Veggie burgers ain’t what (and where) they used to be. The food industry has been making one innovation after the other and spreading the availability of veggie burgers far and wide, including some unexpected places.
The new McVegan
A few days ago, news broke that rocked the veggie burger landscape: McDonald’s, yes McDonald’s, is testing a vegan burger. Meet the McVegan. Hoping to quietly test the McVegan away from the attention of the American public, McDonald’s went to a far away, really far away, place, Finland. Yup! the future of the new McDonald’s vegan burger is in the hands of the Finns. But don’t worry, they won’t let us down. The new McVegan is already getting rave reviews. If the test goes well, we may just find the new vegan burger right here at home.
The Impossible Burger
Meanwhile, when the good people at Impossible Foods said they were going to make a veggie burger so realistic it will bleed and even char just like a juicy hamburger, many people said that’s “impossible.” But they’ve done it, and it is quickly being made available around the country. The burger contains no animal fat, yet the flavor profile mimics that of 80/20 ground beef. Before it’s seasoned and layered with toppings, a nearly three-ounce patty clocks in at 220 calories and costs $13 – a little pricey but the price has been coming down.
Many people see a very profitable future for the new Impossible Burger. That’s why Impossible Foods secured $80 million over five years to develop the product that was later backed by Bill Gates and Khosla Ventures. The Impossible Burger is not yet available here in Washington but it’s getting close. The Impossible Burger is available in St. Helena in northern California. Because they use no animal products, the Impossible Burger uses a fraction of the Earth’s natural resources. Compared to cows, the Impossible Burger uses 95% less land, 74% less water, and creates 87% less greenhouse gas emissions. And of course, no animals were hurt in the making of these burgers!
There has never been a better time to be a vegetarian. Companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are conjuring up meat like products closer than ever to the real thing, giant restaurant chains like Wendy’s are (finally!) testing veggie burgers, and the science supporting the meat-free lifestyle just keeps coming.
Sales of vegetarian products are on the rise. In 2013, 12% of new food and drink products worldwide had vegetarian claims, double the 6% in 2009, according to Mintel, a food trend research group. In addition to this, 2% of global food and drink launches carried a vegan claim in 2013, up from 1% in 2009. When you consider just how large the global food market is that adds up to huge growth!
Fueling the rising sales are not only the growing number of vegetarians, but also a very large increase in the vegetarian-curious people who are eager to dip their toes and give vegetarian foods a try. According to Global Food Science Analyst, Laura Jones, “Plant-based and other vegetarian protein sources align with consumer interest in reducing red meat consumption and growing interest in vegetarian products. Indeed, consumers are shifting towards more plant-based diets.”
There’s now a veggie burger that actually bleeds! But don’t worry, it’s not real blood, just part of the new trend of making meat substitutes, or as the industry calls them meat analogues, as much like the real thing as possible, but without the meat of course. Scientists at the company Impossible Foods company say they’ve managed to mimic the particular mouth-feel of meat by using bioengineered plant “blood,” reports the Wall Street Journal. It reportedly even tastes slightly metallic like real blood.
The three-year-old company has so far created a hamburger that’s supposed to look, feel, taste and cook just like the real thing, or something close to it. Scientists in the company’s labs sniff cooking meat smells and make notes, testing the real thing in different ways to gain insight into how to replicate it.
There’s a spectrum of needs when it comes to the requirements of vegetarians for meat analogues. Some people either don’t need meat substitutes or only need a vague resemblance. At the other end are those people who need something to eat as close to meat as possible but, of course, made with only plant ingredients. Others fall somewhere in between. This product is intended to attract the hard core meat eaters who might need something a little more real, including simulated blood and juices.
The vegetarian food industry and their scientists seem hard at work producing what’s called hyper-real animal products. Please see our previous posting for other products in the making, some of which are expected to be available for sale soon.