Explosion of Vegan Meat Free Alternatives Kicks Meat Industry in Nuts – Is Meat Business Doomed?

7th May 2017

In the run-up to the UK’s first vegan Trade Show at Olympia London on Friday October 20th 2017, Tony Bishop–Weston takes a close look at Vegan Meat and Fish Alternatives, Plant Based Proteins, Meat Free Market Facts and Statistics. Tony Bishop-Weston Vegan is consultant development chef with Foods for Life Health and Nutrition, author and former business development advisor with The Vegan Society and The Vegetarian Society.

The global meat industry has been taking a serious bashing recently. Meat has faced damning environmental reports from the United Nations to rib kicking health science statistics from the World Health Organisation and eye opening documentaries such as Cowspiracy that uncover animal rights concerns. It’s become clear the meat industry is broken, struggling to stay profitable and as veganism rises globally the future for meat is looking increasingly bleak.


Top global investors such as microsoft’s Bill Gates and Google seem set to put the final nails in the coffin of the meat industry by investing in startups such as the Impossible Burger (see below) that smells, tastes, feels and even bleeds like a freshly minced gourmet beef burger. Global meat based companies such as Tyson appear to be hedging their bets and looking for escape routes and ways to jump ship by investing in vegan innovations.


The Meat-free/meat alternative market has changed dramatically since consumers were first introduced to ‘Beanfeast’ (designed to make minced meat go further and taste better), the Quorn meat substitute and Linda McCartney’s ubiquitous vegan sausages. Food manufacturers are veganising their recipes, removing the egg and experimenting with new plant based proteins from peas, beans, grains and seeds. It’s not just meat we are seeing new vegan fish options too. Retailers and caterers are taking advantage of new vegan  products, usually on a free-from platform.


Facts and Stats on Meat Free Sales

Meat-free products in the UK are growing by 13%. More than nine and a half million shoppers buy meat-free products (betterretailing.com April 2017)

“Seventy-three per cent of meat-free shoppers are meat reducers.The Quorn brand accounts for more than half of all meat-free sales in both chilled and frozen” (Julian Cooke, Quorn)

“Plant-based proteins are growing faster than those from animals” (Tyson Foods CEO Tom Hayes fooddive.com March 2017)

Sales of Jackfruit have risen 20% in a year, making a top-trending exotic produce for 2017. Increased sales are attributed to popularity with vegans and vegetarians who use it as a substitute for pulled pork.  (www.progressivegrocer.com April 2017)

“There is a rising trend for veggie-inspired lifestyles, as well as other consumer diversification segments such as local, seasonal, organic, fair trade, sustainable, healthy nutrition, quality labels, etc.” (EU basedFreshfel www.foodingredientsfirst.com  May 2017)

Pret’s first trial Veggie Pret, in central London, was made permanent after standout sales. Pret said over half (52 per cent) of Veggie Pret customers are meat-eaters looking to cut down. (www.fruitnet.com April 2017)

According to data from Innova Market Insights, 9% of global launches in 2016 were specifically positioned on a vegetarian platform, an increase of 85% since 2011. Ready meals featuring the term “vegan,” meanwhile, accounted for 4.5% of the total global launches in 2016, up from just 1.1% in 2011. Following on this trend, vegan labeling and certification schemes are becoming increasingly common across a range of product sectors (www.foodingredientsfirst.com April 2017)

“Sustainability has long been an abstract concept, hard to grasp and related to special markets in Western Europe. Now, people want to know where their food comes from and how it was made – transparency takes center stage” (www.foodingredientsfirst.com April 2017)

Pulled Jackfruit Taco


New Plant Proteins For a New Age of Vegan Meat Free Products

The meat-free market could expect to see a lot more pea and chickpea plant-based protein products in 2018 as manufacturers respond to consumer demand for more plant protein variety and less over-reliance on soya as a meat alternative.

