The vegetable alternative to meat 100% made in France HappyVore is already well established in the territory. But does it have the means to impose itself in the long term against the giants of a new booming food industry?
Imitating meat without consuming it is the bet of HappyVore products (ex-Nouveaux Fermiers). Like a few others before it, the brand aims to reconcile steak fans with the idea of adopting – at least occasionally – a plant-based diet. On the sidelines of the American giants, HappyVore is betting on a local positioning, and claims products 100% made in France, “really tasty, good for you and for the planet”. Launched in 2019, the young shoot already offers more than a dozen product references, which are definitely not an ersatz.
Cooking and tasting: learning to cook again
Packaged in packs of around two servings, HappyVore products come in several categories: those already seasoned and prepared which just need to be cooked, such as nuggets, steaks or merguez sausages, and those more intended to be cooked, such as natural matches or aiguillettes. A varied catalog, which promises to suit everyonefrom expert to Sunday cook, hopes Guillaume Dubois, co-founder of the firm: “We have designed many of our products to be used in most traditional recipes”.
However, it was by wanting to integrate the brand into our usual cuisine that a first shift was imposed: if HappyVore wants to imitate meat, its products require a little adaptation time to be properly prepared. Natural matchsticks in particular, are not cooked quite like simple pork lardons. The fault, explains Guillaume Dubois, with the very low fat content of the product (only 3%): “It can be a little confusing at first to cook vegetable, but when it’s well grilled it’s super good”.
After our first attempt at cooking (failed), the result once grilled is actually much better. To the point of convincing the MOF and chef of the Atelier Joël Robuchon Éric Bouchenoire, to integrate the brand into some of his dishes. On our plate and without the skills of a starred chef, this mainly results in the addition of fat, and cooking over a higher heat. Nothing problematic overall. To better educate its consumers about plants, HappyVore also plans to focus on education, in particular by producing video recipes on YouTube.
Provided they are cooked correctly, HappyVore products look good: without perfectly imitating the appearance of meat, the result is convincing, and above all appetizing. A finding that is confirmed on the plate. Picked from the brand’s official recipe book, the matchstick mac & cheese are a success. Crispy and golden, vegetable lardons do not give the illusion of meat, but turn out to be rather good.
This is even more convincing for sausages and ground “meat”. The latter in particular turns out to be particularly convincing in a lasagna dish. “Our goal was to develop products that are both tasty, that taste and look like meat, but that are also healthy”, recalls Guillaume Dubois. A successful bet since if you don’t feel like you’re on a diet, we are also far from the very fat aspect of the American giants like Impossible Food or Beyond Meat. On our side, we will still prefer products in their cooked version rather than natural.
Made in France, an argument that sends steak
If HappyVore convinces us on its taste aspect, the brand is also illustrated by its 100% made in France manufacturing approach. An unprecedented initiative, recalls Guillaume Dubois, at a time when the competition prefers to bet on European manufacturing: “Nestlé (Herta Végétal) is aiming for maximum profitability in the Czech Republic. For their part, the alternatives born in the United States arrived in Europe via the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Our vision is that France can also become one of the plant champions”.
An offer “healthy, gourmet and French” which quickly established itself on the supermarket shelves, before landing on the tables of certain restaurants. An ethical but also logical choice for the co-founder of the brand: “It’s interesting to produce in France, because from the point of view of ingredients, everything is available locally: we have peas which are an excellent protein, we have soybeans, wheat, beans, vegetable oils , beets… There is a real interest in making products made in France. Even if it costs a little more, we think it makes sense, both from an environmental point of view, but also from the jobs side”. In total, the brand has created 50 jobs, and plans to double its workforce by the end of the year. If all the raw materials are not yet from French production, Guillaume Dubois ensures “work there”while subsequently aiming for a European-wide expansion.
Should we stop eating meat to be healthy?
By claiming a positioning that is as gourmet as it is healthy, HappyVore offers a nutriscore A on the majority of its products. Made from vegetable proteins, oil and beets, the ingredients are then blended with natural fermented vegetable flavors and then shaped according to the meat they replace. A result that works in the mouth, but also on the nutritional level. Of course, as with any ultra-processed productsthey should be consumed in moderation, while associating them with a lifestyle and a healthy diet.
Price and availability
Marketed in France on their official website and in most supermarkets, HappyVore has the advantage of being very easily found in stores. Count a little more than €4 for 200 grams of minced meat (i.e. €20/kg), and approximately €5 for four merguez sausages (i.e. €24.85/kg). Unsurprisingly, the bill is saltier than for a classic piece of meat. For comparison, it takes about 10€/kg for minced beef in the butcher’s shop.
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