By Nancy Mann Jackson
As consumers have become increasingly aware of the environmental, health, and ethical impacts of the food they consume, many are interested in limiting the amount of meat they eat. As a result, there has been explosive growth in the development of new meat alternatives that mimic the taste and texture of meat.
In some cases, these meat alternatives are fully plant-based, and sometimes, they are blended meats, including some animal meat and some plant proteins, such as mushrooms, lentils, or soy. For example, hybrid beef patties can be created by replacing 10% to 30% of ground beef with a plant protein.
The FIRST session, “Blended Meat and Meat Analogues: Is the Market Ready?,” delivers an introduction to the market for alternative meats, the reasons more consumers are showing interest, and what it will take to drive further adoption of plant-based meat products.
These days, meat goes by many other names, such as novel, hybrid, analogue, and blended, says Michelle Lefebvre, visiting clinical instructor, Purdue University Northwest. And consumers are taking notice: Globally, plant-based meat sales have grown 72% over the past two years. And since 2015, more than 6,500 plant-based meat products have launched.
Many of those products remain pricey compared with animal meat products, and cost plays an important role in whether consumers will add meat analogue products into their diets. For example, only one in 25 people is willing to pay 50% more for a plant-based burger, Lefebvre says. However, taste remains the most important factor in purchasing decisions, followed by appearance—so food producers must prioritize these factors in developing new products.
The consumers who are most interested in meat analogue products skew younger. Gen Z consumers are most likely to buy these products, followed by millennials and Gen X. Among those who purchase plant-based meat products, their most common reason is animal welfare. “Most consumers want to see that the products have clear ‘better for you’ or ‘better for the planet’ characteristics,” Lefebvre says.
The most successful meat analogue brands share those concerns for improving the planet and improving health. For Esther Park, senior scientist in nutrition and health at Impossible Foods, the focus is on how plant-based alternative meat products can contribute to a sustainable food system from a public health perspective.
A healthy food system prevents food insecurity and undernutrition, ensures a safe food supply, and promotes dietary patterns that minimize the rates of diet-related chronic disease, Park says. Current animal agriculture prevents us from achieving those goals, contributing to foodborne illness, antimicrobial resistance, and virally transmitted diseases, which compromise the safety of the food system.
On the other hand, plant-based alternative meats meet the needs for a sustainable, healthy food system, requiring fewer resources and reducing greenhouse gas production compared with animal agriculture. Plant-based alternative meats also don’t carry the risk of foodborne illness that is present in animal agriculture and may have benefits for diet-related disease risk.
For those reasons, plant-based meat is here to stay. Almost $2 billion was invested in alternative meat products in 2018, and nearly $24 billion has been invested since 1980, says Michelle Adelman, managing director at Accite Holdings. Improving the taste and texture of meat alternatives requires ongoing investment and innovation, Adelman says.
Meats aren’t the only foods that are being successfully replaced with plant-based alternatives, Adelman says. The category also includes a variety of protein substitutes, including eggs, dairy, and seafood. Dairy is the largest category, with 39% household penetration. Overall, 57% of households purchase some plant-based food alternatives.
These foods aren’t just contributing to the environment; they may also contribute to better health and longevity. Globally, chronic diseases are the No. 1 killer, Adelman says. As fast food and convenience foods become more available and popular in developing areas, there are accompanying increases in obesity and related diseases. For instance, Africa is now home to more than 25% of obese children under the age of five.
While changing people’s behavior is challenging, progress is underway, and plant-based protein alternatives can help lead the change, the panelists contend.
Nancy Mann Jackson is a freelance journalist based in Huntsville, Ala.
What if you could produce coffee in a lab using fewer resources and without the need for land? Researchers at VTT in Finland have done just that using cellular agriculture.
The COVID-19 virus sparked an acute health crisis, with near miracle accomplishments to develop vaccines in a year’s time, and national resolve to stem its devastation. But America’s existing obesity epidemic-pandemic (O E-P) is an enduring, chronic health crisis.
SnapDNA, creator of a rapid pathogen detection system for food processing facilities, clinched top honors and a $25,000 prize as the winner of the IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge™ Pitch Competition, held Wednesday during the FIRST virtual event.
Values-based marketing and two-way dialogue will become essential tools for CPG brands to engage with an increasingly informed, opinionated—and often conflicted—consumer base, a duo of marketing and consumer behavior experts told FIRST attendees on Wednesday.
Ertharin Cousin talks about achieving zero hunger and the Food Systems for the Future impact investment fund.
A question-and-answer interview with Lisa Dyson about Air Protein, climate change, food security and more.
COVID upended the apple cart for food, beverage, and ingredient companies, and many anticipate permanent changes in sourcing and managing the flow of goods.
FDA recently announced the winners of its public challenge designed to spur the creation of affordable traceability tools as part of its New Era of Smarter Food Safety efforts.
In honor of National Food Safety Education Month, we highlight three sessions from FIRST, IFT’s new annual event experience, that explored important areas in food safety.
The new field of Food Science for Relief and Development (FSRD) offers a fresh, high-impact approach to tackling problems of global food security, poverty, and malnutrition.