17 Jun 2019 --- Hybrid products, lab-grown meat and plant-based alternatives are rising in popularity, evidenced by the number of meat industry giants engaging with the space. The last two years have marked a particularly prolific time for the hybrid and plant-based meat industries, as the space has been flooded with innovation and NPD. The market is witnessing a significant shift as the new formulations tout guilt-free, flavorful taste, which increasingly appeal to consumers who are turning toward more sustainable food choices. Whether hybrids, which mix meat with plant-based proteins, or fully plant-based alternatives will be more popular remains to be seen. However, the shift to alternatives is on track to grow, as 60 percent of meat will not come from slaughtered animals by the year 2040, according to a recent report.
Meat reduction trends were also highlighted in a 2018 Innova Market Insights consumer survey which showed one in five US consumers “have eaten less meat across the past year.” Meat substitutes accounted for 14 percent of global meat launches in the first nine months of 2018, up from six percent in 2013, the market researcher reports. There has been considerable activity and innovation from new plant-based meat brands targeting opportunities for good-tasting, nutritious and sustainable options among vegetarians, vegans, meat reducers and flexitarians.
Plant-based alternatives NPD boom
As the trend intensifies, start-ups, as well as industry leaders are launching meat alternatives to cater to the rising demographic or vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian consumers.
In 2019, a major launch came from Vivera, which claims to be the fastest growing producer of plant-based meat alternatives in Europe. The company introduced what it says is the “highest-quality, 100 percent plant-based hamburger.” Sainsbury’s stores in the UK were the first to debut the “Veggie Quarter Pounder.” In 2018, Vivera introduced the first 100 percent plant-based steak, initially through UK Tesco stores. Since then more than one million pieces have been sold in Europe.
Californian Beyond Meat has sold 25 million of its “Beyond Burgers” since 2016, according to the company. It recently completed a peer-reviewed lifecycle analysis at the University of Michigan, which found that their product used 99 percent less water, 93 percent less land, 46 percent less energy and created 90 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than beef. Earlier this year, Beyond Meat partnered with Carl’s Jr. in launching a plant-based burger, The Beyond Famous Star, to keep pace with the growing appetite for flexitarian food.
In April, Beyond Meat also announced the launch of its initial public offering (IPO) of 8,750,000 shares of common stock. The news came several weeks after the innovative Californian company debuted its latest breakthrough in plant-based food innovation: Beyond Beef.
After selling its stake in Beyond Meat and signaling its intention to enter the alternative protein space with its own products, the largest meat producer in the US, Tyson Foods, did just that, last week. The company unveiled its alternative protein products and new Raised & Rooted brand to keep pace with shifting consumer preferences, Tyson Foods will debut plant-based nuggets this summer.
In a somewhat surprising move, a number of popular fast food chains are also jumping on the trend and responding by incorporating plant-based options on their menus. Also in April, Burger King revealed rolled out its plant-based Impossible Whopper throughout the US, following the successful trial. The fast-food giant plans to make the Impossible Whopper available in more US regions throughout the summer months and nationwide by the end of 2019, if the reception is positive. In the same month, McDonald’s Germany launched a vegan burger for the first time, made with Nestlé’s plant-based Incredible Burger made from soy and wheat proteins.
Ingredient suppliers are also joining the arena, with Firmenich recently introducing a comprehensive portfolio of “Smart Protein” solutions, including ingredients and delivery technologies designed to create great-tasting plant-based food and beverages.
In May, Hydrosol expanded its range of plant-based products through the launch of HydroTOP VEGAN Patty PP, a stabilizing system free of soy, wheat and other allergens. Together with the company’s sunflower-based texturate, Hydrosol customers can use HydroTOP VEGAN Patty PP to make vegan burger patties that are reportedly extremely similar to meat products in taste, texture and mouthfeel.
Consumer interest in hybrids is rising
However, a rising segment in this space are hybrid products, where meat and vegetables are fused. According to Dutch company Meatless, which has worked for over a decade on solutions that blend meat and plant proteins, making 50/50 “hybrid” products could mean a big step towards more plant-based proteins in our diet, without noticing any difference.
Further supporting the rise of alternatives, a recent report from US global management consulting firm AT Kearney found that the cultured meat movement may still be in its infancy, but over the next two decades there will be a dramatic change and more than half of meat production will not involve animal slaughter.
Hybrid products fusing meat and non-meat proteins hold strong potential to cater to flexitarians looking to cut back on their meat consumption for both health and sustainability reasons. This is according to Johannes Tonauer, Manager and Board Member of Moguntia Food Group, who spoke to FoodIngredientsFirst at IFFA 2019 in Frankfurt, last month. “Hybrid products will be absolutely mainstream, with huge potential for the future. We still have the situation of consumers eating either meat or non-meat, but bringing those together for flexitarians will be the future,” Tonauer adds.
Previously, Hydrosol’s Product Manager, Florian Bark, said that hybrid foods will be one of the salient trends throughout 2019, as it opens up new possibilities in the reformulation of plant- and animal-based products.
“The 2019 Power of Meat” report, published by the Food Marketing Institute and Foundation for Meat & Poultry Research and Education earlier this year, reported that consumer interest in purchasing these types of products is high. In this survey, 76 percent of respondents indicated some level of interest or current participation in the category of blended meat/plant-based items. Thirteen percent indicated that they already bought blended meat/plant-based items, 23 percent indicated that they “definitely would” buy and 40 percent indicated that they “maybe would” buy such combination products.
A new era of alternative meat production is well and truly underway. Plant-based and hybrid alternatives may well lead the way to a world without slaughter and maybe even healthier lifestyles. There is plenty of room for food innovators to tap into new opportunities in plant-based alternatives and hybrids, while the next few years will surely see the first commercialize cultured meat products hit the shelves.
By Kristiana Lalou
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