Fake meat - Reacting to an alternative

October 22, 2020
Future of Food

Let's learn a bit more about "fake meat".

Fake meat is typically known to exhibit certain textures, flavours and visuals similar to meat. Fake meat is usually made from vegetarian ingredients that are processed in a way that in its final stage, can be associated with a meat-like product. Regular ingredients used in these recipes are soy protein, green pea protein, wheat protein, black beans, tofu and sunflower oil. Of course, each company has their own secret recipe that makes all the difference. Whether its duration, temperature, ingredient type or bio-chemical procedure, to each its own.

Does fake meat need to taste like meat?

This depends largely on what the company is aiming to achieve and what the consumer wants to eat. Are they looking for a meat replacement or a meat alternative? Meat replacers want to create and taste a product that uses plant protein without losing the flavour and texture of the beloved meat they used to eat. Meat alternators see fake meat as a product apart, just as an ice cream aficionado sees sorbet as an alternative, not a replacement. This means they usually look for protein-rich foods that don't need to look or taste like meat.

So why are people interested in an alternative?

Some attribute the increase in demand for meat substitutes to increased allergies or intolerances in the human population, that demands a change in the food system and how it provides for those affected. If you want to watch an interesting series on our broken food system and macro changes on certain ingredients, check out Netflix's series Rotten.

Others believe that due to the imminent climate crisis on our doorstep, many are taking a step away from meat, which research shows takes more energy, time and water to prepare for consumption. Along with the increased resources necessary to produce meat, studies show that the amount of methane and CO2 emitted by the meat industry is much higher compared to in the past, due to an increasing demand for meat from rising incomes as well as increased global trade and industrialised agriculture. The FAO (Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) states that 26% of Earth's ice-free land is used for livestock grazing. Another 33% is used for livestock feeding, which sums up to 59% of Earth's habitable and agricultural land being used for animals. It only makes sense that this has a massive impact on our planet.

So how do I react to this change in my restaurant?

There is a Swiss company called Planted (delicious fake chicken, by the way) that provides restaurants with a certain quantity of their product to sample. After the trial period ends, the company claims that the majority of their first customers return to purchase more. This means that restaurants are learning to integrate fake meat into their dishes and (pretty much) doubling the number of vegetarian options into their menus. With the increasing demand for meat substitutes, and only a limited number of restaurants offering the option, you can retain your guests by satisfying their request.

That being said, who says you can't create your own signature meat alternative? ZFV's kitchens produce their own homemade veggie burger patty out of a mixture of proteins and oils (again, they're own secret recipe!). This is a great way to differentiate and stay creative with your kitchen team.

Although the price for fake meat currently equals real meat, over the longterm, buying plant-based proteins will be more financially rewarding. As production costs decrease, prices may very well drop to the level equivalent to rice or beans. So when it comes to food waste, when you start throwing away less meat, you will also waste a smaller percentage of your food cost. Riders Hotel in Laax measures with KITRO and saw that meat waste contributed generously towards their most wasted costs. After this realisation, they transformed into a 100% vegetarian restaurant, adjusted their portion sizes, and have now achieved an astounding 57% less waste per guest.

We're not saying remove meat from your menu. Many restaurants thrive and survive thanks to their meat offering. And it is delicious... but what we're basically saying is keep your other options in mind, in order to elevate your guest experience. Simultaneously, you will automatically be perceived as a restaurant that looks towards a sustainable future and cares about the way we treat our resources.

As more people adjust their diets and tech advancements improve our biological know-how, there will be a wider range of insatiable appetites to appease, and we will have the tools necessary to do so. The question is if enough people and companies will adapt to and accept change. Just as the economy did not accept electric vehicles when they first entered the market, (and now the population demands that alternative), will we learn from our short-sightedness and accept this alternative now, or wait until it's no longer an option, but a necessity?

So, first steps to get started? Here are some ideas:

1. Compare the number of meat dishes to the number of vegetarian options you offer. Is there a way to assimilate more vegetarian items into your menu offering? Would it be possible to equalise 50-50? Which dishes would work just as well with a meat alternate?

2. See how much of your food cost you spend on meat and how much more it would cost to add a few meat alternatives to the list.

3. Once you have a few alternatives, it's time to test them out! Use your team's knowledge and creativity to mix and match them to certain dishes. How do they pair or accentuate other flavours of the meal? Often times, the company from which you sourced the fake meat provides recipes and ideas on how best to use their product.

4. Communication is key! How do you showcase your fake meat on your menu and on your online/offline channels? How can you let people know about your positive impact?