Could the new generation of meat alternatives win over even carnivores?
Plant-based proteins, clean meats, and other meat alternatives continue to evolve in the world of culinary innovation. A handful of imaginative companies have progressed this category so far that it’s caught the attention of larger food manufacturers, distributors, and restaurants looking to get a slice.
Even national restaurant brands are taking notice, including meat alternatives on national menu rollouts. Let’s look at a few leaders in this category and see if meat alternatives could become the new normal.
For those not familiar with Impossible Foods, maker of the Impossible Burger, you might recognize their original shtick: A plant-based burger that seems to bleed like a beef burger using vegetable heme. While this concept was somewhat repulsive to vegans and vegetarians, and a novelty with omnivores, the brand earned its staying power with how delicious the product is.
The new focus has been on removing allergens to increase the consumer base. As of 2019 Impossible Foods has reformulated the product in order to remove wheat, making it now vegan and gluten-free. It does, however, still contain soy. This step makes the brand much more accessible and attractive for national menu roll outs.
This fact is further exemplified by their newly announced relationship with Little Caesars. As of May 20th, Little Caesars will be testing a meatless pizza topped with Impossible Sausage crumbles in 58 restaurants including Washington State, New Mexico, and Florida. If initial customer feedback is positive, we could see a national launch shortly after. You can also find Impossible products at Red Robin, Dave & Buster’s, QDOBA, Bar Louie, Burger King and more.
Beyond Meat is another brand that has effectively matched the flavor and texture of meat with their plant-based products. While Beyond also produces a burger patty, they differentiate themselves with a line of sausages. Available in Traditional Bratwurst and Hot Italian Links, Beyond Sausages have proved to be a true crowd pleaser in testing, focus groups, and at food shows. I can attest to the food show craze, having to wait in a line 30 people deep to get a taste of the Traditional Bratwurst. Worth it.
Beyond has also managed to expand into food service on a national scale. Their products are available at places like TGI Friday’s, Carl’s Jr., Del Taco, Burger Fi, and A&W. With their ever-growing list of accolades, including consecutive FABI awards in 2017 and 2018, there’s no doubt we’ll see continued innovation from, and interest in, Beyond Meat products.
Clean meat, which is also referred to as “cultured meat,” is produced through cellular replication. Why this may seem like off-putting science fiction, the truth is it’s likely to be not only indistinguishable from natural meat, but more affordable. Best of all, this meat can be produced without hormones and antibiotics.
While these products aren’t currently on the market, it’s valuable to look ahead and see what kind of potential they could become in a rapidly changing market space.
Launched in 2015, Memphis Meats is a pioneer in clean meat production. They’ve been striving to bring the cost of clean meat production down in order to make it fiscally competitive against natural meats.
In 2016 Memphis created the world’s first cell-based meatball, and in 2017 the world’s first cell-based poultry. In a sign of future expectation, Cargill, Bill Gates, and Richard Branson have all invested in Memphis Meats.
Creators of the first slaughter-free hamburger in 2013 (at a whopping $330,000), Mosa Meat endeavors to not only create affordable cell-based meats alternatives, but also reduce animal slaughter worldwide. Mosa expects to have its first meats on the market in the next 3-4 years, which would show a remarkably fast increase in efficiency.
The process of development is described as being the same process animals use to create meat, only outside the animal. The cells “naturally” proliferate and do so without the need for additives or GMOs. Not only have they successfully produced muscle fiber, but they’ve also produced fat cells, which we know is extremely important for taste and mouthfeel.
What’s Driving Meat Alternatives?
Many components are driving the want for meat alternatives. Health factors play a large role, both in increasing the amount of vegetables consumed and decreasing the volume of meat consumed. For the clean meat alternatives, environmental and ethical concerns are the largest driving factors. Specifically, the reduction of carbon gas emissions, deforestation, and factory farms utilizing inhumane practices.
Regardless of the motivating factors, meat alternatives will continue to grow in interest and popularity.