Another corporate giant, Unilever, has read the writing on the wall and is entering the plant based food industry. Unilever is a huge company, owning many well-known food products such as Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Lipton’s Tea and Hellmann’s Mayonnaise. So it’s a big deal when they announced that their sales target for plant-based foods would be around $1.2 billion by the year 2027. This ambitious target is part of the company’s Future Foods initiative which commits the food giant ‘to make healthier and sustainable food affordable for everyone.’ It has also pledged to continue lowering calorie, salt and sugar content in its products.
In an online statement, Unilever wrote, “Animal agriculture is known to be the second-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions after fossil fuels. [It is also] a cause of deforestation, water and air pollution, and biodiversity loss….Reducing our meat consumption is essential… We know that a diverse, plant-based diet is better for our health and the health of the planet. But if we want people to make the switch, we need plant-based options to be more accessible, affordable, and appetizing.” Unilever added that its sales target will result in a ‘wider range of vegan and vegetarian’ options.
The president of Unilever’s food and refreshment business said that the initiative will help the ‘world figure out how we can eat more plant-based…that way we may not lose the planet.’ She noted that in most developed countries, plant-based foods are currently only 5% of meat or dairy. Some predictions say that this could go to 50%. Of course we hope that it goes much higher than that!
This is important. McDonald’s has almost 14,000 restaurants in the United States (and 39,000 world wide) and is finally rolling out vegan options to all its stores.
McDonald’s is developing what it calls a plant-based platform called the McPlant that will debut in markets around the world early next year. McDonald’s confirms creation of McPlant plant-based burger and the Crispy Chicken Sandwich, which will debut in 2021. McDonald’s has finally joined the plant-based burger battle and Chicken Sandwich War.
The plant-based chicken sandwich announcements were part of the company’s new growth strategy called “Accelerating the Arches.” The strategy includes a commitment to the core menu. In the future, McPlant could extend across a line of plant-based products. Interestingly, instead of buying existing products and incorporating them into their menu, McPlant is crafted exclusively for McDonald’s and by McDonald’s. They’re going it alone.
Compared to some other fast food chains in the U.S., McDonald’s has been something of a laggard. Burger King has worked with Impossible Foods to launch the Impossible Whopper, and Beyond Meat has partnered with KFC on a plant-based nugget. These two leading alternative protein makers have done a fairly good job of carving up the fast food market to date — but the McDonald’s entry with its exclusive formulation must come as a blow to these companies (and the other startups that were hoping for a bite of the McDonald’s food empire).
The veg movement is making progress. Some of us thought we would never see the fast food restaurants serve vegan meals in our lifetimes, but it seems that all the major chains are now embracing the concept, making it much easier to find vegan options on the road and hopefully encouraging many more people to give it a try.
Christie Lagally, a Vegetarians of Washington member, started her career as a Boeing engineer, but she also cared passionately about avoiding animal products, so in 2017, she founded a new Seattle-based company, Rebellyous Foods. This company aims to develop delicious and affordable vegan products for the food-service sector while creating machinery that can be used by other plant-based companies to help scale their production.
Kristie Middleton, Vice President of Business Development at Rebellyous Foods at Rebellyous Foods, said: “Americans ordered 2.3 billion chicken nugget servings and 1.5 billion servings of chicken strips. The world’s largest foodservice providers have all committed to getting more plant-based options on their menus, but many foodservice operations don’t have the budget, trained staff, or equipment to cook from scratch. They need easy one-to-one replacements for their most popular options like chicken nuggets and strips. That’s where we come in.”
Over the past 3 years, Rebellyous Foods has ramped up production and been selling their nuggets to commercial food outlets such as hospitals and schools since February 2019, with clients such as Cornish College of the Arts and Swedish Medical Center. More recently the San Ramon Valley Unified School District (SRVUSD) in Northern California partnered with Rebellyous Foods to add vegan chicken nuggets to its lunch program, and the company has just raised $6 million in investment for a production operation that can produce their plant-based nuggets in huge quantities.
But with the COVID-19 epidemic, the business of providing nuggets to cafeterias, schools and hospitals has shrunk, so the company decided to expand into providing consumer packaged goods. They have made a launch into retail in the Seattle area, with a long list of independent Seattle grocery stores now listed as places where you can purchase family packs of Rebellyous nuggets. If you’re a chicken nugget fan living in Seattle, why not give these new nuggets a try !
A plant-based diet doesn’t just reduce your risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetics, but has benefits for the health of your thyroid as well. The thyroid gland is critical for maintaining a healthy body. Thyroid hormones have functions ranging from control of metabolism, heart beat and reproductive function.
Millions of people in America suffer from hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, most commonly in the form of Grave’s disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis which are autoimmune diseases. Those following a plant-based diet are much less susceptible to autoimmune diseases in general and thyroid disease is no exception. Vegans have been shown to experience a 22% lower risk of hypothyroidism, and a 51% risk of hyperthyroidism.