Kerry Foods has created ProDiem, a complementary combination of plant proteins including pea, rice and oat to improve the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS), delivering a solution with a complete essential amino acid profile. The PDCAAS score has been independently verified by a leading laboratory, confirming that with a score of as high as 1.0 it matches that of the best animal protein sources. Kerry has successfully pushed past the limitations of traditional plant based proteins, providing a plant based protein that is optimized for nutrition, texture and taste. ProDiem is a great option for soy-free, non-dairy and vegan protein and is available to boost the nutritional content of beverages, bar and snack applications. (www.kerry.com)

“Chickpea protein will be an $8 billion industry by 2024” (CHiCK.P founder Ram Reifen, MD, professor of human nutrition at the University of Jerusalem, Vegnews.com)

“US Sales of hemp food products surged 44% to $129 million in 2016” and this is despite very little awareness about Hemp Seed as a high protein omega 3 rich food source. (www.fooddive.com  March 2017)

“Bean ingredients offer a virtually flavorless solution to increasing both protein and fiber contents in processed foods with one, clean-label and whole-food ingredient. Beans do not contain gluten, and can often be declared as ‘Gluten-free,’ beans are not listed allergens and being highly nutritious, they are an ideal choice for use in products targeting health, wellbeing and weight reduction,” Tim Symons, Meat & Meal Sales Director ADM April 2017

“As market leader in hydrolysed proteins, Kerry’s Hyfoama™ allergen-free and vegan products are valued for replacing the aerating properties of egg albumin in a very cost effective way. It can be used at a lower inclusion rate than egg white, which means that a significant reduction (~15-25%) in the “cost in use” versus egg albumen can be achieved depending on usage levels and product application”.(www.kerry.com Jan 2017)

Nutriati, a 4-year-old US startup that specializes in breaking down chickpeas into ingredients for health food manufacturers, is nearing completion of a $10 million equity fundraising round (richmondbizsense.com April 2017)


Top selling meat free products in independent retailer stores

Consumer research has consistently confirmed that animal welfare, environmental concerns and ‘family health’ are key drivers for the primary family shopper. Those consumer aspirations are nearly always over-ridden by key concerns of value for money, taste and availability. However the gulf between preferences and convenience is closing and even fair-weather vegans are now able to easily register their preferred choice.


“The best-selling vegan meat free alternative products at independent stores are likely to be Veggie Mince, Linda McCartney Sausages, Quorn chicken style pieces, Birds-eye Vegetable Fingers and the Linda McCartney veggie burger.” (betterretailing.com April 2017)


Vegan Product Launches Grow Fastest

“According to Innova Market Insights new product data, over the last 5 years, US product launches tracked with vegetarian/vegan claims have grown faster (32-38% CAGR) than overall US food and beverage launches tracked (6.7% CAGR). Launches tracked with vegetarian or vegan claims grew from 6% to 17% of total US launches over this period.” (foodingredientsfirst.com April 2017 )

UK manufacturers appear to be following the US trend and Quorn’s lead with a number of new products leading with ‘suitable for vegetarians and vegans’ or simple ‘Vegan’. In addition, at IFE there were a number of EU and international companies targeting the UK with vegan meat-free meat alternative products.

Meanwhile, VBites, one of the original manufacturers of meat alternative chilled products, now distributes to 18 countries with a portfolio that now includes ready meals and frozen as well as delicatessen items and a range of vegan fishy fishless products.


Innovation in plant-based protein meat alternatives

Apart from the very well publicised meat-free alternatives from the USA such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods there are others widening the scope and appeal at the cutting edge too.

Vivera from Holland is using lupin protein in some their products in new range of 6 products launched at IFE available from Ocado.com (www.vivera.com/en/home)


Food for Progress from Sweden is using soy but have unique products such as jerk or pulled Oumph! Also launched at IFE in London (http://oumph.se/en)


Henry Seosanto, the CEO of Monde Nissin, owners of Quorn, is vegan (www.fdbusiness.com April 2017) and has a vision to make the whole Quorn range plant based introducing potato protein to replace the egg where possible. Quorn now have 6 vegan products on sale Quorn Vegan Nuggets 280g, Vegan Pieces 280g, Vegan Fillets 252g, Breaded Fillets 200g, Hot & Spicy Burgers 264g and Quorn Vegan Fishless Fingers. Alex Glen, Head of Brand Marketing at Quorn, says: “The Vegan (society) Trademark is the cherry on top. The (vegan) products that we have launched so far are performing well, and we are continuing to develop new vegan products that we can launch into market, so watch this space!” (www.fdbusiness.com April 2017)

VBites has plans to move from soy protein to pea protein to offer more variety to customers and is now targeting schools with a vegetable-based option (IFE 2017)’


Dee’s Wholefoods have gone down the vegetable root with Quinoa as a base for their burgers and a pea protein, beans and flax with a realistic plant based sausage skin for their healthy sausages. (deeswholefoods.co.uk)

Fry’s Family Foods from South Africa have been experimenting with different seeds and grains for a number of years. They have products with quinoa, rice protein, chia and flaxseeds (www.fryfamilyfood.com/uk/category/our-food/natures-plant-proteins)


Ikea have launched a vegan society registered vegetable-based alternative to their Swedish meatballs (vegansociety.com) and Cauldron foods have something similar in a sausage shape found in the frozen section (waitrose.com)


Asda have launched a new improved vegan recipe for frozen meatballs following the trend of removing egg from meat-free meat alternatives. (www.asda.com) This trend has also been seen at Sainsbury’s and Morrisons who have similar new products.


