Achieving Success With Meat Analogs
This primer report from the Institute of Food Technologists describes the history (and predicts the future) of meat analogs, including offering insights into their appeal to consumers and thoughts on technological improvements in production and formulation of meat alternatives.
Soy protein is the most common ingredient used in meat analogs. It has been used to supplement meat and dairy products and as a direct substitute for animal protein. Functionally, it can serve as a textural agent, lending itself to gelling, fat emulsification, and water binding, which can improve slicing, as well as moisture retention in the end product.
Although 1-2% of the U.S. population is vegetarian, there is broader interest in meat analogs due to health and nutritional benefits, environmental considerations, religious beliefs, and animal rights. Growth in the use of soy is likely to take place in snack foods and dairy replacements, while interest in meat analogs will likely stem from consumer demand or the development of novel methods to promote such products.
To succeed in selling meat analogs, companies must prioritize certain product traits, in particular taste and nutritional content. Meat mimickers attempt to provide the appearance, texture, and flavor of meat, while meat substitutes do not attempt to simulate the characteristics of meat. Each appeals to a different segment of the population, depending on one’s motivations.
As consumers continue to examine the relationship between personal health and diet, meat analogs will serve a useful function and maintain a certain level of appeal. By continuing to improve taste, texture, and nutritional value, companies can continue to grow consumer demand for meat analogs.