Future Food Quick Bites: Plant-Based Cows, Vegan Flying & A Mycoprotein Bet
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In our weekly column, we round up the latest news and developments in the alternative protein and sustainable food industry. This week, Future Food Quick Bites covers The Laughing Cow’s vegan cheese, plant-based burgers in Puerto Rico, and another round of alt-protein awards.
Fast-food giant Burger King is opening its 15th plant-based location, with a store in Puerto Rico’s Plaza Trujillo Alto, in partnership with Dutch plant-based meat company The Vegetarian Butcher, extending the ongoing collaboration between the two companies.
Another fast-food favourite, Leonardo DiCaprio- and Lewis Hamilton-backed Neat Burger is continuing its accelerated global expansion drive with its first Italian store, set to open in Milan’s Merlata Bloom shopping centre today.
There are some developments in the aviation industry too. Indonesian plant-based meat producer Green Rebel has partnered with AirAsia‘s in-flight F&B operator Santan to launch two versions of vegan nasi rendang on all flights over 75 minutes.
Similarly, UK vegan chocolate brand LoveRaw has partnered with catering service Gate Gourmet to get onboard Virgin Atlantic flights. Passengers in Upper Class and Premium will be able to help themselves with LoveRaw’s Caramelised Biscuit Wafer (a Kinder Bueno knockoff) from the airline’s Wander Wall snack area.
Also in the UK, American infant brand Else Nutrition has introduced its plant-based dairy alternative for toddlers, a soy-free powder made from almonds and buckwheat. This marks its first foray into Europe.
Meanwhile, French dairy giant Bel Foods has unveiled a vegan version of its famous The Laughing Cow snacking cheese triangles in plain and garlic and herb flavours. They’re made from almonds and will retail at £2.50 (versus £1.90 for the conventional one) at Asda and Sainsbury’s stores nationwide.
In more snacking news, French algae startup ZALG has released crispy seaweed sticks made from locally grown seaweed. They’re available in lemon zest and onion flavours, and can be made in a fryer in 90 seconds.
Speaking of the ocean, Germany’s Ordinary Seafood has introduced vegan tuna and smoked salmon at METRO outlets in cities including Berlin, Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt and Hamburg (among others) starting this month.
French plant-based brand Aberyne is launching its vegan Foi Green foie gras – made from cashews and coconut oil in original, Espelette pepper and truffle flavours – in Spain, the UK, Switzerland as well as the US in time for Christmas.
And in Austria, the Rewe Group has opened its second Billa Pflanzilla location – a 100 sq m fully plant-based store in Graz. The same day, it announced a price drop for its own-label Vegavita range across all Billa and Billa Plus stores nationwide.
Additionally, Billa Plus will now also feature vegan cold cuts from Italian company Biolab, which secured a listing for three products under two brands: Liveg’s vegetable pastrami slices and Biolab’s vegetable carpaccio slices and seitan.
Elsewhere, fungi protein company Nature’s Fynd has partnered with American chef Andrew Zimmern, who has raved about the startup’s cream cheese based on its Fy protein. Zimmern will publish some recipes using the product today.
Russian-German DJ Anton Zaslavski – better known as Zedd – has invested in refined carb company BetterBrand, which will launch a limited-edition vegan Jalapeño Cheddar Better Bagel.
Speaking of celebrities, Robert Downey Jr has co-written Cool Food, a guide to reducing our carbon footprint through food, with NYT Bestselling author Thomas Kostigen. It will be out on January 23.
One company helping the environment along with its offerings is US-based Voyage Foods, which makes cocoa-free chocolate, beanless coffee and nut-free nut butter. It is launching its hazelnut- and peanut-butter-free roasted seed spreads at 1,200 Walmart stores nationwide.
In more retail news, Wicked Kitchen has secured a listing at Target for six frozen entrées, which include the debut of two new offerings – a Bolognese and a mac and cheese – which join the existing lineup of naked burrito, Penang curry, Korean bowl and Sriracha tofu and rice.
And Daring Foods is getting into the frozen entrée game too, unveiling six bowls featuring its soy protein chicken, which includes a partnership with cult favourite chilli crisp brand Fly by Jing. These can be reheated in the microwave in 3.5 minutes and are available in multiple retailers nationwide.
Manufacturing and finance news
In the ingredients world, Italian company HI-FOOD (part of CSM Ingredients) has collaborated with Alianza Team Europe to develop clean-label protein emulsions to improve the taste and texture of plant-based meat.