Linda McCartney Foods have launched a new vegan burger without egg or cheese and also vegan meat free pulled duck and pulled chicken. (www.lindamccartneyfoods.co.uk)


Hooba Foods plumped for fungi and made very realistic sausages/burgers/sausage rolls from mushrooms instead of meat (hoobafoods.com)


Tofurky have relaunched their maple sweetened Tempeh alternative to bacon to the UK along with a range of tofu based products and working with the sandwich industry to produce a range of meat alternative based vegan sandwiches (vegnews.com Nov 2016)


Morrisons have launched a Vegan Veggie Burger without eggs as have Asda and Sainsburys.


Many chefs consider it beneath them to use fake meat

Chef’s have traditionally sneered at anything calling itself a meat replacement, especially soy-based foods. Some may consider Quorn as a standalone ingredient as they can buy it unadulterated and use it as they would fresh meat. Pret a Manger has so far steadfastly refused to include any meat replacements in their new vegan ranges. With this culture intact probably the biggest potential for growth in the catering sector are products that chefs recognise as a natural ingredient such as mushroom / quinoa / tempeh / chickpea / pea / jackfruit based vegan products.


Hemp is unlikely to be overlooked for much longer

So look out for new pea and chickpea plant protein products and the rise of Tempeh but watch this space for Hemp. Hemp protein ticks all the boxes and when farmers and the marketing fraternity finally get together there will likely be an explosion of hemp products in the supermarkets. It seems ironic that Big Pharma, Big Ag and Big Chem are searching and investing to create a new product that already exists (Cargill, BASF develop omega-3-rich canola http://www.world-grain.com Dec 2016). Hemp is high in absorbable protein, rich in longer chain essential omega 3 fats, rich in fibre and has a wealth of well proven uses.


Hempco has begun to fit out a 50,000-square-foot hemp seed food and fibre processing plant in Alberta, Canada.The new facility near Edmonton builds on an agreement for the land from November, and will include enough capacity every year for 5,000 tons of hemp seed and 2,000 tons of hemp leaf and flower chaff. Those levels of output are worth nearly CAD 2.1 billion ($1.57 billion) in sales value. The site will also house 8,000 square feet of combined office and ancillary spaces, as well as a 4,000-square-foot clean room area for blending and packaging protein powders, food bars and hemp burgers (http://www.foodbev.com April 2017). It’s hoped hemp industry investment will be seen in the UK too. Hemp burgers have already been seen at VegfestUK.


Hemp grows very well in the UK, the downsides are mostly tied to proximity of processing. (http://www.fwi.co.uk/arable/better-processes-dispel-uncertainties-of-hemp.htm). UK Hemp could easily be a sustainable, environmentally friendly, very nutritious agriculture solution that could save the livelihoods of the UK’s poor beleaguered dairy farmers (if they choose to diversify in time). Licences to grow hemp are available from the UK Govt home office.


Vegan meat is the future

Whatever the politics, the name, the plant protein ingredient, the consumer preferences or the economics one thing is certain, the demand for plant-based protein and innovative vegan alternatives is about to turn the food industry upside down. The future is not grass fed or vegetarian the future is vegan.


Appendix 1 – Gluten Free Sales Rise

Global sales of gluten-free food jumped 12.6 per cent year on year in 2016 to $3.5bn, compared with overall packaged foods growth of just over 4 per cent, according to Euromonitor, the consumer data group. The gluten-free retail market has expanded rapidly from $1.7bn in 2011 and will reach $4.7bn by 2020, Euromonitor forecasts. Other “free-from” categories also grew strongly in 2016, with meat-free foods up 11.8 per cent and free-from-lactose products rising 9.2 per cent. (FT.com)


Appendix 2 – VegfestUK Trade (Friday October 20th 2017 at Olympia London)

The UK’s first dedicated vegan Trade show will feature up to 160 stallholders and 6 different areas of talks on different aspects of running vegan businesses – expect around 2,000 Trade and Media representatives at this inaugural event looking for the best vegan products in the UK vegan market. To book a stall at this event, visit www.trade.vegfest.co.uk/traders/book-a-stall Registration for the event will open shortly.