I honestly feel sometimes that we’re traveling at warp speed with meat alternatives. It’s a whole new world and it’s moving so fast, many product developers can’t keep up! But because of this new world, there’s so much to explore and innovate toward. It really is a place where no meat has gone before. Where you can take one big step for man, one giant leap for food-kind. Foods are always impossible until they’re not. There’s always an analog fish. Where insufficient maskers can always invite danger. There are just simple meats trying to make their way in the universe.
What? Those aren’t the right Star Trek/Star Wars/space quotes? Well. You get where I’m going.
What Comes Next?
Every day new articles feature new office/lab/factory buildings purchased for plant-based/meat alternative companies, how some traditional “beef” companies are going to get a run for their money because of the “chicken” explosion, and even plant-based seafood companies gaining massive capital venture funding for development. The articles also mention how cell-grown meats – or cultivated meats – are just getting started. The amount of entrepreneurial funding they’re getting is mind-blowing. So I want to ask now, before we go too much farther: what do you think?
I’d like to recap what we know of alternative meats here, but there’s so much that I think I’ll reference my colleague, Kyle Neu’s, work. In his blog, Covid-19 and Plant-based Meat – Two Natural Experiments, he gives you a wrap up of the 2020 COVID-19 plant-based market while also talking about the “what’s next”.
What I do think is important to touch on is the variety of protein sources being discovered and used in current times: proteins like sunflower, mung bean, potato, rice, duckweed, chickpea, navy bean, oat, and fungi are all making their way into plant-based meats and other products. You’ll even learn an “up-and-coming” protein source at the end of the blog here. Don’t count any protein out, combine your protein sources, mix ingredient bases in your products. I say to combine them, because, in a primary research study conducted by our Givaudan Consumer Understanding team, the source of protein doesn’t play a huge importance factor for meat alternative consumers:
|Protein Source Importance Descriptor||Vegetarian vs. Non-Vegetarians (Flexitarians)|
|Extremely Important||35% Vegetarian | 47% Non-Vegetarians/Flexitarians|
|Very Important||35% Vegetarian | 32% Non-Vegetarians/Flexitarians|
|Somewhat Important||25% Vegetarian | 16% Non-Vegetarians/Flexitarians|
So thinking about protein sources and the below information, the only boundaries are those in your mind. Innovation only stops when your imagination stops; it’s a whole new frontier, my friends.
Let’s face it – fermentation isn’t really a thing of the future, it’s a thing of the current day! You might consider this another strong pillar of meat alternatives: right there with plant-based and cell-based (as described in a moment below). The great thing about fermentation is that there are a variety of ways to go about using the process. The traditional food fermentation process uses microbes to enhance the flavor and nutritional profiles of plant-derived ingredients. (Microbes are really good at converting calories into protein!) We’ve used this process for years to preserve foods, create alcohol, and improve the nutritional value of certain foods.
There are two other forms of fermentation to consider when creating these alternative meat products: biomass and precision fermentation. Innovation in the fermentation space is happening across these three processes because of the versatility, but each come with their own set of challenges and benefits. Where is your company ready to go? What benefits do you want to bring to your consumers and the market?
For clarity’s sake, let’s define cell-based meats. Cell-based meats (also known as cultivated, lab-grown, clean, or cultured meats), are genuine animal meats – that has all the same nutritional and taste profile as traditional animal meat – but that are grown cellularly in labs. This isn’t fake meat, it’s actual meat grown from cells but outside an animal. This meat can make it possible to create meat cuts that lessen the environmental impact and uses fewer sources.
Compared to conventional beef, cell-based beef is estimated to reduce land use by more than 95%, climate change emissions by 74% – 87%, and nutrient pollution by 94%.2Good Foods Institute
Think this sounds “new age”? It’s not, the first cell-based beef hamburger was eaten in 2013 in London. Since then, nearly every meat application has been created using this method. And this year will be a breakout year as more cell-based meat producers will be launching products in to the market: BlueNalu (seafood), Future Meat Technologies, Memphis Meats, Wild Type, Artemys Foods, SuperMeat and more.
