Talking Veganuary with Maxwell Boorman: an expert insight into the versatility of plant-based dairy products

18 January 2024

What is your role within the Foodbuy team? 

I've been a part of the Foodbuy team for more than five years, with over four years as the Category Manager for the dairy and desserts category. On a typical day, my role involves collecting market insights so that I can clearly grasp the impact of both macro and micro economic factors on the category. Additionally, I have a strong focus on engaging with suppliers so that I am constantly staying up to date with industry trends and innovations. 

As an expert in dairy procurement, what’s happening in your category around plant-based? 

The plant-based dairy subcategory has undergone rapid innovation recently. Veganuary is a time to celebrate this innovation, and therefore, share more information about the wide range of products we have on offer to our clients. 

Nowadays, there are excellent plant-based options that can be seamlessly integrated into menus, opening a whole new world of ingredients to chefs. Instead of duplicating similar products, consider creating something distinct and delicious, like a vegan panna cotta. As an expert within this subcategory, I believe that these alternative products taste exceptional in applications and menus, while also providing strong sustainability credentials. A win-win! 

How are Foodbuy supporting their clients with the increasing demand for plant-based products? 

Aside from the sustainability-based advantages, plant-based products also offer solutions to various challenges within the dairy category.  

For example, in the past year there have been global shortages of eggs due to Avian Influenza, causing supermarkets to run out for weeks. At Foodbuy, we started thinking about how we could replace such a staple item in our client’s menus. We were able to introduce OGGs, a dairy alternative made from Aqua Farba (Chickpea water). This came to the rescue as an egg replacement for our clients. It might sound unusual, but it works remarkably well in meringues and cakes, and can even be whipped up as a replacement for egg whites in cocktails (or Mocktails if taking part in dry January too!) 

At Foodbuy, we understand the importance of getting stuck in and trying products ourselves, along with our culinary teams, to ensure we bring the best to our clients. That’s why we recently held an ‘innovation station’ for plant-based products, where we invited suppliers and sampled their products. This, alongside having dedicated nutrition teams, ensures we can offer a wide range of products for a range of dietary requirements. 

In our procurement for education, it is crucial to prioritise products with minimal allergens to cater for those with unique diets. Plant-based products, such as products from our supplier, The Coconut Collaborative, offer excellent solutions. They produce amazing products with little to no allergens, without compromising on taste. As a custard connoisseur, I was genuinely impressed by their plant-based custard! 

Here are some examples of how we have supported our largest client with their plant-based initiatives: 

  • Reduction of meat by 40% across the top 12 best-selling dishes in their business and industry sector. 
  • Redesign of a beef wellington using mushroom, reducing its carbon footprint to <1kg CO2. 
  • The successful “50:50” burger in their sports and leisure sector, containing 50% less animal protein. 

Can you tell us more about the impact of adopting a plant-forward diet?  

Plant-forward dining is becoming increasingly popular, with today’s consumers being concerned with both their own wellbeing and that of the planet. Whether it’s putting plant-based dishes at the top of the menu, or increasing plant contents of previously meat dominated plates, we have found that increasing our usage of plant proteins has given us a new level of flexibility, allowed us to improve animal welfare and make serious headway on our climate targets.

Reducing consumption of highly processed dairy and meat products not only has positive benefits for the human body we live in, but also for the planet we live on. A shift towards plant-forward eating could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2050. Animal products, especially processed meat and dairy, require more resources to develop, causing higher emissions and exacerbating carbon footprints (Hertwich et al, 2010). 

Although I feel it is important to educate others on the benefits of plant-based dairy alternatives, I believe we should not overlook dairy. Dairy products are naturally highly nutritious and are rich in minerals. In recent years, farmers and our suppliers have been implementing impressive sustainable practices. For example, some are incorporating seaweed into their cows' diets to reduce emissions – an unexpected yet effective approach. Others are installing biogas generators to convert manure into gas, which is then used to power their farms and local homes. 

We’re here to help 

If you’re looking for support or inspiration for incorporating additional plant-based choices into your menus, feel free to reach out to us at