Meet the New Meat
Plant Based, Animal Free and Incredibly Tasty
Look behind the ranch – while the cattle are not being put out to pasture just yet, there are some amazing new beef alternatives that just may take a bite or two out of the meat market.
The garden burger has grown up and can be found at today’s most innovative, plant-based bio-engineering labs at the intersection of taste and marketability. In the last few years, there has been a real surge in consumer interest in more environmentally-clean and tasty meat-free menu choices. This in turn has led to some of America’s most influential investors, biochemists and foodies exploring the advent of a new menu category that may be hard to categorize, but is most definitely on the rise.
Meatless, tech foods, plant-based protein or meat alternative all seem to share a similar mission: bring a delicious new choice to the market and to restaurants, that consumers (even carnivores) will crave, and the world can sustain. Taste and inclusive marketing set this new breed of burger shoulders above previous animal-free menu movements.
“Nearly 90 percent of consumers say they would make healthier choices at restaurants if those choices tasted better,” explains Mike Kostyo, spokesperson for Datassential, a leading food industry market research company. “The meat-free burger has to look at least as appetizing as the other menu items. These companies will have to work hard if they want their products to become a core part of the menu and not just the token vegetarian option.”
The cow-tipping point may be upon us. Just last year, several meat alternatives made their debut and earned rare praise. One of Fast Company’s 2017 Top 50 Most Innovative Companies, Beyond Meat brought a plant-based burger patty to market last year (in the grocer’s meat case), that starts pink, cooks and tastes and bleeds (beet juice) like a burger. On a similar quest to serve up a more sustainable beef alternative that meat lovers will devour, Impossible Foods’ burger is made entirely of plants, with an added secret ingredient, heme, a biological compound that gives beef, and the Impossible Burger, its authentic flavor and smell. Going in a different but equally intriguing direction, Memphis Meats unveiled a lab-grown meatball, cultured and grown from beef cells, not livestock. While there is plenty of compelling environmental, animal advocacy, food safety and nutrition arguments to make for meat alternatives, the missing ingredient for consumers, especially meat-eaters, gets down to taste and texture.
“The Impossible Burger was made first and foremost for meat lovers,” explains Jessica Applegren, spokesperson, Impossible Foods, “We made this burger to provide the most delicious meat to meat lovers, with no compromises and a better health and environmental profile than traditional meat from cows. And you bet, meat lovers all over are loving this product. We recently launched in Houston at Chris Shepherd’s Underbelly, which along with Chris Cosentino’s Cockscomb in San Francisco, is one of the most meat-centric dining establishments in the country. At the end of the day, meat lovers want a delicious burger that they can feel wholly good about eating. We are giving them that.”
Impossible Foods is scaling up to produce enough plant-based meat to serve four million Impossible Burgers per month with plans to be in more than 1,000 restaurants, from fine dining to burger chains, around the country by the end of the year. Beyond Meat is in national grocery store chains like Whole Foods and Safeway, regional restaurant chains like California’s Veggie Grill and even top-shelf restaurants like Chef David Chang’s NYC restaurant Momofuku Nishi.
If it’s the Millennial diner you’re courting, it may be time to add a clean meat choice to your menu. While Memphis Meats needs a few more years to bring their food technology to market, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are ready now to take a bite out of the $750 billion global meat market.
According to Kostyo: “Vegans and vegetarians only account for eight percent of the U.S. population, but more than a quarter of the population is limiting its meat consumption in some way. Clearly there is already a contingent of consumers who are looking for products that can help them eat more plant-based products. Younger consumers are also much more willing to try meat substitutes than other age groups. While 30 percent of consumers overall say they are likely to try a meat alternative at a restaurant, nearly 50 percent of consumers under 30 said the same thing.”
They must be on to something, key opinion-leading Silicon Valley investors like Bill Gates and Christopher “Biz” Stone, and even one of the largest meat producers, Tyson Foods, have a stake in these companies. It goes back to the not-impossible mission proposed by Impossible Foods’ Applegren: “Widespread adoption of plant-based meats will make it 100 percent possible to feed the population, provide nourishment and enjoyment, and help preserve the planet for future generations.”