Organic. Vegetarian. Vegan. These diet choices have been growing trends for many years. Eating a plant-based diet is smart for many reasons. Younger consumers do it because they care about the environment. Older consumers do it because they care about their health. Either way, the development of plant-based food products has become something between a science and an art. In recent years, many options are appearing on restaurant menus and in grocery stores, yet often, do not resemble a plant.
The most popular trend is the plant-based hamburger. Impossible Foods developed this faux red meat to create the Impossible Burger (2016). Its production requires 87% less water, 96% less land, and produces 89% less greenhouse gas emissions. Environmentally sustainable, it is reverse engineered from plants and mixed with soy products. The secret, however, lies in a molecule found in plants as well as in human blood called heme. This molecule carries oxygen to blood in the human body and is in virtually all foods people eat. Plant-based burgers with heme deliver the craveability of beef. In other words, it sells because it tastes like blood.
As a niche product sold in high-end restaurants, plant-based meat alternatives (PBMA) have evolved into mainstream meat products. The recipe varies but incorporates protein bases such as legumes, nuts, soy, tofu, whole grains, seeds, tempeh, and vegetables. The result is a malleable lump similar to ground beef which can form into burgers, minced meats, sausages, and other meat alternatives. Due to the flavor and price matching similarly to familiar animal-based products, drive-thru restaurants, and grocery stores that sell plant-based products had a winning moment during the pandemic. People paid more attention to where their food comes from while spending more time at home, and plant-based foods proved to be sustainable, opposed to animal-based foods. Surprisingly, this caused sales for plant-based meats and other plant-based products to grow 25% compared to animal-based products, which rose 9.5% from May 2020 to May 2021. In addition, with interest in reducing greenhouse emissions, billionaire Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, has shown support for the plant-based movement by investing in several faux meat startups, including Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, Memphis Meats, and Hampton Creek Foods. As the largest private farmland owner in the US, his decision to advocate for plant-based companies is powerful.
Started through Impossible Foods, Inc., alternative meat products are currently offered at various fast-food restaurants. A few listed here are Burger King’s Impossible Whopper, White Castle’s Impossible Slider, Red Robin’s Impossible Burger, TGI Friday’s Beyond Burger, The Cheesecake Factory’s Impossible Burger, and Hard Rock Café’s Impossible Burger, Del Taco’s Beyond Taco, and Dunkin’s Beyond Sausage Breakfast Sandwich. Through research and development, these new restaurant menu choices are viable options with taste, nutrition, convenience, and affordability
Although select plant-based products are sold at many grocery stores, Trader Joe’s grocery store is the place to be if you want your cart full of plant-based products. From plant-based alternative meats, cream cheese, and specialty drinks for humans to treats for your dog, Trader Joe’s is at the cutting edge of the plant-based movement.
How exciting to see what will happen next as more meat alternatives and plant-based product options become available.