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After developing the world’s first sticky quinoa designed specifically for the sushi industry, Canadian firm Top Tier Foods has now created a plant-based wagyu, which is slated to launch in Japan by the end of this year. While the verdict is still out on whether the vegan analogue of Japan’s most famous beef will appeal to conventional wagyu-loving folk, the substitute will no doubt appeal to the country’s growing base of flexitarian and plant-based consumers.
Canadian food manufacturer Top Tier Foods recently debuted their newest addition to complement its Sushi Quinoa, a plant-based version of Japan’s famous wagyu beef. Made from soy protein and Japanese teriyaki ingredients and seasonings, the company’s Waygu Plant-Based Teriyaki is boasts a “uniquely succulent beefy” taste that mimics the melt-in-your-mouth quality that consumers love about wagyu, but is completely vegan and comes at a fraction of environmental footprint compared to its animal-based counterpart.
The plant-based wagyu is made from soy, an ingredient that is used a lot in Japan, and we’ve also partnered with local Japanese producers to manufacture at scale locally.Blair Bullus, President, Top Tier Foods
The company’s president Blair Bullus says that the “waygu” product will land in Japan by the end of 2020 and will be made in Japan. Top Tier Foods will work with local suppliers to incorporate traditional Japanese ingredients in order to appeal to the country’s consumers.
“The plant-based wagyu is made from soy, an ingredient that is used a lot in Japan, and we’ve also partnered with local Japanese producers to manufacture at scale locally,” said Bullus in a recent interview with FoodNavigator.
“So the idea is that keeping everything in Japan will appeal to the local crowd, as the flavour will be more authentic due to the use of Japanese ingredients such as soy sauce, sesame, ginger, garlic and of course, the soy base and all processed using traditional Japanese cooking techniques. It’s all very clean label too.”
The format of the product will come in teriyaki strips style, which is particularly suitable for sukiyaki soup-based dishes that are widely featured in Japanese cuisine. Even the texture, Bullus says, will be made to mimic the moisture content of conventional wagyu strips, as well as its iconic “marbled fat” quality.
The idea is that keeping everything in Japan will appeal to the local crowd, as the flavour will be more authentic due to the use of Japanese ingredients such as soy sauce, sesame, ginger, garlic and of course, the soy base and all processed using traditional Japanese cooking techniques.Blair Bullus, President, Top Tier Foods
“Although we can’t reveal too many details, the idea is that the plant-based wagyu will also be a tender, melt-in-the-mouth experience that still has a good bite, just like regular wagyu.”
First releasing in restaurants across the country, Top Tier Foods says it will then look at potentially launching in retail channels in the future. The Canadian firm also has bold plans to develop animal-free substitutes for other beloved Japanese foods, such as seaweed-based fish roe. So far, the company’s Sushi Quinoa is available in restaurants across Canada, retailers in North America, and is also sold directly to consumers via Amazon.
While the jury is still out on whether fans of authentic Japanese meats will be keen to try the new plant-based version of wagyu, Top Tier Foods’ planned launch comes at a time when the country’s appetite for meatless substitutes has grown to an all-time high. It has prompted Japanese vegan meat startup Next Meats to release a vegan alternative for yakiniku, a popular barbecued or grilled beef dish typically served with rice.
With the pandemic continually turning more consumers away from meat, even the big players want in. The country’s iconic retail chain Muji has introduced four new vegan meat alternatives across its online and brick-and-mortar stores, shortly after Shin-Etsu Chemical, Japan’s biggest chemical company, made its first entry into the plant-based meat supply chain with a new binding agent designed for plant-based meat products.
All images courtesy of Top Tier Foods.