment, and is more economically accessible to a growing human population.
And the trend is growing. According to research, consumers overwhelmingly are seeking out plant-based proteins to add to their diets; and restaurants, grocery stores, and food manufacturers are following suit to keep up with the trend. Almost 60% of consumers surveyed by Lux Research reported that they eat meatless meals at least once a week, and “plant-based consumption will continue to grow 12% year over year for the next 5 years, [expecting] to reach $5.96 billion by 2022.” This consumer shift to plant-based protein products is a demand food businesses are rushing to meet.
One plant-based protein manufacturer has seen so much success that they are in the process of building out and opening up a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Ormond Beach. Oumph! is a soy protein product created by renowned Swedish Chef Anders “The Duck” Linden, whose search for a sustainable, clean, and healthy protein that offers the same versatility as most meats but is sourced from plants, has resulted in a product that’s become very popular in Europe. Future Foods, a U.S. based company with a sales headquarters in Lake Worth, Florida, has used Linden’s creation to provide Oumph! products, sources from overseas, to major Southeast foodservice clients such as Sysco, U.S. Foodservice, Cheney Brothers, SeaWorld Orlando, and Universal Studios Florida. The popularity of Oumph! in the Southeast market, along with increasing national demand, spurred Future Foods to expand their sales and establish a new manufacturing plant that allows them to source and produce Oumph! products entirely in the U.S.
Future Foods’ decision to choose Ormond Beach for this facility was based on the city’s established reputation as home to companies who use “modern manufacturing equipment and design,” according to Brian Rademacher, Economic Development Director for City of Ormond Beach. “The company was looking to establish a manufacturing and R&D facility to process and package product, and the building they ultimately moved into was a perfect match for their needs,” he says. “We worked hard to connect the company to regional and state resources that would and will help them succeed and to that end, the local and regional support further helped demonstrate that there is a strong network available to help them succeed.”
Through job creation and an initial capital investment of $4.3 million in its first year, Future Foods’ investment in the Ormond Beach area is clear. Doing all this during the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed sales somewhat, but the company took the opportunity to invest even further in the community by providing meals to families in need in partnership with Food Brings Hope and Daytona State College Culinary school, Rademacher adds. “They are very innovative and looking for ways to be involved, give back, and grow the company. It will be fun to work with them and help them grow as a company in Ormond Beach and Volusia County,” he says.
The company plans to create 50 new jobs over its first three years, and it aims to make those jobs competitive by “participating in the State of Florida Qualified Target Industries program,” which incentivizes companies to create “jobs whose annual salaries exceed the county average,” according to Keith Norden, President and CEO of Team Volusia Economic Development Corporation.
All of this investment in the area reflects the company’s philosophy. According to CEO Alex Kramarchuk, Future Foods is all about health and sustainability. “With the world human population approaching 8 billion people, we foresee a future that utilizes simple sustainable plant-based solutions to supplement our current eating habits,” he says. Copious research shows that plant-based meat production uses significantly less energy, land, and water than that of conventional beef, and produces 90% less greenhouse gas. Kramarchuk says, “We use only ingredients that are grown and processed on U.S. soil,” a practice that reduces not only transportation costs, but preservatives, refrigeration, and other concerns.
The Ormond Beach facility will produce Oumph! products for current Southeastern food service clients, as well as some Northeastern universities. But Kramarchuk says that growth beyond that is already in the works. He hopes that the increased production capabilities from the new facility will create opportunities for expansion into more products for different applications and seasonings, as well as a wider market, perhaps including “frozen retail space at regional supermarkets.”
One of the product’s founding principles is versatility. The product is offered to foodservice clients in its plainest form as a plant-protein that can be adapted to mimic beef, chicken, fish, or pork, says Kramarchuk, rather than pre-packaged for specific applications such as burgers or breaded chicken. The texture of Oumph! develops from the cooking method, so chefs can use their knowledge and experience to adapt it to their own creative dishes.
The adaptability of the product mirrors that of the company. While many companies have suffered from the unprecedented business climate of the early part of 2020, Future Foods’ timing and philosophy turns out to be an asset. Using an existing building on North U.S. 1, the company was able to design workspaces with the recommended COVID-19 health considerations in mind, including extra space around work areas and distancing on the shop floor, Kramarchuk says. That flexibility in design, along with existing employee safety standards and an atmosphere of respect and recognition have kept the facility on track to open as originally planned in July of 2020, he explains.
Kramarchuk attributes their forward momentum to Future Foods’ uncompromising attitude and passion for creating a food product that benefits people and the planet. “We are all in it together,” he says, “and we feel that our team shares the same outlook.”
Through the new Ormond Beach facility, Future Foods’ products are helping to create a healthier world.
Brigitte Hoarau is an English Professor and freelance writer. She earned a BA in Film & Video and an MFA in Creative Writing: Fiction.