Improved taste, texture drive popularity of meat alternatives

New plant-based protein options better mimic the taste and texture of real meat, increasing the sales of meat alternatives.

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(Yoyochow23 | Shutterstock.com)
(Yoyochow23 | Shutterstock.com)

New plant-based protein options better mimic the taste and texture of real meat, increasing the sales of meat alternatives.

“Many of these plant-based meat manufacturers have nailed taste and texture to appeal to meat-eating consumers. This is what makes this year’s growth larger than in the past.” Tim Grzebinski, a Clients Interest Principal at marker research company IRI, explained during a recent webinar.

Taste and texture have remained two of the biggest barriers for the adoption of plant-based substitutes. In a recent survey, 73% of respondents said alternatives should mimic the natural taste of meat.

Recent advances by Impossible Foods and the Beyond Burger have used chemistry-based approaches to make plant-based products better replicate the flavor of real meat. Other companies are testing infrared heating, roasting, fermentation, and thermal treatment techniques to improve taste.

Plant-based proteins see growth

Plant-based protein sales increased 19.2% last year, accounting for $868 million in annual sales. Beyond Meats, one of the leading meat alternative manufacturers has forecasted $240 million in 2019 net sales.

Plant-based alternatives are everywhere this year,” Grzebinski said. “Key purchase motivators are health and weight management/diet but also interest in reducing environmental impact and promoting animal welfare.”

The alternative industry is becoming very competitive and many of the major players are already working on their own plant-based protein products. Plant-based meat analogues currently make up less than 1% of the protein category, leaving a lot of room for growth.

“Meat-less meats are really going to be a game-changer going forward,” Grzebinski said.

While plant-based proteins used to just be popular with vegans and vegetarians, the market has grown. Meat eaters and flexitarians are now the largest-growing market segment of consumers interested in adding more plant-based food to their diets.

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