Israeli food tech firm ChickP, which makes a 90% chickpea protein isolate for better-for-you plant-based nutrition bars, will be exhibiting protein-fortified granola-based cereal and energy bars at the Food Ingredients Europe event (November 28-30) in Frankfurt.
Meanwhile, in South Africa, cultivated meat producer Newform Foods (previously called Mzansi Meat) has partnered with engineering giant Project Assignments on a demonstration facility that is said to be the largest of its kind in Africa.
Another cultured meat company, Melbourne-based Magic Valley, has expanded into a new state-of-the-art pilot facility at bio-innovator and incubator Co-Labs. The company says the facility can scale up to 3,000-litre bioreactors and produce up to 150,000kg of product annually.
Also in Australia, plant milk giant Vitasoy is set to produce 70 million litres of its soy, almond, oat, rice, and coconut milks and soy and oat yoghurts this year, which will be its biggest year to date.
Hain Celestial, the parent company of alt-protein brands Yves Veggie Cuisine and Linda McCartney’s, has posted positive market share developments. The former’s market share in Canada rose by 2.7% in the frozen category and 0.7% in fresh, while the latter “increased velocities” in frozen by 20%, and upped distribution by 12% ahead of a new meatless burger launch in 2024.
Elsewhere, Swedish impact investor Kale United, which invests in plant-based companies like Heura, Meatless Farm and Eat JUST, has opened a fundraising round to secure 12 million SEK ($1.1M) ahead of a planned IPO in 2025, with a third of shares already booked.
A month after announcing a £15.3M loss in mycoprotein giant Quorn‘s yearly accounts, parent company Monde Nissin‘s CEO Henry Soesanto is going all-in on the brand by investing part of his family fortune. The funds will be capped at 12% of the value of Monde Nissin’s $2.2B outstanding shares over the next 10 years.
Maybe Soesanto has seen this report that predicts the US plant-based meat market to grow by 23.5% annually until 2028, or Circana figures that show a 48% rise in foodservice sales for meat alternatives in the UK, Spain, Italy, Germany and France, compared to 2019.
Policy and research
Amid its lobbying exposé, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment convened an alt-protein roundtable to discuss food safety legislation and regulatory frameworks for cultivated and precision fermented foods.
One country that isn’t as receptive to cell-cultured meat, it seems, is Italy. Last month, we reported how Italy’s U-turn on its cultivated meat ban was just a smokescreen. Now, it has confirmed that it intends to be the first country to ban “synthetic food”. Not sure if that’s as trailblazing as its agriculture minister thinks it is?
In the US, plant-based meat manufacturer Rebellyous Foods has been contracted by healthcare company Vizient to introduce the former’s vegan chicken nuggets, patties and tenders in hospitals, universities and schools nationwide. Its K12 products meet USDA standards for two alternate credits for the National School Lunch Program.
On another note, a new study has joined a growing body of evidence about the impact of vegan food on pet health. The peer-reviewed study has found that plant-derived vitamin D2 is just as effective as animal-derived vitamin D3 on dogs’ overall vitamin D levels. This is apparently the 10th study demonstrating positive outcomes for plant-based pet diets.
This week has seen another round of awards in the future food industry. Slovenian whole-cut plant-based meat startup Juicy Marbles, Bel-owned vegan cheese brand Nurishh and UK plant-based cheese maker Sheese were all certified Gold Champions at The Grocer‘s New Product & Packaging Awards 2023.
In the US, VegNews announced the winners of its best vegan restaurant awards in the country. This includes Plant Power Fast Food (for the fast-food category), Crossroads Kitchen (fine dining), Monty’s Good Burger (burger joint), Pura Vita (pizza) and Ice Queen (ice cream).
Vegan Women Summit‘s Pathfinder pitch competition, which financially supports early-stage women-founded alt-protein startups, has announced precision fermentation company Liven Proteins and its founder Fei Luo as its 2023 winner.
Meanwhile, FoodBev has unveiled the winners of its 2023 World Cell-Based Innovation Awards, which include TissenBioFarm (beef), Senara (milk), Umami Bioworks (seafood), C16 Biosciences (palm oil alternative) and BIOMILQ (breast milk).
Finally, Thailand’s Let’s Plant Meat – which makes plant-based beef, burgers and katsu – has received the Prime Minister’s Export Award in the Best Thai Brand category.