14 Mar 2019

With veganism set to be a hotter topic than ever in 2019, we take a look at the range of meat alternatives flooding the market

Vegan meats

What is vegan ‘meat’?


Over the last couple of years the plant-based meat market has exploded, with a host of exciting products for consumers to try. In fact, according to Mintel research, the share of meat-free new products carrying a vegan/no animal ingredients claim nearly doubled between 2014-17. So what exactly is vegan ‘meat’? Most meat alternatives that contain no animal ingredients are made from soy or wheat, and Quorn products are made using mycoprotein, which  is a fungal protein. Some meat alternative products do still contain traces of animal products such as eggs or milk, so it is important to check the label that it is suitable for vegans. Quorn, for example, does now clearly print a green vegan symbol on the front of the
packaging to ensure clarity that those products do not contain any animal ingredients. Interesting new ways of creating plant-based foods are making their way through however, such as the use of jackfruit, which has the right consistency to create an alternative to pulled pork or chicken. Upton’s Naturals has a range of jackfruit products with different flavourings including Thai Curry and Bar-b-que.

The taste test

There’s a whole range of plantbased meats on offer, from sausages and nuggets to mince and kebab, many of which do have a similar look and taste of the real deal. For some consumers it can be easier to transition to a plant-based diet if there are foods available that remind them of what they have been used to, so that the taste of the meal is still relatively familiar. In the same Mintel report (November 2018) it states: “Tasting like meat is the top enticing factor for 26% of non-/infrequent eaters of vegetarian/meat-free foods.” Gone are the days of mushy potato and vegetable-filled patties that only the truly dedicated vegetarians and vegans could eat, as today’s products offer tasty, flavourful foods that fill the meat void. The Waitrose & Partners Food & Drink Report 2018-19 discovered that almost 13% of Brits involved in the research identified themselves as vegetarian or vegan and a further 21% as flexitarian, which means that they are eating a reduced amount of meat. In order to attract the attention of these groups, vegan ‘meats’ do need to look appealing, with lots of alternatives closely resembling meat in terms of colour and texture.

Several companies have recently launched revolutionary plant-based burgers that mimic the same ‘bleeding’ quality as animal-based meat burgers when cooked. This meat-replicating feature certainly makes the concept of meat-free foods more newsworthy and intriguing for consumers which, combined with health credentials, ethical claims and environmental considerations, creates a compelling proposition

According to Mintel, “There is also some interest in products that replicate meat in other ways, with 15% of this consumers group agreeing that meat-free burgers which ‘bleed’ are appealing; rising to 25% of 16-34 year-olds. Alyson Parkes, research analyst at Mintel, commented, “Several companies have recently launched revolutionary plant-based burgers that mimic the same ‘bleeding’ quality as animal-based meat burgers when cooked. This meat replicating feature certainly makes the concept of meat-free foods more newsworthy and intriguing for consumers which, combined with health credentials, ethical claims and environmental considerations, creates a compelling proposition. This visual aspect also makes these products highly ‘Instagrammable’, and can help catch the eye of experimental foodies, as well as a wider audience.” There have been a couple of burgers hitting the market which aim to do just that – Iceland released its No Bull burger coloured with beetroot extract and paprika to give the raw meat effect, and Beyond Meat’s ‘bleeding’ vegan offering that can be sampled at Honest Burger.

According to statistics from The Vegan Society, 35% of British consumers say they make a point of regularly having meat-free days and that a “staggering” 92% of plantbased meals consumed in the UK in 2018 were eaten by non-vegans.

In order to catch the attention of people flirting with the idea of trying a more plant-based diet, not only can adopting the look and taste of meat be an appealing factor, but now retailers are also experimenting with how the products are positioned on the shelves. Sainsbury’s recently announced that it was trialling positioning meat alternatives in the same aisle as meat, fish and poultry across 20 of its stores as a way of making the products more accessible. The popular Wicked Kitchen range of plant-based ready meals from Tesco steers clear of obvious vegan labelling on the front of the packaging, perhaps allowing for customers not specifically looking for vegan foods to be more willing to pick them up and give them a go while browsing the shelves.

Brands to stock

There are so many brands supplying meat alternatives – some that have been in the game for decades and others that are just hitting the market. According to its website, after debuting its first Holiday Roast in 1995, Tofurky now has a plethera of options to choose from including sausages, burgers and deli slices. Vivera offers veggie chicken piece, kebab and mince with some products just being suitable for vegetarians, and Gosh! delivers beetroot burgers and sweet potato and red pepper sausages. Linda McCartney’s range includes meatballs, hoisin duck and fish goujons, and Quorn has a variety of nuggets, strips and sausages. During Veganuary and Meat Free Monday customers may be more likely to consider something different from their usual choice of meats. The trend for finding delicious alternatives to meat is one that will only become stronger, so now is the time to jump on the bandwagon and add to your stock.

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 Speciality Food

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