Earlier this year, Impossible Foods won media buzz when it unveiled its long-awaited plant-based burger, made to mimic beef, right down to the blood. The product isn’t widely available yet, but it’s part of a growing collection of vegan replacement products that more closely resemble the animal-based versions than any that have come before.
Global sales of plant-based meat substitutes are on track to hit $5.17 billion by 2020, according to research from Markets and Markets, with Europe and North America accounting for 41% and 31% respectively.
Getting to the taste test
It’s way too soon to tell whether the rise of plant-based meat, dairy and eggs are having a noticeable effect on consumption of actual meat, dairy and eggs, and companies will likely have barriers to overcome to get many consumers to try new products, said NPD Group food and beverage industry analyst Darren Seifer.
“The way we eat is deeply rooted in traditions and culture, so change like this is not going to happen overnight,” he said. “First, they’re going to have to overcome the factor of unbelievability.”
In other words, tasting is believing — if you can get folks to taste it.
Next, people have been feeding themselves with animal products for a very long time — they’re a part of most holiday tables and family dinners, and that can make it tough for people even to consider a different way of eating.
That said, there’s also plenty of evidence that many consumers are eating more fruits and vegetables. And younger people are increasingly questioning where their food comes from, Seifert said.
“I think overall that today’s consumer, particularly younger consumers, are interested in knowing how your product got to the shelves. Issues like sustainability and animal treatment are becoming more important. Consumers want to support companies that share their values,” he said.
Shifting ideas of what to eat
Companies like Impossible Foods and Hampton Creek tout the environmental benefits of shifting to the lower-carbon footprint of a plant-based diet, even as they stress products that mean consumers may not even notice a difference in taste.
“Eating meat is just an idea, like the flavor and texture, so if you can get that without all the harm it causes, I can only imagine rational people would go that way,” said Veganizer NYC founder Kiki Adami.
Adami and Veganizer chef Hadara Slok are gearing up to test that theory — the pair plan launch a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to open Brooklyn’s first vegan butcher shop.
As Veganizer NYC, Adami and Slok have been working with New York City restaurants to create vegan versions of their menus. The new shop will sell plant-based versions of cold cuts, filet mignon, chicken breasts and other popular meats as well as cultured vegan cheeses, chocolates, sweets, dressings and dips, she said.
“This is the brilliant thing about it. We already have all the products and the reason we know they’ll work is we’ve served them at the last five Veganizer events and people have been loving them. We realized we could just sell veganized meats wholesale and that the restaurants we have been veganizing would probably buy from us,” she said.
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