Plant-Based Analogues Are Fast Replacing Animal Proteins At Breakfast

Sept. 20, 2021
Cheese, eggs, sausage, and yogurt on the breakfast table don't appear to be going away anytime soon, but what is changing for consumers is the source of the dairy and meat they ingest.

Breakfast has long been the land of comfort food based on dairy products and meat: cheese omelets, scrambled eggs and bacon, sausage biscuit sandwiches, yogurt cups.

The appetite for that kind of food on the breakfast table does not appear likely to change anytime soon. But what is changing for many consumers is the source of the dairy and meat: They are seeking out plant-based alternatives.

“Consumers are becoming increasingly informed about food and how their choices can impact their health and the health of the planet, and these days choosing plant-based is more delicious than ever,” notes Dan Hua, vice president of marketing at Daiya, a manufacturer of plant-based breakfast foods such as the Daiya Fiesta Breakfast Burrito.

“We’re finding that consumers are very curious about plant-based alternatives and interested to explore more vegan options regardless of their diet.”

Christine Luongo, brand manager at Veggies Made Great, explains that even though plant-based eating is growing, it’s not exactly new. Diets based on fruits, vegetables and grains predate popular diets like Atkins and South Beach, of course, and will survive long after those are gone.

“Most consumers would agree that these foods nourish our bodies and help sustain our health, combat climate change, aid resource conservation and ensure animal welfare,” Luongo says. “Finding ways to get these food groups in at every meal is important, especially breakfast, the meal that fuels your day.”

Replacing the meat

Bacon and sausage are beloved breakfast foods that, incidentally, are packed with fat, sodium and chemicals. No surprise then that many food processors are using meat alternatives in their breakfast offerings these days.

Most meat alternatives currently on the market rely on vegetable proteins combined with various starches and oils to create the meat-like texture and taste. Pea protein, for example, is a key ingredient in Beyond Meat. Other plant proteins in the product come from mung beans, fava beans, and brown rice.

Beyond Meat makes Beyond Breakfast Sausage, which comes in patties and links, but the company’s meat substitute can be found in other food processors’ breakfast foods. For example, Veggies Made Great offers two breakfast frittatas – Sausage & Pepper Frittata and Sausage, Egg & Cheese Frittata – that use Beyond Beef Crumbles instead of animal meat.

“The plant-based meat frittata innovation was actually a request from one of our retail partners, who suggested it would be a good space for Veggies Made Great to play in,” Luongo says. “When we thought about whether or not we wanted to develop a proprietary plant-based meat versus partner with a brand already in the space, there was no question but to partner with Beyond Meat.

"They were hitting it out of the ballpark in terms of innovation, growth and success," she continues. "Beyond Meat was the only one who fit within our brand guardrails: Their products were allergen-friendly and made with only clean and simple ingredients. There is nothing on their label that we didn’t already use in our manufacturing facility.”

Another plant protein that finds its way onto breakfast plates is soy protein. Soy protein is an ingredient in Fry Family Food Co.’s Meat-Free Sausages. Other ingredients include wheat protein, wheat flour and potato starch.

“Wally Fry (company co-founder) has always been hands-on in the design and development of our production systems, and from day one was able to achieve extraordinary results when it came to mimicking the taste and texture of meat,” says Tammy Fry, co-founder and global brand lead for Fry Family Food Co.

An important supplier of plant protein is Ingredion, which offers protein products from peas, favas and lentils. The company has two manufacturing facilities devoted to plant-based protein, says Maria Tolchinsky, global senior marketing manager for plant-based protein. Ingredion recently launched Vitessence Tex crumbles, which is a meat replacement made with plant protein.

Even traditional meat processors are playing in the meat-alternative space at breakfast. Tyson Foods' Jimmy Dean brand, which has a long tradition in sausages, recently debuted Plant-Based Patty, Egg & Cheese Croissant Sandwiches. An earlier launch was Plant-Based Patty, Spinach & Egg White Sandwiches. They may be based on textured soy protein and beans, but they're "packed with our signature taste."

“You see longstanding meat-based companies now creating great plant-based products,” says Christopher Hansen, assistant vice president and culinary executive chef for OSI Group. “They are supporting – and may lead – the growth in this space with their alternatives to items that traditionally contain meat.”

OSI Group is known for its beef, pork and poultry but also supplies vegetable-based products for its mostly foodservice clientele, Hansen notes.

“Most recently, in July 2019, OSI partnered with Impossible Foods as an additional production source for Impossible’s plant-based products to meet the demands of a growing market in line with consumer trends,” he says. “Expanding into plant-based proteins was an addition to our company’s product offering of meat products, and not a replacement.”

Alternative meats aren’t just made from peas, soy or beans. A recent entry to the plant-based breakfast meat category is Atlast Food Co., which makes plant-based bacon from mycelium, the part of a fungus that typically grows underground. Atlast’s parent company is Ecovative Design, which has used mycelium to make packaging and textiles for more than a decade.

“In 2018, after a decade of creating sustainable earth-friendly materials to replace plastics, the team at Ecovative discovered how to apply mycelium innovation to food – not in the obvious way of growing mushrooms, but by creating the perfect environment to grow slabs of mycelium as meat that can be processed just like traditional sides of pork or beef,” says Eben Bayer, CEO and co-founder.

