Meat alternatives are going vegan

15 Jul 2019

Vegan is the new vegetarian for the meat alternatives sector, as manufacturers look to take a bigger bite out of the market for plant-based meat substitutes.

Fake meat products like veggie burgers, sausages and soy nuggets often contain non-vegan ingredients, like egg white and milk proteins, but many manufacturers have started using 100% plant-based ingredients. In 2017, more than half (52%) of new product launches in the meat-free foods market were vegan, up from 28% in 2014, according to market research organisation Mintel.

Meat alternatives are going vegan
The number of vegan product launches in meat-free foods has nearly doubled

Part of this is the expense of eggs in particular, which have been subject to price fluctuations in recent years, but rising demand for vegan foods is a major driver. Only a tiny percentage of consumers identifies as vegan, but more people are aiming to reduce their consumption of animal products and to eat more plant-based foods. Mintel found that 26% of consumers prefer meat-free products to be plant-based rather than containing eggs or dairy.

In addition, initiatives like Veganuary and World Vegan Month in November have given many meat-eating consumers a taste of a vegan lifestyle and, crucially, the tools to prepare more completely plant-based meals. But for more than a quarter (26%) of habitual meat-eaters, tasting like meat is the most enticing factor for meat replacement products, according to Mintel, giving manufacturers and suppliers added impetus to produce realistically meat-like meat alternatives from plants.

Responding to this demand, DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences recently introduced an egg white replacement ingredient specifically for use in plant-based meat alternatives that seek to make a vegan claim, and Ingredion has developed cornstarch ingredients to replace eggs in a broad range of foods.

Apart from a shift toward more vegan functional ingredients, the main raw materials for vegetarian meat alternatives are also transitioning, away from traditional soy and wheat, toward other pulses, vegetables and grains. Peas, lupine, fava beans and rice are all becoming more widely used as plant protein sources.

And the alternative meat market looks set to be big business in the future. According to analysts at Barclays, the sector could capture as much as 10% of the $1.4 trillion global meat market within just ten years. Currently, they value the vegan and plant-based meat alternatives market at $14 billion – just one per cent of meat sales – but they suggest that this could increase ten-fold within the coming decade.

For manufacturers, it is worth bearing in mind that younger consumers are overrepresented among those seeking out vegan foods and ingredients. Food companies across all categories would do well to future-proof their portfolios by tapping into demand for plant-based ingredients.