Chicago-based Technomic research showed that 42% of consumers are more likely to try a new or unique flavor from a restaurant than when cooking at home. The data showed that consumers order new or unique items from restaurants more than 25% of the time.

Next Gen Foods

That’s what Singapore-based Next Gen Foods is counting on with its one and only offering: Tindle plant-based chicken, a product designed by chefs and for chefs. The company showcased Tindle at the National Restaurant Show held in Chicago May 21-24. Tindle is a versatile, uncooked product that chefs can form into everything from patties to balls to strips and more.

To encourage trial by chefs, the company is sponsoring events such as the Chicago Blended Burger Challenge, which took place May 1 in Chicago. Ten chefs from across the country and all backgrounds stepped into the ring to create a blended burger made with Tindle and a pantry of other ingredients provided by Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas.

Daniel Espinoza, corporate chef at ofi (Olam Food Ingredients) in the Chicagoland area, was a winner with what he called a Chicago-style Tindle burger. The patty was made with a 50/50 blend of ground chicken thighs and Tindle. He added drained giardiniera oil to the blend, along with salt, pepper and paprika prior to searing the patty. The cooked burger was topped with house-made giardiniera mayonnaise, griddled onions and bacon (the real deal).

Next Gen Foods describes Tindle as a clean-label product made with only nine ingredients. After water, texturized protein – a combination of soy, wheat gluten and wheat starch – forms the base of the product. Coconut oil, methylcellulose and oat fiber help hold it all together, while also providing succulence. Tindle gets most of its flavor from a proprietary ingredient called lipi, which is a combination of sunflower oil and natural flavors designed to simulate real chicken fat.

That list of ingredients may still be considered too long and complex on a retail product, another reason foodservice is becoming a destination for plant-based innovators. One particular multifunctional ingredient that has come under much scrutiny in this space is methylcellulose.

“The one ingredient that many meat alternative companies are trying to replace is methylcellulose,” said Brock Lundberg, president of applications and research and development, Fiberstar Inc., River Falls, Wis. “No one-to-one ingredient replacement exists for methylcellulose because of its unique functionalities.”

This water-soluble polymer is chemically derived from the plant-based fiber cellulose. It is used as a binder, thickener, emulsifier, stabilizer and gelling agent to prevent syneresis, where one of its key performance features is its ability to form a thermoreversible gel. Use also prevents labeling a product as all natural.

On Tindle’s website, the company describes methylcellulose as “a culinary binder derived from cellulose, found in plants. Think of it as a plant-based egg white.”


Fiberstar has launched new methylcellulose-free solutions that are next-generation texturizing citrus fiber ingredient systems. They are intended to be used with specific plant-based proteins, namely potato and canola. The system provides firmness, thickening power and meat-like texture.

“We cater to a variety of customers ranging from those who need allergen-free options to those who are trying to create healthier products without coconut or palm fat,” said Haen. “These plant proteins work synergistically with our citrus fiber to create the meat-like texture, succulence and hot bite that customers expect.”

Upton's Naturals

Vegan food manufacturer Upton’s Naturals, Chicago, is bringing quick-cooking, seitan meat substitutes to restaurants and foodservice customers across the country through its partnership with Dot Foods, Mount Sterling, Ill. Based on vital wheat gluten, the pre-seasoned, plant-based offerings require little-to-no-prep and work in a variety of recipes ranging from nachos and quesadillas to pizza and gourmet hot dogs. Each high-protein, low-fat product is also 100% vegan, kosher pareve, certified plant based, contains no GMOs, and is free of the cholesterol associated with meat.

“Crafted with clean, quality ingredients, our seitan possesses impressively meat-like texture and robust flavor that chefs can feel proud to work into their plant-based menu options,” said Upton’s Naturals’ founder Dan Staackmann.

Something important for formulators to remember is that the quality and characteristics of the plant protein source affect how much formulators will need to rely on flavor maskers, texturants or mouthfeel enhancers. The higher the protein content, the more influence the ingredient has on the alternative’s sensory properties.

There’s been a lot of activity in plant-based bacon, where fat – usually coconut based – is the dominant ingredient, so flavor masking is not much of an issue. While many believe that everything tastes better with bacon, everything also tends to taste better with coconut oil. It’s rich and flavorful and has a similar fatty acid profile to animal fats.


AAK, Edison, NJ, developed a unique blend of sunflower oil and coconut oil to create crispy, sizzling bacon without the oink. The sunflower oil supports slice flexibility and lubricity, while the coconut oil gives the slice structure, firmness and integrity. Oils are released during the cooking process, not unlike pork fat. The company suggests also using a coconut oil ingredient applied as a topical coating to the slices to enhance bacon fry-ability and to ensure the finished, cooked texture is achieved.

Hooray Foods

Sri Artham, founder, Hooray Foods, San Francisco, developed plant-based bacon because he knows everything tastes better with bacon, but not everyone can eat pork. Made with seven simple ingredients – coconut oil, rice flour, tapioca starch, liquid smoke, maple syrup, umami (mushroom) powder, sea salt and beet juice concentrate – the strips look, cook and taste like pork bacon.

“The biggest advantage of being clean label is accessibility, as our bacon is free of soy, dairy and gluten,” said Artham. “It helps us bring our product to more people with dietary restrictions and allergies. When it comes to pork bacon, many people are also concerned about nitrates and hormones. Because our plant-based version is nitrate-free and hormone-free, this creates another opportunity to reach those consumers and provide them a cleaner alternative.

“Raising animals for food is the second-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions,” said Artham. “As our bacon is solely made from plants, it becomes easier on the planet. And although our product does contain saturated fat, there is no cholesterol, so you can still be kinder to your body when enjoying a comfort food.”

World Finer Foods

World Finer Foods, Bloomfield, NJ, presented culinary professionals at the National Restaurant Show with a new concept in plant-based products: Cutting Vedge. The company partnered with chefs to unlock a world of flavor, through real ingredients that deliver on taste, texture and protein.

The veggie-forward product comes in balls, crumbles, patties and sausages. Artichokes are the lead ingredient, supported by a nutritious mix of spinach, quinoa and chickpeas. Artichokes boast a hearty texture and function as a carrier for different flavors.