However, there are a few things those following a plant based should do for optimal thyroid health. Most vegans get enough iodine in their diet, but many don’t!
Iodine deficiency can lead to a variety of medical problems at all ages. This is a special concern for pregnant women. Children of mothers having an iodine deficiency during pregnancy may have mental retardation, deaf mutism, spasticity and short stature. Congenital hypothyroidism due to iodine deficiency is the most common cause of preventable mental retardation in the world. Iodine deficiency may also be a factor in the development of breast cancer, so consuming sufficient iodine may help protect against this all too common cancer.
It’s important to get enough iodine your diet. There’s usually enough iodine in the different foods we eat. Some foods that are a good choice for iodine include black eyed peas, navy beans and whole wheat bread. If you’re not on a sodium restricted diet, iodized salt, as is commonly sold in the supermarkets, can be very helpful and has a good track record of preventing iodine deficiency. However, the salt in commercially prepared food is not iodized.
It’s also important not to get too much iodine. Seaweed can contain high levels of iodine. It’s fine to eat various kinds of seaweed as long as it’s in moderation.
The message is clear. A plant-based diet will reduce your risk of both hyper- and hypothyroidism. Getting an adequate amount of iodine will enhance the health of your thyroid gland even further.
It’s the New Year and many people are resolving to make changes in their lives, especially concerning the food they eat. But we all know how that often goes! We’re super motivated during January, but by the time February rolls around, the enthusiasm has worn off and we’re back to our old habits. So how can we make changes that are sustainable for the long term?
Dr. BJ Fogg, founder and director of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University, has been looking into this challenge, and he’s identified a formula for any successful shift in behavior. He suggests that the first step to a successful change is motivation. You need to pick a change that you really want to do, not just feel like it’s something you ought to do. So think carefully through your motivation to change your diet, is it for your health?, for the environment? or for the animals? for example. Find or print out a positive picture relating to that motivation and stick it on your refrigerator – perhaps it’s a picture of you when you were healthier and more energetic, a picture of a beautiful forest, or cute farm animals – something that will inspire you every time you think about food. Read more
In light of the recent Veterans Day holiday, we’d like to point out the significant progress the military is making in the veg direction. For example, there has been quite a bit of progress at the US Army base, Fort Sill. The Guns and Rockets Dining Facility at Fort Sill, Okla., is setting a new standard for healthy food options by offering a 100 percent plant-based entrée during every meal. The fort commander, Gen. Wilson Shoffner, said he will be having his first plant-based Thanksgiving meal! Read more
The news about plant-based meat products just keeps on coming. Some thought we’d never live to see the day, but some of the biggest purveyors of meat have become some of the biggest purveyors of plant-based food. Competition is heating up in the plant-based protein industry, now worth $14 billion in the US, that Wall Street thinks could grow to be worth $140 billion. We’ve already seen Maple Leaf, a large meat company, acquire Lightlife and Field Roast. Conagra bought Gardein and is getting behind the product, while Nestlé bought Sweet Earth and recently launched their Awesome burger under this brand. Earlier fears that meat companies would acquire plant-based companies only to ruin them have fortunately not been borne out.
Consumers are rushing to try meat substitutes in a number of fast food restaurants, and data show that they’re willing to pay higher prices for the products. A number of high profile fast food restaurants sell plant based foods meat substitutes, and there are more to come. We’ve already written about Burger King’s new Impossible Whopper and the Subway’s forthcoming meatless meatball sub, but others are getting on the bandwagon as fast as they can. Dunkin launched their Beyond sausage sandwich in 163 locations across Manhattan, and KFC’s Beyond Fried Chicken launch in Atlanta sold out in just a few hours. Other chains such as Carl’s Jr, Tim Horton’s, Hardee’s and Del Taco are all getting in on the act.
Almost as exciting is the move by many meat companies to innovate their own new meat substitutes. Tyson foods launched Raised & Rooted, a line of products which includes vegan meat alternatives. They are also investing in a plant-based shrimp company. Kellogg has launched Incogmeato, a “next-gen product line” that includes a “ready-to-cook plant-based burger” and fully prepared plant-based “Chik’n” tenders and nuggets. Kroger, which owns Fred Meyer, will launch its own plant-based burgers, cookie dough, pasta sauce, sausage, deli slices. Hormel Foods has just launched its own line of plant-based meat alternatives. The line, called Happy Little Plants, includes a ground plant-based protein alternative. Hormel also offers plant-based pizza topping items and the Applegate Blend Burger, which combines organic meat and mushrooms.
This looks like a trend that isn’t going away anytime soon. The trend is firmly geared toward giving meat-eaters more plant-based options that they can discover and enjoy. While many of them may stick at being flexitarians, rather than moving to full-on vegetarians or vegans, any reduction in the consumption of animal products is welcome in our book!
