Apart from being meatless, foods like quinoa, black beans, almonds, chickpeas, cranberries, and pumpkin may have little in common. But for U.S. food processors, they all offer an opportunity to tap into the bustling market of plant-based protein-rich foods.

Demand for meat-alternatives, specifically those derived from beans, nuts, berries, and other plant-based sources, has increased substantially over the last few years. These foods are touted as a way to reduce meat consumption while adopting a more heart-healthy and environmentally friendly diet.

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Concern for the welfare of one’s health and the planet are driving factors for a lot of consumers. But these motivations are not the only reasons why non-meat proteins are so popular; the way in which manufacturers have processed and remixed their ingredients have greatly attributed to their market spread.

For food processors that are poised to innovate, there are many lucrative opportunities. There is much to be said for the success of companies that produce meat-alternatives meant to be sold directly to the consumer, but these are not the only companies reaping rewards; developers of raw ingredients, isolates, concentrates, emulsifiers, and other food manufacturing components now a greatly expanded marketplace.

Food That Masquerades As Meat

While more consumers are seeking food options that contain no animal ingredients, many of them still want to enjoy food products that look, smell, taste, and even “behave” like meat when it’s cooked and eaten.

Using plant-proteins in ways that mimic meat has long been an endeavor of food manufacturers, but new ingredients and food processing methods have made them better than ever before.

Plant-based meat, vegan meat. Credit: Tischbeinahe

Food scientists and processors have now managed to develop texturized soy protein that goes from pink to brown and even “bleeds” when heated on a grill. Dairy-free cheese slices will melt in the exact same manner as milk-derived options. Special soy protein binding agents, that are entirely plant-derived, can be used to create vegan-friendly foods that are comparably protein-rich and better imitators of flavor and texture than anything previously available on the market.

No Longer Niche Or Novelty

Plant-proteins and meat alternatives no longer novelty or niche products that required a special trip to the health food store; they’re now claiming more space on grocery store shelves, on upscale restaurant menus, and even as familiar fast food options.

Companies that develop and offer the most convincing mimics can tap into a very high-yield market–one that may change the future of food.

Vegan Yogurts. Credit: veganbaking.net

What do you think of the shift in demand for meat-mimics and more plant-derived food ingredients? Has it amounted to changes in your industry or your meal choices?

Comment and let us know your thoughts.

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