The texture and taste and nutritional value is like the traditional meat you love. There are some downsides: consumers might be hesitant to pay premium prices, regulatory hurdles, and the facilities needed to grow the meats efficiently. Obviously, with time and demand, the cost of cell-based meats will shrink. Some of SuperMeat’s Instagram videos/photos look like a craft brewery!
However, another downside of this meat is that younger consumers might not be willing to try it. According to a recent study from the University of Sydney and Curtin University, Generation Z (born between 1995-2002), wouldn’t be happy with eating lab-grown meat. Gen Z wasn’t quite sure if it actually WAS better for the planet, so that’s a steep educational hill to climb, but one I don’t think is impossible.
Cell-based meats are really the wave of the future – providing consumers with a product that tastes like the original, yet fills the heart with happy environmentally-friendly feelings! If you want more information, our friends and collaborators at Good Foods Institute are caches of knowledge and information. You can read their white paper on cell-based meats here.
My husband did a double-take when I first told him about 3D-printed meats. While his workplace believes in and touts 3D printing technology, he had never thought of it as able to produce edible products. Israeli company, Redefine Meat, is taking alternative forms of meat to a whole new level. They not only want to print meat, but they want to print STEAK. Let’s check out a quick video from France24.
Recreating steak in this analog form is incredibly difficult. Fattiness (long a hurdle for the plant-based sector to overcome), whole muscle replication, the overall appearance, and the mouthfeel of meat alternatives/analogs are the most difficult attributes to get right in the creation phase. And it’s extremely important. Approximately 8 of every 10 alternative meat consumers say the ideal texture is one of the most important attributes. This kind of fat complexity and nuanced flavors and textures add more to a dish than many consumers might realize or understand.
We are just getting started with this type of meat alternative. While some people are concerned about the scalability of this futuristic meat, other companies aren’t pausing. KFC announced recently that they would be teaming up with a Russian firm to create “chicken” nuggets using a 3D printer. So researchers continue to forge a new path toward a brighter future for 3D-printed meats.
The European Union just decided that mealworms are “safe to eat” and insects provide protein, vitamins, and nutrients to consumers. But how far will this go? Do you think you could put it in your products? What do consumers think? I’m going to take this “offline” and I promise to circle back soon as I’m gathering more insights related to this alternative protein. It’s a rather interesting and fascinating space, I think you’ll be glad you come back for another MarketBites dose in another month!
In Closing, The Most Important Thing
The new frontier of meat alternatives isn’t only “plant-based” anymore… there’s a new frontier with cellular grown, 3d-printed, and insect forward. And that’s a scary proposition – how do you even start thinking about cell-grown meats or insect-protein foods? What is the most important thing?
That’s it. You’ve heard the idea that “2 minds are better than 1.” Well, what if you had a whole team of product developers with different expert skill sets to work with you? You do. You have a team who understands the process from the protein source analysis to the foundations of the chicken profile, to the flavor nuances that change as you process products. Our team can be with you from the very first innovative thought to the scale-up of your production.
Givaudan’s Flavorists and Application Scientists have evaluated a variety of protein ingredients on the market with a wide range of tastes and aromas. We study their functional and sensory properties and design our tools to address identified challenges. Using that expertise, we can work with your base to identify an optimal masking system so your meaty notes shine through to create a consumer-friendly, optimal product. This approach helps us collaborate with you easier and quicker.Panchali Chakraborty, Technical Director, Savory & Snacks
What makes this approach better than just asking for a masker or a flavor is that your objectives become our objectives. By understanding all your challenges, we can find the right solution for you sooner and get you moving down the product development path faster. Our entire Flavor Creation and Application team is aware of meat alternative challenges and we work each day striving for solutions to current, frequent, and yet unseen challenges.
Curious about how we can help you in your product development? Reach out to us whether via your Account Manager or at noam.marketing@Givaudan.com, so we can engage with you about what you need and how we can better support you, your teams, and your product development.