It wouldn’t take much more than a stroll through the grocery store to illustrate the world of protein is changing. In the past, the meat section, laden with chicken, beef, pork, in a myriad of different shapes and forms was the go-to spot for anyone looking to add protein to their meals. But in the past decade or so, things began to shift. Rather than being content with picking up any package of processed meat product, people began to inquire about how their meat was produced. Largely drive by studies that fueled concerns over antibiotics and hormones in meat and dairy, people started to question if cheap meat was really the best for their health. Further, as news surrounding the impact of animal agriculture on the environment became more mainstream, consumers found themselves looking for “better” options.
While in the past, this better protein may have been limited to beans or tofu, as of late, innovative companies producing plant-based proteins and meat alternatives have come on to the scene. With one-third of Americans leaving meat off their plates more frequently and the rise of more healthy, delicious plant-based options, the global plant-based meat market is projected to reach $5 billion by 2020.
Interestingly, it’s not just the new companies like Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat that are getting into the plant-protein market, but some of the most well-known meat conglomerates are getting on board too. We need look no further than Tyson’s investment into Beyond Meat or Pinnacle Food’s expansion of Gardein products to see examples of just this. The fact is, where there is money to be made, there is a huge opportunity for meat companies to expand into a plant-based line.
Most recently, this sentiment was echoed by Applegate, a company that specializes in natural and organic meats. In an interview with Food Navigator, Gina Asoudegan, Applegate’s senior director of mission, explained that the days of consumers being content with an abundant supply of cheap meat are over. In following with this, Applegate strives to produce “humane” meat that is free of antibiotics and GMOs. The company’s tagline reads, ” Changing the meat we eat. It starts on the farm with the way animals are treated.” People want to know how their meat is produced and how the animals were raised, but it doesn’t stop with turning to “better” meat per say. As Asoudegan explained, with an increase in public education about the realities of animal agriculture, driven by non-government organizations, food bloggers, and journalists, more consumers are looking to replace meat on their plates with vegetables.
One would think this might be at odds with Applegate’s mission, but Asoudegan disagrees, stating, “I think Applegate might be looking at itself not only as a meat company like we have for 30 years, but as a food company.” She continued, “Maybe as a company that sells protein and protein comes in many forms, not only animal protein obviously … Look at what we see with the rise in all plant protein and companies like Beyond Meat. I mean, I think that’s really indicative of our future.”
With an evolving definition of protein and a growing consumer base that is already spending around $600 million on meat alternatives annually, there is a huge opportunity for meat companies to expand their offerings to include plant-based proteins. The fact is people want products that are better for them and better for the environment, and they are redefining the future of protein in the process. Applegate’s statement is one amongst a growing crowd of many, all echoing the same idea – the future of protein is here, and it’s vegan.
Image source: Italian Sausage Baguette