Amanda Strombom, President of Vegetarians of Washington, gives regular cooking classes to support those interested in moving toward a plant-based diet and learning new ways of preparing food avoiding animal products. Each class focuses on a different aspect of going veggie, whether it’s on specific food groups, on a particular health topic, shopping or even holiday cooking. Plenty of samples to taste are always provided. See the schedule below.
Classes will be held at East Shore Unitarian Church, Bellevue, 7pm unless otherwise noted. A nominal charge of $5 per class helps us cover the cost of the ingredients and materials. Shopping tours are free.
Wed May 8th Save the Earth with a Plant-Based Diet!
One of the best things each of us can do to help take better care of the Earth is to change the food we eat away from animal products. How does a plant-based diet help? We’ll talk about the damage animal agriculture causes to the soil, the water, the air and our climate. Plus you can taste some delicious dishes and get recipes to help you make the switch.
Wed June 12th– Where do you get your protein from?
The first question many people ask when they’re thinking about cutting out meat is about protein. In this class we’ll discuss the benefits of the various plant-based sources of protein available and make some delicious dishes using both beans and meat alternatives.
We’ll talk about how a plant-based diet can help protect you against getting certain kinds of cancer, and which nutrients are particularly beneficial for fighting cancer. We’ll make delicious dishes using a rainbow of different vegetables to give as many phytonutrients as possible.
Eggs are loaded with cholesterol which clogs up your arteries. We’ll talk about how cholesterol, present in all animal foods, impacts your health, particularly your arteries, and we’ll discuss alternatives you can use to eggs in various recipes. We’ll make some delicious egg-free recipes and even try the amazing Vegan Egg.
Wed Oct 2nd Reducing pain with food
Several chronic painful conditions can be helped with a plant-based diet. We’ll discuss how certain foods can help reduce inflammation and reduce pain. Then we’ll make some tasty recipes with anti-inflammatory foods such as chia seeds, mushrooms, turmeric and walnuts.
Wed Nov 6th Healthy Cooking for the Holidays
We’ll talk about how to handle the many issues that come up at holiday times when cooking for or eating with your meat-eating family members, and discuss ideas for special vegan holiday dishes. We’ll make some delicious dishes that all your guests can enjoy.
Wed Dec 4th Shopping for Plant-Based Foods
We’ll meet at Fred Meyer, Bellevue, to tour the Natural Foods section, and learn about label reading, choosing fresh vegetables, and finding some new favorite foods. This class is free.
Wed Jan 8th Losing weight, Defeating diabetes
We’ll talk about what foods are most helpful in losing those extra pounds, and how the same foods can also reduce your insulin resistance and treat Type II Diabetes. We’ll make some really simple starter plant-based meals to get you started on a new way of eating for the New Year.
Wed Feb 5th Ditching Dairy
Dairy products often contain surprising amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol, and come from cows forced to give birth frequently. We’ll talk about the many alternatives to dairy that are available these days, we’ll taste samples of some commercial products and make some simple cheese alternatives of our own.
Supermodel Christie Brinkley was first discovered as a model in the early ’70s and went on to be the only model to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated three times — in a row. Since then, she’s walked thousands of runways, launched a skin care line, starred on Broadway and is now writing a book on health and wellness.
So how does she manage, now that she’s into her 60s, to still look so young and healthy? Here’s how she explains it: “I tried some pretty weird diets in the beginning. I did everything from juice fasting to eating one kind of food at a time, to eating a grapefruit first before everything. The only thing that really lasts is a well-balanced diet.”
Christie has been largely plant-based for years. In fact she became a vegetarian when she was only 13, out of love for the animals. She aims to eat a rainbow of different colored plant foods every day. “For many, many, many years I’ve always said I go for as many colors as possible in a day,” Brinkley said.
She starts her day with whole grains topped with fruit and walnuts. Lunch is always a salad of leafy greens, with various fruits and vegetables topped with nuts. For dinner, pasta and veggies are the most popular option. She has found some vegan dairy alternatives she really likes, such as a soy hazelnut coffee creamer and various vegan desserts.
Brinkley believes in being as kind as possible to your body and exercising to feel good and look good. She said, “Feeling good is looking good, and that can translate to an energy you exude.” She’s a huge fan of avocado toast, raw oatmeal, brown rice with lentils, and sweet potato.
While we hope she gives up eating the occasional animal products in her diet, we’re glad that she’s such a good role model for healthy plant-based eating.
Gene Roddenberry, creator of the Star Trek series, brought meaningful and thought-provoking science fiction to “think, question, and challenge the status quo” to audiences across the globe, with the intention of creating “a brighter future”. In 2010, Gene’s son Rod established the Roddenberry Foundation to build on his father’s legacy and philosophy of inclusion, diversity, and respect for life.
As part of the annual Roddenberry Prize grant, which this year focuses on innovative approaches to Climate Change, the foundation recently awarded $250,000 to the vegan startup Green Monday for converting 1.6 million Hong Kong residents to a plant-based diet. Read more