Canadian manufacturer, Top Tier Foods (TTF) dedicated to offering plant-based options for the sushi industry recently collaborated with North America’s largest sushi giant Advanced Fresh Concepts (AFC) to unveil a vegan version of Waygu, a plant-based version of luxury Japanese beef cut wagyu.
The vegan Waygu will make a limited debut in the U.S. at trial locations managed by Advanced Fresh Concepts (AFC), such as grocery chain Rouses Supermarkets in Louisiana, with plans of launching at AFC’s 4,000 sushi locations nationwide, owned by Zensho Holdings, one of Japan’s largest food service companies.
As part of this new development, Top Tier Foods (TTF) worked with Japanese manufacturers to make soy-based Waygu plant-based teriyaki strips with the help of traditional Japanese cooking techniques and spices such as soy sauce, rice wine, garlic paste, and ginger, resulting in vegan meat that can be incorporated in a range of dishes as an alternative to conventional meat.
TTF president Blair Bullus hopes that the trial will be the beginning of a long and successful partnership between AFC, Zensho Holdings and Top Tier Foods. “With an ever-increasing demand for plant-based alternatives, we believe Top Tier Foods can help fill that demand with unique products that offer both quality and sustainability for Zensho’s global clientele.”
This trial will hopefully be the beginning of a long and successful partnership between AFC, Zensho Holdings, and Top Tier Foods. With an ever-increasing demand for plant-based alternatives, we believe Top Tier Foods can help fill that demand with unique products that offer both quality and sustainability for Zensho’s global clienteleBlair Bullus, President of TTF
Across the world, Wagyu beef is considered by many meat-eaters to be the tastiest beef in the world and is known for its fat marbling and tender qualities.
Bullus added that by creating plant based Waygyu, the company wanted to create the world’s best tasting beef alternative. “Our team in Japan worked tirelessly to create the textures and flavours that mimic this exceptional beef by using traditional ingredients and cooking methods. With centuries of culinary experience working with soybeans in dishes such as tofu, soy sauce, bean curds, and miso, we know that applying these methods could result in a wonderful meat alternative produced in Japan. We are so excited to share our results.”
In an interview with Vegconomist last year, Bullus dives deeper into how Waygu is prepared and how their product wants to celebrate the farmers who cultivate wagyu.”While preparing Waygu, a gluten-free soy sauce is used which is developed just 45 minutes away from the production facility and by leveraging traditional cooking methods, we have been able to create a product that is a sustainable and clean label in comparison to other similar products on the market. With our plant-based Waygu we look to celebrate the work of wagyu cattle farmers by creating a product of equal stature that can be enjoyed by people who for individual reasons have chosen not to eat meat.”
In July of 2019, TTF featured its Waygu beef, which was then distributed to select restaurants in Japan and one of the tastings was attended by Toronto-based Chef Hidekazu Tojo, a Japanese Cultural Ambassador who has also prepared meals for Hollywood celebrities and British royalty.
Initially unsure about trying animal-free meat, Chef Tojo was impressed while tasting the plant based Wagyu.“I thought I was eating real wagyu beef, I didn’t believe it was made from plants. My first impression was this was real wagyu beef. It was incredibly tender, similar to wagyu beef, and seasoned very well. It’s very close and it’s tough to tell the difference.”
TTF also offers consumers other vegan meals such as Tosago, a seaweed-based alternative to masago fish roe; Cavi-art, an alternative to caviar; and Sushi Quinoa, a sticky quinoa that can be used in place of rice in sushi rolls.
According to a report by Dubai-based market research firm Future Market Insights (FMI), the plant-based beef segment alone could grow to over US$16 billion by 2030 with double-digit growth rates averaging 22.7% annually over the next decade. The report highlights, “Almost 9.6 million people in the U.S. have shifted to plant-based meals and are following veganism, [and] meatless substitutes are gaining traction in Europe too with preferences shifting by 451%.
Japan’s vegan scene is particularly rising with the emergence of plant-based kombinis and huge names like Muji and Mos Burger introducing new all-vegan options. And most recently, Japanese plant-based meat firm Next Meats has unveiled a vegan version of yakiniku, a popular Japanese barbecued or grilled beef dish typically served with rice, thus releasing the country’s first-ever line of yakiniku alternative meats.
Lead image courtesy of TTF.