According to findings from the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2014 Food and Health Survey, 22 percent of consumers rely on meat alternatives as a source of protein. Data from Mintel shows this figure to be higher, with 36 percent of consumers indicating they use meat alternatives.
Heat-and-eat meal manufacturers believe this figure will only continue to increase as more consumers choose to go meatless on Mondays and other days. This is the result of a growing number of consumers simply wanting to eat less animal muscle because they believe eating meatless meals a few days a week is good for health and for the planet.
Meatless does not mean vegan. In fact, many meatless meals rely on cheese, eggs and whey ingredients as sources of protein, usually in combination with plant proteins such as legumes, oats, peas, rice and soy -- plus the newly introduced whole algal protein. Some do take a vegan positioning to appeal to this growing demographic.
According to a Harris Interactive study commissioned by the Vegetarian Resource Group, approximately 3 percent of the U.S. population always eats vegetarian, with about half of these vegetarians being vegan. Although this sounds like a small number, both of these figures are double from what they were just five years earlier. The study also revealed that 33 percent of Americans are eating meatless meals more often even though they do not describe themselves as being vegan or vegetarian. This equates to more than 100 million people, or one third of the country consciously choosing to avoid animal muscle protein at least some time.
In Mintel’s “The Protein Report: Meat Alternatives-U.S.,” which was published in January, the market research firm advises the meat alternative market to embrace its role as a true alternative to meat. This can be accomplished by delivering options that are not necessarily intended to mimic meat but to stand on their own and do so with alternatives that meet consumers’ nutrition demands.
Meatless Product Picks
Grown in the Garden
Gardein (garden + protein) is a plant protein brand offering a variety of convenient and versatile foods. New additions to its frozen foods line include Mini Crispy Crabless Cakes and Sweet & Sour Porkless Bites. New handheld products include pocket meals in three flavors: Crispy Chick’n and Kale, Italian Meat-Free Sausage and BBQ Pulled Porkless Shreds. Ready in minutes, these products are rich in flavor and texture and provide a good source of iron with no cholesterol. All Gardein products are made with non-GMO soy and wheat and vegetables. They are cholesterol-free, vegan and kosher.
Patties and Sausages for the Grill
Lightlife, a pioneer in plant protein and vegetarian eating, recently introduced three new products designed for summertime grilling. Smart Patties are veggie burgers that come in Original with Quinoa and Black Bean varieties and contain 100 calories, 10g of protein and 3-4g of fiber. Smart Sausage makes its debut in Harvest Apple with each link providing 16g of protein. These products join the company’s brand of plant-based proteins, including Smart Dogs, Smart Deli and Tempeh. All Lightlife products are typically merchandised in the refrigerated produce or dairy departments.
Good Source of Complete Protein
Kraft Foods Group’s Boca brand, best known for its popular veggie patties, is shaking up the frozen food aisle with Boca Essentials, a new line of vegetable-and grain-based patties in bold flavors that offer a source of complete protein for meatless meals. The complete protein is comprised of nine essential amino acids that the human body needs but cannot produce on its own. While many of these amino acids are typically found in meat, each new Boca Essentials contains all nine, in the correct proportion, to offer a protein-packed meat alternative meal option. Offerings include: Breakfast Scramble, Chile Relleno and Roasted Vegetables and Red Quinoa.