Lifestyles today are far more evolved and aided by various mentalities as compared to the community-driven standards of the past. Consumers’ food choices are not led by familial or local traits anymore but are based on conscious health goals, diverging cultures in a cosmopolitan setting and concern for the environment, and even food safety issues.
While broadly the culinary world was divided into two, namely, vegetarians and non-vegetarians, there are several new trends and some fads that are further fuelling the dynamic dining scene.
Apart from the non-meat eaters, food manufacturers and restaurants also have to cater to the preferences of vegans, who do not consume meat or any products from animals such as eggs or dairy. There are subsets within them such as lacto-ovo vegetarians — those who consume eggs and dairy products but not meat. Among the growing population of non-meat eaters, vegetarians broadly stand at 500 million worldwide.
In 2013, the global product launches with a vegan claim increased by 60% compared to the year before, according to a report by Innova Market Insights. This number grew by 52% in 2014, while global products for vegetarians increased by 22% between 2013 and 2014.
Health and wellness are becoming integral today with the host of so-called modern lifestyle disorders. The meat industry was hit due to the negative reports of meat consumption on health.
F&B manufacturers are creating suitable products and adopting new labelling for them by using tags such as “vegan-friendly”, “suitable for vegans” or “vegetarian”. And lastly, the flexitarian. These ‘flexible’ or ‘part-time’ vegetarians may be harder to please since they demand products that resemble meat in taste and texture.
BID ADIEU TO MEAT
Regardless of whether they are vegetarian by birth or are surrendering to a cultural or religious practice, the pool of vegetarian consumers in the recent past has increased with the addition of meat-eaters turned vegetable-lovers. The ability to flexibly choose between meat and non-meat items, along with a goal to eventually give up meat, gave impetus to the rise of the flexitarian clan.
Health and wellness are becoming integral today with the host of so-called modern lifestyle disorders. The meat industry was hit due to the negative reports of meat consumption on health. Over the past 15 years, extensive research has been done to investigate the link between meat consumption and cancer. One of these recent studies was by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer which concluded that each 50g portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer in adults by 18%.
Similar studies and marketing push from health coaches and wellness gurus have reportedly led to an increase in numbers of health-conscious consumers, who are slowly starting to cut back on their meat intake.
SAFE OR SORRY?
The 2013 Europe horsemeat scandal, the recent Brazil beef issue and the several other meat-related incidents in China and Asia have caused significant damage to the meat manufacturing and processing industry. Food safety standards with respect to meat products have been said to be weak and enforcement of regulations in some of the meat exporting countries is still relatively slack.
Studies and marketing push from health coaches and wellness gurus have reportedly led to an increase in numbers of health-conscious consumers, who are slowly starting to cut back on their meat intake.
There have been various cases from stimulant-filled meats and contaminated pork to expired meat and even rodent or fox meat being passed off as mutton, among others. These meat-related scandals have allegedly prompted consumers and meat lovers alike to seek healthier and safer options, further contributing to the rise of the global flexitarian population.
AIMING FOR SUSTAINABILITY
About half of all chicks hatched in the commercial egg industry are male. As they are judged to be less commercially viable than females, they are culled almost immediately. An estimated 45 million chicks are reportedly killed at hatching in Germany alone. Male chick culling is a common industry practice across both caged and free-range egg producers worldwide, although it is seen as animal cruelty among animal rights activists.
However, some research teams have achieved technologies that can determine the sex of each egg using its DNA before it is hatched. Dutch startup In Ovo is one company that hopes to release a prototype in commercial setting soon, with an aim for machines
to go on sale by early-2018.
Similar pro-animal welfare initiatives led by international and local organisations such as PETA are raising awareness about cruelty towards animals in order to scale meat production.
Sustainability from an animal welfare perspective is another key message being pushed by manufacturers. For example, The Kellogg Company has announced that it plans to build on its commitment to animal welfare by sourcing only cage-free eggs for its foods and eliminating gestation stalls from its pork supply chain by the end of 2025. Many food entrepreneurs and chefs are also sourcing only sustainable products.
PAVING NEW WAYS
This gradual shift in food preference took the food manufacturing market by surprise but instead of desisting it, they embraced it with both hands. Not only did they respond with vegetarian alternatives for everything from confectionery to burgers, they are also constantly striving to recreate the same taste and texture of meat to cater to the rising group of flexitarians and vegetarians alike. Chef Ray Adriansyah of award-winning restaurant Locavore in Bali, Indonesia, recently did a demonstration of a five-course, plantbased meal using local produce such as palm heart, dill, tempeh and more at the Speciality and Fine Food Asia in Singapore.
He said that although Locavore is not a vegetarian restaurant, this five-course menu has been highly popular and the restaurant started it in response to the consumer demands. He also added that not using meat does not mean less innovation because plants, fruits, vegetables and herbs have endless varieties and one only needs to be creative to get the best out of them.
POWER OF PROTEIN
But one may argue that a non-meat diet may not supply enough protein. The rising demand for alternative meat from flexitarians comes with a consequent increasing demand for alternative protein from which this “meat” can be made. The global high protein launches with plantbased proteins were reported to have grown 24% between 2013 and 2014.
Although soy protein is the leading plant protein used in recent years, especially in South-east Asia, alternative plant proteins such as pea, potato and wheat are demonstrating significant potential. In fact, the biggest rise in actual product development is occurring in pea and wheat protein. Innova Market Insights has reported an almost quadrupling in new products featuring pea protein from 2010-2014, up 361%
Apart from being more sustainable and healthier, plant proteins are also easy to digest and are enriched with micronutrients.
One of the other new sources that is worth looking out for is fruit protein, which is extracted from by-products such as seeds, shells/hulls or stems. This category has all the necessary elements to become the ‘poster child’ of all plant protein ingredients, according to Henk Hoogenkamp, a protein technology expert who advises food companies and academies on sustainable protein solutions.
Marine-sourced proteins have high potential for mass application in the food industry, with the main advantages including a high protein content, sustainability and scalability.
The Kellogg Company has announced that it plans to build on its commitment to animal welfare by sourcing only cage-free eggs for its foods and eliminating gestation stalls from its pork supply chain by the end of 2025. Many food entrepreneurs and chefs are also sourcing only sustainable products.
New research also shows a promising future for duckweed
as a feasible protein source with aquacultured plants such as Lentein
by Parabel gaining popularity in the industry. Claimed to be 100%
sustainable, it is extracted from a water lentil, which has high levels of protein combined with other macro and micro nutrients. Likewise, Hinoman also has its Mankai, an aquacultured source vegetable whole-protein ingredient with a high nutritional value.
The rise of flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan diets rest on the perpetuating breadth of products innovations that provide consumers with a lot more choice and convenience. With the firstever plant-based burger in the US (and an Asian outlet in Hong Kong), Beyond Burger and several other brands selling vegan cheeses made from cashews, sausages, cutlets, deep-frozen meat, hams, nuggets, meatballs and all other things meat or dairy have motivated the industry to create products that are similar to the original taste and texture.
The ‘flexitarian’ is shaping the new product development agenda, and the protein and meat products that we eat or will not eat in the future will be created with this enormous demographic in mind.