A few years ago in Russia, vegans and flexitarians would have to buy plant-based products in specialty stores, but as of recently, plant-based alternatives have crept into mainstream retailers and restaurant chains. Moscow-based Welldone saw an opportunity to create high-quality plant-based products for the increasing amount of vegan and flexitarians in Russia, and the company recently raised its first undisclosed round of funding.
In a phone conversation last week Alexander Kiselev, the founder of Welldone, explained to me that the plant-based space in Russia is about five years behind compared to the U.S. There are a few players in the Russian plant-based space, and some products from larger plant-based companies in the U.S. and Europe are imported. However, these imported plant-based alternatives are expensive; Kiselev said that two Beyond Meat patties retail for around $18 USD in Russia. Kiselev saw an opportunity arising from the increasing demand from flexitarians and vegans in Russia and began developing his own plant-based meat alternatives.
Welldone uses an extrusion process to craft its alternative burger patties, cutlets, and minced meat. Each of the products are made from a combination of soy, coconut oil, and cellulose. The company considered using pea protein as its base, but importing this to Russia would have be extremely pricey. Instead, Welldone sources its soy from Belgium.
The company produces 15 tons of plant-based alternatives per month and aims to reach price parity with meat. The retail price of 200 grams of Welldone’s beef patties costs approximately $5 USD, while the same amount of beef costs around $2. To do reach price parity, the company will be expanding its production facility with the goal of producing 300 tons per month. The latest funding round will be used to support this.
Besides Welldone, there are few other notable players in the plant-based space in Russia. Greenwise uses soy, wheat, and textured vegetable protein to create plant-based jerky and fillets. Okraina is a meat producer that started a vegan line called Vega Food for alternative protein products, which includes plant-based mincemeat, dumplings, cutlets, and sausages. Not Meat is a brand of the Naro-Fominsk meat company, and its plant-based products include sausages, patties, and cheeses.
Although there currently is not much market research on the plant-based space in Russia, the fact that meat producers are now making plant-based products is evidence that this market is growing. Plant-based products are now more readily available in retailers and restaurants, and this signals that the demand for alternatives is there. Welldone’s products are available throughout grocers, retailers, and restaurants throughout Russia, including TGI Friday’s throughout the country.