Because the company had long experience working with mycelium, they were able to identify types with the texture needed to emulate animal meat. The slabs are seasoned and cured with salt, sugar, coconut oil, natural flavors and beet juice to create MyBacon, the company’s first product. It is sold sliced and ready to cook.

Sorry, Bessie: Replacing dairy

Milk, cheese and eggs are even more important to breakfast lovers than meat. And food processors are answering the call for plant-based breakfasts by replacing those items with plant-based versions, too.

The most prevalent plant-based dairy product is milk made from oat, almond, soy or another plant ingredient. Some of that "milk" finds its way into novel yogurts and cheeses.

“Data shows that sales of dairy milks and yogurts keep declining at a rapid phase, while plant-based is growing,” says Helena Lumme, co-founder of Halsa Foods.

Halsa Foods makes yogurt from oats that are grown without irrigated water, Lumme says, and the balance of the ingredients are equally organic and free of pesticide residue. Furthermore, they don’t use any chemicals or enzymes in the manufacturing process. Their yogurt, which comes in strawberry, blueberry, mango, vanilla and plain flavors, was introduced in 2018.

“Existing oat-based milk processes use industrial enzymes to break down starch to sugar, depleting the drink of its beneficial nutrients,” Lumme says. “Then artificial ingredients like food gums and carrageenan are added. We set out to create a healthier and more natural process, and consumers will be able to taste the difference.

"We have an exceptional co-packer who has tooled their manufacturing facility to meet our high-quality standards for an organic as well as a 100 percent clean product," she continues. "This took many months to perfect.”

Another plant-based yogurt is made by AYO. The company makes the product – which comes in blueberry, peach, strawberry and vanilla flavors -- from almonds grown on their own farm. In fact, the concept arose because they wanted to find more uses for their almonds, says Matt Billings, founder of AYO and fourth-generation owner of the almond farm.

“The almonds are cleaned and sorted, then blanched in boiling water to remove the outer skin,” Billings explains. “They are then roasted and ground into almond butter, which is the pure nut butter almond base used to make AYO -- all-natural, nothing artificial and probiotic-rich. Our hulling and shelling facility is located directly adjacent to one of our orchards and all of our orchards are in close proximity to our plant.”

Egg replacements using plants also are thriving in the breakfast market. For example, Daiya has created a proprietary plant-based egg using pea protein, which substitutes for chicken eggs in the company’s recently introduced breakfast burritos.

Finally, plant-based cheese is found in numerous breakfast dishes. Rich Products Corp. offers plant-based mozzarella-style shreds and American style slices, and the company is launching a plant-based cheese spread later this year that will be widely available in 2022, says Julie Altobello, senior market manager of health & authenticity.

“Breakfast foods are one way that our products can be used to make crave-worthy menu and retail items,” Altobello says. “We’re developing new plant-based products all the time, based on the changing needs of the flexitarian consumer and our customers who bring those products to life.”

Traditional plant-based breakfast

Of course, some elements of breakfast have always been plant-based, such as granola and toast. And there are improvements in those classic elements of the mealtime, too.

“Many popular breakfast foods are well positioned to appeal to the plant-based consumer, from avocado toast to oatmeal to granola bars and more,” says Kelly Toups, director of nutrition for the Oldways Whole Grains Council.

“The 2021 Whole Grain Consumer Insights Survey found that breakfast is the most popular time to eat whole grains, with nearly half of consumers – 47 percent -- getting most of their whole grains at this meal.”

Nature’s Path, which makes organic and 100% plant-based products, recently introduced two varieties of granola with no added sugar, a first for the category. The company sweetens the breakfast food with date powder.

“Date powder is definitely growing in popularity as a natural sweetener,” reports Arjan Stephens, general manager of Nature’s Path. “We were looking for a way to reduce the sugar content in our granola without sacrificing any of the taste, and date powder was the perfect ingredient.

"It’s a whole food, minimally processed sugar alternative with a lovely sweet taste, and none of the bitter aftertaste you can get from artificial sweeteners. Date powder scores higher in antioxidant content than any other sugar, even when compared to honey and maple syrup. It also has many other health benefits, containing potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium. It is high in beta-carotene and lutein.”

As consumer interest in the benefits of a plant-based diet continues to grow, more and more plant-based breakfast items will appear on store shelves.

“We know that people like to start their day off with choices they feel good about and opting for plant-based is an easy way to do just that,” asserts Altobello. “People associate plant-based foods with healthier choices and if they can have their favorite foods that are better for them and better for the environment, it’s a win-win.”

Sponsored Recommendations

F&B Manufacturer Implements Powerful Cybersecurity

A leading F&B manufacturer has moved to harness the skills of Rockwell Automation and Claroty to harden their OT and IT defences.

6 Ways to Augment Your Food and Beverage Workforce

Modern digital tools and technologies help attract, retain and empower a modern workforce.

2024 Manufacturing Trends - Unpacking AI, Workforce, and Cybersecurity

The world of manufacturing is changing, and Generative AI is one of the many change agents. The 2024 State of Smart Manufacturing Report takes a deep dive into how Generative ...

Better OT Asset Management Increases Uptime

A food and beverage company streamlines and simplifies its OT cybersecurity to increase system reliability and uptime.