Bryan Quoc Le, a PhD-level food scientist and food industry consultant, noted that as simpler plant-based meat designs become saturated, such as meatballs, patties, ground meat, chicken nuggets, deli slices, and tenders, food companies are seeking to expand into other configurations and flavors.
“One of the latest trends in plant-based meat is companies getting into plant-based heritage and wild game meats,” he said. “That will include lamb, venison, duck, and other breeds of meat.”
While mimicking the flavor of these non-traditional meats is technically challenging and will require significant R&D, players in the space are betting on finding strong markets for them.
Companies are also looking to embed plant-based meats in new international cuisines not seen before, such as raviolis, shwarma, curries, dim sum, Peking duck, and empanadas.
“This is to expand outside of the current dominant categories of American cuisines that most plant-based meats are entering, into more exotic and fresh flavors from other cultures, and potentially breakthrough into foreign markets abroad,” Le said.
Bryan Kreske, general manager of 199 Ventures and Hormel’s incubator program, noted the company is no stranger to plant-based protein with retail products like Planters peanuts, Skippy peanut butter and Justin’s nut butters, and recently launched a plant-based breakfast sausage patty.
“People are drawn to these products for their taste, the desire to achieve more balance in their food routines, and other motivations related to their values,” he said. “We are always paying attention to consumer trends and we know that there are spaces like alternative proteins where we want to have presence. We believe we can play an important role in the space with a purpose of creating outstanding-tasting, accessible, alternative protein forward food choices.”
Hormel also recently teamed with The Better Meat Co. to bring a new mycoprotein to market along with other meat alternative food products.
In January, Purdue launched its Chicken Tots in retail stores to provide a snacking and side alternative for flexitarians.
“We are considering ways to evolve the line based on consumer and customer feedback, including experimenting with more gluten-free breading options like what you may have seen in our Simply Smart organic line, as well as looking for new innovations to expand the line,” the Perdue spokesperson said.
Plant-based meat is a trend that seems destined to stay, as it encourages a healthier and more environmentally conscious lifestyle amongst millennials. As the “meatless” movement continues to grow, more companies will be innovating in this field.
Already, many meat manufacturers are continuing to explore adding new products to its plant-based portfolio, and Hormel is one that expects to see more items coming down the line.
While the industry has changed a lot since Perdue was founded more than 100 years ago, the company’s values have not, meaning it’s always listening to what consumers want and using it to guide its decision making when it comes to new products.
“As we look to the future, we aim to diversify our offerings and meet growing demand for plant-based foods that deliver on taste, texture and nutrition, while also offering flavor experiences that are familiar,” the spokesperson said. “We’re always looking to introduce new products across our portfolio that meet demands for convenience and sustainability.”
Larissa Russell, CEO and co-founder of Pod Foods, noted the company’s 2021 State of Grocery report showed that there has been a 10-times growth in new plant-based products, with meat being among the top items.
“Shoppers want to know where their food is coming from and are looking to find healthier alternatives to food choices they may have made in the past,” she said. “As mainstream supply chain woes continue to be caused by traditional approaches to food procurement, we predict that more trend-forward plant-based brands will support growth of the plant-based food movement by providing creative alternatives to full meals and midday snacks.”