Green around the grills.

Plant-based al­ter­na­tives are now mir­ror­ing meat char­ac­ter­is­tics and win­ning over more con­sumers, writes NICOLA BELL

Tasmanian Country - - NEWS - - WEEKLY TIMES

AC­CORD­ING to its de­vel­op­ers, plant-based “meat” is not a niche and the cur­rent re­liance on an­i­mal pro­tein is not sus­tain­able.

So says Im­pos­si­ble Foods, whose mis­sion is to elim­i­nate the need for an­i­mals in the food sys­tem by 2035.

And while those who pro­duce and con­sume red meat dis­agree that an­i­mal pro­teins need to be elim­i­nated, Im­pos­si­ble Foods has cre­ated the Im­pos­si­ble Burger, a plant-based pro­tein that looks, tastes and smells like meat.

The burger is now avail­able in more than 4000 res­tau­rants — up from about 40 res­tau­rants 12 months ago — across the United States, Hong Kong and Ma­cau, with plans to ex­pand glob­ally.

The Im­pos­si­ble Burger is made mostly of wa­ter, wheat and potato pro­teins, co­conut oil, and heme.

Im­pos­si­ble Foods chief sci­ence of­fi­cer David Lipman said the plant pro­teins give the burger its tex­ture, the flavour comes from heme and the fat and siz­zle comes from de­odorised co­conut oil.

“Plant-based meat is not a niche. It’s quickly be­com­ing a sig­nif­i­cant food cat­e­gory sim­ply be­cause our cur­rent re­liance on an­i­mal-based meat is not sus­tain­able,”

In fact, Mr Lipman said the only com­pe­ti­tion for the Im­pos­si­ble Burger was an­i­mal­based meat.

“We didn’t make the Im­pos­si­ble Burger for peo­ple who eat a plant-based diet,” he said.

“Our tar­get con­sumers are peo­ple who eat and love meat from an­i­mals.”

Mr Lipman be­lieves the Im­pos­si­ble Burger is more sus­tain­able and health­ier than an­i­mal meat.

“Be­cause it’s made en­tirely from plants, the Im­pos­si­ble Burger is free of choles­terol, hor­mones, an­tibi­otics, ar­ti­fi­cial in­gre­di­ents or slaugh­ter­house con­tam­i­nants,” Mr Lipman said.

Im­pos­si­ble Foods claims the burger uses 75 per cent less wa­ter, emits 87 per cent less green­house gas, and uses 95 per cent less land than a con­ven­tional beef burger.

But the Im­pos­si­ble Burger isn’t the only plant-based pro­tein try­ing to ap­peal to meat eaters and flex­i­tar­i­ans (peo­ple who claim to be veg­e­tar­i­ans but eat small amounts of red meat).

The plant-based Be­yond Burger patty, which is now avail­able in Aus­tralian su­per­mar­kets, is made from peas but looks red be­cause of the use of beets.

Ac­cord­ing to the Be­yond Meat fact sheet they “wanted to keep the whole ex­pe­ri­ence of cook­ing a burger as sim­i­lar as pos­si­ble” for flex­i­tar­i­ans, so they have cre­ated a burger that changes colour as it is cooked, just like an­i­mal pro­tein.

The burger chain Grill’d has also de­vel­oped a plant­based meat patty this year, with the Ve­gan Cheese­burger, de­signed to look and taste like a real beef cheese­burger with in­gre­di­ents such as pea pro­tein, chick peas and beet­root pow­der.

A Grill’d Aus­tralia spokes­woman said there was a grow­ing trend of peo­ple re­duc­ing their in­take of red meat and choos­ing to eat more plant­based op­tions.

“The big­gest in­crease is com­ing from flex­i­tar­i­ans,” the spokes­woman said.

Meat and Live­stock Aus­tralia’s chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer Lisa Sharp said since 1985 there have been plant-based pro­teins avail­able that aim to “repli­cate meat” but what has changed is the “con­sid­er­able im­prove­ment in taste, tex­ture and mar­ket­ing”.

Ms Sharp said MLA re­search had found while con­sumers might not con­sider them­selves veg­e­tar­i­ans they wanted va­ri­ety.

“They still en­joy red meat but for cost rea­sons and health they seek va­ri­ety,” she said.

Ms Sharp said while red meat will al­ways have com­peti­tors the risk is “some­times they change their game”.

“Con­sumers told us what they don’t like much is highly pro­cessed food, so for the Im­pos­si­ble Burger and syn­thetic cel­lu­lar meats, their real strength is on an­i­mal wel­fare and en­vi­ron­men­tal claims, but that trend around nat­u­ral and un­pro­cessed, is our (red meat’s) strength.”

An­other con­sumer strength for beef and lamb was the fact they were in the Aus­tralian Di­etary Guide­lines due to their macro nu­tri­ent ben­e­fits, Ms Sharp said.

Monash Food In­no­va­tion Cen­tre chief ex­ec­u­tive An­ge­line Achariya agreed con­sumers were look­ing for meat al­ter­na­tives.

Dr Achariya said while there would al­ways be de­mand for red meat, the con­sumer trends were shift­ing.

“Mil­len­ni­als are now the big­gest con­sumers and they are con­scious about sus­tain­abil­ity. These al­ter­na­tives are still at a premium, but mil­len­ni­als will spend money on things they see value in,” she said.

An­i­mal-based meat is not sus­tain­able. DAVID LIPMAN

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