Is the new age plant-based protein hype for real?

Published on by Nika Zobec

In the past few months, plant-based protein supplement companies have been hitting the headlines with their new innovations and the large investments they have been attracting from venture capitalists for their entry into the meat alternative products market Their strategy here is not just targeting the vegetarian consumers, but actually the meat consumers.

At the same time, global fast-food chains have been busy catching up with this trend and have started partnering with these plant-based protein companies to add new vegetarian options to their menus, to not be left behind in this new fad.

In April, Burger King successfully launched its vegetarian Whopper in the US, made with the plant-based Impossible Burger. The meatless patty boosted foot traffic in its local test markets by 18.5%, as Burger King further announced that the product would be launched nationwide in the following months.

Following this meatless trend, Subway also started testing its plant-based Meatball Marinara Sub in the US & Canada in corporation with Beyond Meat in early August, which once again brought people’s attention to plant-based meats.

But why the sudden hype? Are vegetarian burgers really new to these fast food chains?  Well not really - the demand for vegetarian and vegan products in the fast food market is not a recent phenomenon. All global fast food chains have adapted their menus to culturally sensitive markets like India, with almost half of their menu loaded with vegetarian options. In fact McDonalds opened their first meat-free vegetarian-only restaurant near the Golden Temple in the Sikh holy city of Amritsar in northern India way back in 2012.

Closer home, plant-based foods have been used in Chinese dishes to mimic meat for hundreds of years. Started in the Tang dynasty, which is 618 to 907, an official hosted a banquet serving imitation pork and mutton dishes made from vegetables. In the 13th century, which is one of the great periods of Chinese gastronomy and culinary development, there were restaurants in the southern Song dynasty capital (today's Hangzhou), where vegetarian dishes were served according to Buddhist cultures.

Till date, popular dishes like tofu “chicken” and roast “duck” are often served among local restaurants in Shanghai. Roast “duck”, in particular, is made from very thin layers of tofu skin which are bathed in a delicious seasoning sauce, and they're rolled up and steamed then deep-fried. “The end result has a golden crisp skin that looks rather like roast duck or goose and gives it a consistency quite like meat.”

Even tempeh, a traditional Indonesian soy product, that is made from fermented soybeans which is a popular meat replacement has been around for centuries.

So, coming back to the main question – why go to so much trouble to just to cook something that only taste like meat but isn’t?

The answer is simple. Switching into a vegetarian diet not only benefits our health preventing countless diseases, but also benefits our environment by reducing our carbon footprints.

For example, a vegan diet can:

  • Reduce your water consumption by 1300 liters per day
  • Reduce your CO2 emissions by 1.5 tons per year
  • Free up precious land to grow crops for human consumption

Cattle are not only producers of the greenhouse gas Methane, but they require a lot of land, grains, and massive quantities of water to maintain.

Did you know that one hamburger needs around 2500 liters of water just to make the beef patty.

Choosing vegetable-based meat, instead, you can reduce your carbon footprint by avoiding the overuse of water, grains, land, and other valuable resources. Moreover, our bodies do not even need these massive proportions of meat in our daily meals.

So next time, think twice before ordering a heavy meat-based meal. If you enjoy cooking at home, slowly reduce the amount of meat you cook each day and try to have more varieties of vegetables can provide you with just the same amount of food satisfaction over a meal.

With just a little bit of effort each time, cutting down your meat consumption should not be a huge deal! If you are huger for meat, why not try some vegetable-based meat instead? Have we all forgottn the saying of “finish you vegetables or you don’t get tv” that we were so used to while growing up?