Judd Zusel, the new president of Quorn North America, likes chicken that “tastes like chicken” but isn’t chicken at all. He wants you to like it, too. His goal: help Quorn become the global king of meatless chicken and pluck an even bigger piece of the $5 billion alternative meat business.
To do that, U.K.-based Quorn needs to up their game—and they’re doing it right here in Dallas. Yesterday Quorn announced it’s opened a new Culinary Development Center here headed up by new Executive Chef Stephen Kalil.
“I’m excited to join Quorn at a time when the meat alternative category is really taking off,” Zusel said in a statement. “With Chef Stephen at the helm, we’re poised to deliver new and exciting meatless chicken innovations, creating a significant competitive advantage for Quorn and our retail partners.”
Zusel recently joined Quorn from Bacardi Global Brands, where he served as VP and general manager of its Incubation Brands business unit.
Zusel told Dallas Innovates that he’s undeterred by opening a meatless culinary center in the Dallas area, known far and wide as a bastion of beef and BBQ worship.
“Quorn welcomes meat-lovers to try our products,” he told us. “We strongly believe that when it comes to taste and texture, there’s no compromise in replacing meat with Quorn, even just once a week. In fact, there’s a lot of upside in terms of nutritional and sustainability benefits. Our research suggests that Quorn buyers incorporate meatless options into their diets for a variety of reasons—its taste, health benefits, or impact to the environment.”
“If you were to swap one meal with Quorn meatless grounds it’s the equivalent of saving enough water for 21 showers,” Zusel said. That may not convince a die-hard brisket addict, but more and more people seem sold—and they’re putting their money where their brand is.
“Significant investment” from $1 billion IPO
The ramping up of the company’s U.S. operations follows a capital injection from the Far East,
In March, Quorn’s Philippines-based parent company Monde Nissin Corp. went public with a $1 billion IPO—the country’s largest-ever listing. Now Monde Nissin is making a “significant investment” from those funds to fuel Quorn’s global growth.
According to Bloomberg News, Quorn plans to invest nearly $335 million on its U.S. market expansion, increasing production capacity and shipping to more fast-food chains. The U.K. and Europe accounted for nearly 90 percent of Quorn’s sales in 2020, Bloomberg reports, making America a ripe growth target.
An alternative meat pioneer
From Beyond Meat to Impossible Foods, many leading alt-meat brands have been founded in the last decade or so. But Quorn has been developing its products since its founding in 1985 in Leicestershire, England. Its key ingredient is a natural, nutritious fungus—Fusarium venenatum—that grows in the soil. The microfungus was discovered in 1967 in a soil sample from a field near the River Thames in England.
Quorn uses fermentation—the same process used for bread, wine, and yogurt—to grow the fungus into mycoprotein. The result is alternative chicken that actually “tastes like chicken,” Quorn promises. And since the process requires 90 percent less land and water than producing animal protein, it’s a more sustainable food source as well.
The goal: “to become the king of alternative chicken”
“Our ambition is to become the king of alternative chicken globally,” Quorn’s CEO Marco Bertacca said in the statement. “With new leadership, our state-of-the-art culinary center, and new innovations accelerated by this IPO, we believe we’re well-positioned to do just that.”
Quorn had total revenue of around $313 million in 2019, but it has bigger ambitions: The company has said it plans to be a “billion-dollar brand” by 2027.
Dallas Culinary Development Center
Quorn’s new culinary development center in Dallas isn’t just for creating new products. It’s trying to win meatless converts, too.
“We’re going to be doing a lot of product development here, but also bringing some of our best customers from food service and retail into the facility to co-create and learn about how we use mycoprotein,” Zusel said in an intro video.
The culinary center is located at 300 Decker Drive in Irving close to DFW Airport “to facilitate vendor and customer visits on-site,” Zusel told us.
At the center, Chef Kalil’s team will test culinary equipment and coating on mycoprotein in real working-kitchen conditions, the company says, showcasing their products’ efficiency and accessibility. The kitchen replicates a variety of restaurant environments from quick service to fine dining. It will also have a new product development lab to accelerate innovation to market for Quorn’s North American business.
From the new center, Kalil and his team will show customers “how we create our products, and how we can build this business together to help feed people and save the planet,” Zusel said.
Executive chef joins from posts at PepsiCo and Frito-Lay
Executive chef Kalil joins Quorn after three decades of roles with brands including PepsiCo, Frito-Lay, The Cheesecake Factory, and Chili’s Bar and Grill. A past president and current board member of the Research Chefs Association, Kalil calls himself a passionate foodie and an “archivist” of traditional Middle Eastern recipes.
“We’re prepared for the floodgates to open,” Kalil said in the intro video of Quorn’s growth projections.
“People are looking for alternative proteins, and there are a lots of choices out there,” he added. “But because of the quality of the protein in our mycoprotein and the way it’s grown, these [food service and retail] chefs are coming back and working with our products and wanting to see more iterations of different types of products from us.”
“Big investment at the right time”
Zusel believes the timing is right for Quorn and the meatless sector to really take off.
“The meat alternative space is really hot right now,” he said in the video. “It’s worth $5 billion and has grown 29 percent in the last two years. So Quorn is here in the U.S. with big investment at the right time.”
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