Plant-based meat

The number of “flexitarians”, people turning to plant-based foods of in conjunction with animal products, is gaining popularity. This trend of incorporating a vegetarian type of diet into meat diets has taken flight globally. Thus, products such as meatless burgers, meatless steaks are contending actual meat products in taste, texture and flavour. But why the increase in popularity?

What is plant-based meat?

Plant-based meat is a food item made from plants with a similar taste to meat. These products are made to look and cook like meat. Most plant-based meats consist mainly of soybean protein and other beans. Some plant-based meat products comprise a dozen ingredients, including heme (which comes from yeast and has a meat-like taste), plant protein, several oils (including sunflower and coconut), starch, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and seeds.

The manufacturers primarily use proteins derived from soybean, wheat and whey. However, recent developments have introduced a wide array of plant protein suitable for meat alternatives, including pea, mungbean and seaweed. This diversification of protein sources is a key strategy in achieving better texture, nutrition and visual appeal.

Ailments, such as cancer, have been linked to meat diets. The world health organisation recommends not exceeding four ounces of red meat a week to reduce the risk of high cholesterol diseases. More people are now considering healthier alternatives to incorporate into their diet, thus making plant-based meat all the rage. In 2019 the global plant-based meat market was valued at USD 3.3 billion and projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.4% from 2020 to 2027.


Whether you are considering reducing or eliminating your meat intake, the benefits are clear, less risk of diseases and improved health and wellbeing. Reducing your meat consumption will significantly decrease the risk of

• Heart disease
• Stroke
• Obesity
• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol
• Type 2 diabetes
• Many cancers

Due to rapid product development in meat alternatives, more companies are becoming innovative with their wide range of products. This market strives to make plant-based meat that rivals real meat in taste, texture and overall appeal.

Many brands such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have developed convincing meat replacements using only plant-based ingredients. Among other things, they use complex compounds such as leghemoglobin haemoglobin to give meat products the bleeding effect.

There is no question that plant-based meats are here to stay. Major meat producers have been investing in plant-based alternatives, pledging to sell more plant-based meat and dairy to fight climate change (and cash in on a growing trend).

In September 2020, Tesco — the UK’s largest supermarket chain, announced plans to increase plant-based product sales by 300% by 2025. Unilever — the world’s 19th largest food and beverage manufacturer, set a new annual global sales target of $1.2 billion for plant-based meat and dairy within the next five to seven years, about five times their forecast for 2020. And a few days later, Ikea announced that half of their restaurant meals and 80% of their packaged food offerings would be plant-based by 2025.

In the early months of the coronavirus crisis, a wave of illness among workers in meatpacking plants forced many closures. These closures created temporary meat shortages and significant price increases. Amid slaughterhouse closures, plant-based food sales increased by 90% in mid-March compared to sales for the same period in the previous year. The following month, plant-based food sales grew 27% faster than in 2019 and 35% faster than the food sales overall category in general. In particular, plant-based meat sales boomed. Grocery store sales of meatless meat products increased 264% during the first nine weeks of the pandemic.

Current and Future trends

Products such as burger patties, chicken nuggets and strips are gaining traction in the fast-food restaurant chains. The year 2020 introduced a wide range of premade, easy to work with plant proteins. Daring Foods released 100% plant-based chicken strips, and Stimulate Foods released Nuggs 2.0 vegan chicken nuggets. Reports show that these plant-based chicken products constitute about the same amount of protein genuine chicken nuggets while the other nutrients vary. The company that created JUST Mayo developed a new product called JUST egg, a plant-based egg alternative. Other companies such as Beyond Meats announced that there would be more developments in plant-based bacon and steaks. A Finnish company, Gold and Green Foods, developed pulled oats, a protein-rich product with a texture that is a mix of shreds and crumbles and can be seasoned and used as a meat alternative. New wave Foods produced shrimp alternatives from seaweed and plant proteins. According to the company, plant-based lobster, scallops, and crabs will soon make their way into the market.

Another trend penetrating this market is mushroom meat products. Due to their UMAMI properties and texture, Denny Foods in South Africa created a range of vegan beef style patties, sausages, and mince made of 60% mushrooms. The future depicts more development in vegan fish products.