Chicken made from happy plants.
The young Zurich start-up Planted aims to revolutionize our eating habits by producing chicken made from peas and at the same time put “a tasteful end” to the suffering endured by animals and the environment. From ETH laboratory to the former Maggi factory in less than no time – Christoph Jenny, co-founder of Planted has a somewhat different take on strategy planning.
Text Adrian Eugster Photos provided
“The product must be better. Not only better than our competition’s, but better than animal produce.”
When the helvetia 20.20 strategy was adopted, the idea behind Planted hadn’t even been conceived. Planted wasn’t established until 2019: a tasty plant-based meat substitute in harmony with the environment. From the very outset, the four pillars of their vision were clear: no compromises on taste, protecting the environment, improving animal welfare, and a healthy additive-free product.
Grow fast, stay agile
The strategy for realizing this vision is subject to constant adjustments. “We are operating in a very rapidly growing sector exposed to huge amounts of turbulence due to the pandemic,” explains Christoph Jenny, one of the four founders of the start-up. “Key for us is the team’s ability to react fast.” For instance, they responded very quickly to the catering outlet closures last spring and pushed ahead with online distribution.
Planted’s rapid growth also makes this agility absolutely essential. “Our sales are doubling roughly every three to four months. That calls for continual adjustments that need to be initiated directly in the next strategy period,” points out Christoph Jenny.
Strategy in practice
The strategy periods at Planted are correspondingly short. They last a year, but these continual adjustments are made every two months. “We see strategy as a fluid instrument for aligning our team. Strategy is not just something developed by the leadership team, it has to be actively lived out within the company,” Christoph Jenny comments.
Fun & hard facts about Planted
Founded: July 2019
Number of employees: 100 (CH/DE/AT/FR)
Gender distribution: Share of women in leadership roles: 57% (total: 49%)
Average age of employees: 32 years
Sustainability of the product: –73% CO2 emissions versus chicken, –71% water consumption versus average foodstuff
Idea: The first product prototype was the result of a Master’s thesis
Implementation: The start-up idea with goals and values was initially documented on just two pages.
Drive: Most of the ideas for the slogans on the packaging came from Planted’s employees.
Better than animal produce
The way they go about acquiring new customers is just as grounded in reality as their strategic approach. “The product must be better. Not only better than our competition’s, but better than animal produce,” stresses Christoph Jenny. “We don’t believe you can achieve that through marketing. At the end of the day, customers need to like and prefer our product.” Planted already delivers to numerous starred restaurants. Chefs prefer planted.chicken to normal chicken because the vegetable proteins can absorb the marinade better and allow the “meat” to acquire more taste.
That’s why the main marketing tool is “try, try, try”. If you’ve got a product that tastes good, this is the simplest way to attract new customers and so dispel negative experiences with meat substitute products. The absence of such taster opportunities, especially during the coronavirus crisis, proved a challenge. Not only were catering establishments required to close, people got together for a meal less frequently. This meant they encountered our product less often. For this reason, social media marketing became significantly more crucial during the second lockdown.
The four young co-founders of Planted: Lukas Böni, Christoph Jenny, Pascal Bieri and Eric Steinemann (l-r).
Meat consumption: a highly emotional subject
Social media was also a particular boon for Planted in terms of community engagement. For example, it allowed us to demonstrate the compatibility of financial growth targets with Planted’s sustainability goals. “Theoretically, we wouldn’t need any sustainability goals at all, since by replacing meat with our plant-based products we are saving CO2 with every kilo sold,” says Christoph Jenny. “The more reflective attitude, though, is that we are truly living every ‘sustainability dimension’.” Planted’s holistic approach stretches from the choice of packaging and the mode of transportation to the sensitizing of customers. “Meat consumption is a highly emotional subject deeply rooted in tradition,” underlines Christoph Jenny.
“It will take two to three generations for this to fundamentally change. And precisely that is a key motivator for us. It’s why we believe there is an absolute need for a product such as ours.”
It remains to be seen whether the four young founders from Zurich will succeed in revolutionizing our eating habits and definitively putting “a tasteful end” to the suffering endured by animals and the environment. One thing is clear. Their vision – no compromises on taste, protecting the environment, improving animal welfare, and a healthy additive-free product – promises a revolutionary outcome.