About 5 percent of Americans currently claim to be vegetarian. And 3% practice a completely plant based of vegan diet.
Clearly, these consumers don’t purchase much, if any, meat products. And many other consumers have cut back on certain meat purchases as well.
That’s where alternative meat comes in. Experts project the market for this type of product will reach about $140 million over the next decade. Led by an ever-growing list of innovative brands, this concept differs from some of the veggie and black bean burger products that you might have been familiar with in years past. And these new products might appeal to an even larger percentage of your customers.
So if your restaurant, grocery store or deli isn’t yet taking advantage of this meat alternative trend, this might be the time to reconsider. Here’s what you should know before jumping in.
What Is Alternative Meat?
Basically, alternative meat is a food product that is made to imitate the look, feel and taste of traditional meat dishes. But they are actually made of plant proteins or other meatless ingredients. Additionally, some of the new products on the market today are made to appeal to meat eaters as well as vegetarians, since producers pay even more attention to the flavor and texture in each item, rather than simply forming vegetables into the shape of a burger. This sets them apart from some of the classic veggie burger options that had been available in past years.
The actual makeup of alternative meat products varies by brand and type. But there are several very popular varieties, including meatless burgers, ground beef, hot dogs, and chicken. Some popular ingredients include proteins like tofu, seitan and even mushrooms.
Why Offer Alternative Meat?
Aside from the increasing amount of people who always have a vegetarian or vegan diet, everyday consumers are also becoming increasingly interested in meatless options. There are a few major talking points leading people in this direction.
First is the health aspect. There’s tons of varying opinions about the health benefits of meat versus meatless diets. But generally, many people feel that at least cutting back on meat and including more veggies would be beneficial for their health. So even the perception of healthier options on your menu can really appeal to a lot of customers.
Then there are the environmental factors to consider. Livestock farming accounts for about 14.5 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Basically, producing meat requires a lot more land, energy and other resources than what is required to simply harvest plants. And all of that need puts a major strain on the environment. Beef is widely considered to be one of the least sustainable types of food. But other types of meat also tend to be less sustainable than plants. And since consumers are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious, even simply offering more environmentally conscious options can help your image.
How Do I Choose the Right Alternative Meat Option
Of course, not all types of alternative meat are made with plants alone. And some include processed ingredients that may not actually be much healthier or more sustainable than natural meat. But the perception from consumers may still impact your business. And there are both healthy and sustainable options out there. So if you do your research and choose the right products, you could appeal to a wide array of consumers.
Additionally, for restaurants, offering an option for meatless eaters can help you bring in more groups. Though vegetarians make up a relatively small amount of the population, there’s a good chance that a large group of diners might have at least one person who prefers eating meatless options. And that person is likely to choose a restaurant that offers something they actually enjoy. So your restaurant can bring in extra meat eaters as well just because you have something for their meatless friend.
What Types of Alternative Meat Should I Offer?
This market is relatively new and constantly evolving. So it’s important that you research all of the options before selecting one for your store or restaurant. Here are some of the top brands that you can consider today.
Beyond Meat is one of the most prominent brands in this emerging space. Focused on sustainability, products include burgers, ground beef and sausage. Products use plant protein to deliver a taste similar to meat without the environmental impact.
Impossible Foods uses plant based ingredients to create meat-like products. Their Impossible burgers are the most well-known option. But the company also offers products for tacos, empanadas, pizza, meatballs and barbecue dishes.
JUST is a line of food products mainly offered as a replacement for eggs. This allows meatless consumers and those looking for an alternative to traditional eggs to still enjoy a similar taste and texture in all of their favorite dishes, from pancakes to pad thai.