There is currently a growing trend in the US and international markets toward plant-based meat substitutes, which serve as healthier and cruelty-free alternatives to real meat.
While it can take a considerable amount of time to develop a quality meat substitute using plant ingredients, the market for these products is quickly growing, set to increase from $4.6 billion this year to $6.4 billion by 2023. Some suppliers are working to replicate the taste and texture of meat as closely as possible, while others are focused on keeping ingredients simple, few, and natural. Either way, consumers appreciate innovative and delicious new ways to eat clean.
Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are companies on a mission to recreate meat without ever touching an animal. These plant-based proteins not only taste and feel like real meat, they can be cooked the same way as well.
These products are particularly appealing to people who typically cook, eat and enjoy the taste of meat, but are looking to cause less harm to animals and the environment.
The Impossible Burger uses blood-mimicking heme from soy roots with wheat protein, coconut oil, and potato protein as its main ingredients. This burger has been introduced to the market in restaurants exclusively, such as the Bareburger franchise and a launch in April at White Castle.
The Beyond Burger consists primarily of yeast extract, coconut oil and peas, and appears to “bleed” due to the addition of beets. One can find the Beyond Burger in the meat aisles at over 25,000 grocery store locations.
Despite the growing importance of plant-based foods in the industry (20% of all American food and beverage dollars were poured into plant-based products in the last fiscal year, according to Nielsen, and the rising demand for unique, innovative vegan products, there are currently very limited options on the market for plant-based seafood alternatives. This presents an enormous opportunity to the few companies who are willing to develop such substitutes.
For instance, US-based Ocean Hugger Foods has created a natural, plant-based raw tuna substitute called Ahimi. Made with environmental sustainability in mind, Ahimi’s likeness to raw fish comes from the unique mechanical process used to make it, not the ingredients themselves, which are deceptively simple: Tomato, water, sugar, sesame oil, and soy sauce.
The company is also working on developing carrot-based salmon and eggplant-based eel.
Ahimi is now sold in various restaurants across the US, typically priced at the same rates as the location’s other sushi products. At Whole Foods sushi bars, it costs $8.99 for the 10-piece Ahimi California Roll and $11.99 for the 8-piece nigiri Ahimi Sushi Combo.
Also focused on using natural ingredients while replicating fish taste and texture, Good Catch Foods has developed fish-free chunk tuna and three types of frozen, fish-less seafood: crab cakes, fish burgers, and fish sliders. Good Catch is planning to start rolling these products out in December. The company has already secured millions of dollars in investments and, according to co-founder Erik Schnell, is projected to hit $85m in the next five years.
Internationally, a variety of meat alternatives are being produced and distributed—particularly in Europe, where the number of young vegan consumers is quickly increasing.
UK-based Quorn produces over 80 different types of plant-based meats and ready-made meat substitute dishes. 25 of these are currently available in the US, including Meatless Chicken Strips and Meatless Breakfast Sausage Patties. Quorn uses a fungus-based mycoprotein to create their many varieties of meat.
On June 27, Denmark brand Naturli Foods launched their plant-based ground beef analogue Minced at over 400 Sainsbury’s stores in the UK after the success of Vivera's plant-based steak at Tesco stores in May.
Sunfed Meats, based in Auckland, now has Chicken Free Chicken available at over 70 New Zealand supermarkets. Rising demand for this pea, pumpkin, and rice-based meat analogue has led the company to seek more investors as well as global expansion. They are currently focused on their Australasia-wide launch.
Soy-free meat alternative vegini, based in Austria, is advertised as more sustainable than a soy product because the peas it is derived from do not need to be imported from outside Europe, nor are any ecosystems being reshaped to grow them. This is extremely valuable to any vegan or otherwise environmentally conscious eater, especially since the company is looking to source locally from Austria in the coming years.