Thursday, 20 January, 2022

Alternatives to meat are winning your plate


Some 23 million flexitarians. And me ? And me ? And me ? More than a third of the French population choose to eat less meat. And others do without it completely. Consequences: the vegetarian and vegan food market should grow by 17% per year until 2021 in supermarkets and medium-sized stores according to Xerfi. An Eldorado for businesses and investors alike. In 2019, the Casino group brands also noted a 19.1% increase in new references on the plant substitute market compared to 2018. Because going without meat requires looking elsewhere for proteins, iron. , etc. or even supplement if necessary for vitamin B12 since it is found in products of animal origin. “I often tell my vegetarian and vegan patients that they are pioneers because man has always eaten meat”, comments Marjorie Cremades, dietician nutritionist specializing in plant food.

Replace meat? Yes, but by what? Since October, Buffalo Grill has been offering a vegetable burger in its 360 French restaurants, but it tastes like a beef burger. The result of a partnership with the American nugget Beyond Meat which offers

vegetable substitutes for meat with the promise of having the same flavor, so much so that the consumer would not see the difference. A tour de force that the company – which set Wall Street on fire when it went public in May 2019 before its price fell and which recorded a growth of 250% over one year in the third quarter – is achieving with revenues at the long list of ingredients including weight protein and beet juice. This may have earned him reservations about his very transformed side.

Read alsoWhy Buffalo Grill is launching into the vegetable burger

Same promise and even criticism for its American rival, also Impossible Food, which notably uses soya and potatoes in its recipes or even a molecule called “heme”. “Each ingredient in our products begins in a farmer’s field or is made using traditional fermentation methods,” we defend ourselves on the side of Impossible Food. “We strive to make products that are at least as nutritious as the products we are trying to replace.”

The veggie burger, a must

“The Beyond Meat Cheeseburger immediately found its target,” said the general manager of Buffalo Grill, who opted for this solution because of its taste. And if some people wonder about the paradoxical side of opting for an American product when one of Beyond Meat’s arguments is to have a smaller environmental footprint than meat, Buffalo Grill argues that the American manufacturer is developing a factory in the Netherlands. Across the Atlantic, Beyond Meat and Impossible Food have both stepped up experiments with fast-food giants like Mc Donald’s and Burger King. The “Beyond Burger”, the American manufacturer’s flagship product, is continuing its foray into France by now being distributed in several Casino group brands – 500 stores in total, mainly in the Paris region.

The veggie burger has in any case become a table staple and everyone has their own recipe. Even the small start-up specializing in edible insects Jimini’s (with a turnover of 2 million euros, 30 to 50% growth per year) intends to launch in the coming months a “steak” based on proteins from insect. In Europe, Nestlé is not left out with its Incredible Vegetable Burger (with its Garden Gourmet brand) that it launched in April in several countries, including France.

A similar form to reassure consumers

The fact remains that Herta – which Nestlé chose in December to keep vegetarian products – is a leading player in the vegetable catering department with its Le Bon Végétal range. Launched in June 2016, it now generates 36 million euros in turnover, a growth of around 40% and has a 36% market share in supermarkets in the vegetable catering category. Figures driven by the brand’s recurring innovations. Like, for example, the raw vegetable “minced steak” to be cooked launched in the fall. “There is very good feedback on the raw food range. There is a very good distribution of the product which is present in more than 60% of the points of sale and the performances have already exceeded the objectives”, explains Laure Perez. , catering brand director at Herta.

Herta has also made a name for itself with Knacki vegetable sausages made from wheat and peas, which alone generate 7 million euros in turnover. It must be said that vegetarian sausages are a staple in grocery stores and specialty departments. Adopted by many brands, the veggie sausage comes in a Viennese, chorizo, merguez style … And for good reason, adopting a well-identified form allows consumers to take the leap more easily: “Vegetable proteins can be scary because we do not always know how to use them and a form similar to meat helps to guide the consumer, to reassure him on the use of the product “, judge Laure Perez.

Plants develop in all their forms

According to the latest figures published by Nielsen, the ultra-fresh vegetable department grew by 9% in 2019 and that of the vegetable caterer by 15%. The panelist recalls that 31% of French people say they want to reduce their meat consumption. In the background, the triptych of arguments: health, environment, animal welfare. Crédoc had already noted a 12% drop in meat consumption between 2007 and 2016 and changes in the way it is consumed. Pascale Hébel, who is director of the Consumption department there, judges that “plant products will develop, that’s for sure” but that there may be a barrier to the purchase of overly processed products, the French doing more and more pay attention to the composition of the products. “We are starting to notice a change in diet on legumes and cereals,” she adds, pointing to the increase in the consumption of lentils, for example.

Read alsoTax, antispeciesists, consumption … meat facing its challenges

Even the National Health Nutrition Program advises vegetarians in its latest recommendations “to vary the sources of protein, in particular through the consumption of cereal products and pulses, nuts and seeds”. “We can combine pulses and cereals to obtain the essential amino acids”, explains Marjorie Cremades. Examples: diced smoked tofu with pasta and tomato sauce or why not an Indian-inspired dish with rice, lentils and spinach?

Tofu and other soy derivatives are highly popular because they are rich in protein and amino acids – 100 grams of tofu provides 14 grams of protein – but seitan, originating in Asia and made from wheat gluten, is also the darling of grocery stores and veggie recipes. As an ingredient in processed products or as a self-cooking nature. Especially since it is also found more and more in supermarkets. As are the seeds – especially chia seeds rich in protein, iron or Omega 3 – which are becoming classics in supermarkets. The plant in all its forms is indeed taking off on the plates. And this, even if the spotlight is now more and more focused on meat designed in the laboratory from stem cells: a niche that many start-ups have taken up but which remains for now only. ‘at the experimental stage …

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