How Plant-Based Meat Substitutes Are Changing the Way We Eat

Plant-based meat substitutes are increasingly popular. Here’s what you should know about the rapidly growing industry.

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May 29, 2023 7 min read

If you’re in a food-related career, you’ll want to stay in front of consumer trends and interests. And one trend that can’t be ignored is the explosion of interest in plant-based meat substitutes.

According to a report from the Plant Based Foods Association, 70% of the total U.S. population is consuming plant-based foods as of 2022. Of the 11,000 commercial operators who purchased plant-based meat burgers, the National Restaurant Association reports that 93.5% kept them on the menu. This means plant-based meat is more than a trend–it’s here to stay! Restaurants have taken notice, and as a future or current culinary professional, so should you.

Here’s a closer look at plant-based meat substitutes and how you can be part of the progress.

What Is Plant-Based Meat?

A plant-based meat substitute generally includes a mix of protein–like tofu, tempeh, seitan, soy, lentils, or pea protein– plus plant oils, like sunflower or canola. A plant-based binding agent, like gluten or aquafaba, then holds this meat substitute together firmly.

Depending on the ingredients used, plant-based meat substitutes may look, feel, and taste very different. Textures, colors, and flavors often vary depending on what’s in the mix. This is good news for plant-based meat substitute manufacturers, however, as these products can mimic a variety of different meats–from pulled pork to beef patties to chicken breasts. With different ingredients and various tools, like extruders, slicers, and spiralizers, consumers can expect to find a wide variety of plant-based meat substitutes on the market today.

Breaded tofu cut in half on a blue plate

Encrusted tofu can make an excellent plant-based substitute for breaded chicken.

In the culinary world, many restaurants are offering plant-based options, even if they don’t specifically tailor their dining experience to a plant-based palate. Others have turned their entire menus into smorgasbords of plant-based options. Business owners know that with so many people enjoying plant-based foods today, opportunities to grow and retain a loyal customer base may come from offering these types of options in their establishments.

Six Innovative Companies Making Plant-Based Meat Substitutes

With permission to be creative and innovative rather than conventional, food business startups over the past several years are thinking outside the box. These companies are using a variety of different ingredients and proprietary techniques to develop products that replicate the taste, texture, flavor, and nutritional value of traditional meats.

Impossible Foods: Classic American Burger and More

By making the classic American burger its main competitor and selling in traditional fast-food restaurants, Impossible Foods has grown dramatically and helped fuel the trend in “plant-based” everything. Modeling the success of the impossible burger, Impossible Foods now sells “impossible sausage,” “impossible meatballs,” “impossible pork,” and more. They also offer a Food Service Guide on its website to help restaurants and professional chefs incorporate plant-based meats into their menus, and in-store marketing assistance to promote its products.

Hungry Planet Foods: Beef, Pork, Chicken, Crab, and More

Hungry Planet Foods’ “chef-crafted plant-based meats” were specifically designed to appeal to chefs and discerning home cooks used to cooking with the highest-quality ingredients. The company also focuses on health, boasting 78% less fat and 41% fewer calories in their plant-based ground beef than in traditional ground beef. Hungry Planet offers a range of different plant-based meats to fit whatever recipe you’re cooking up.

Shane Witters Hicks, Escoffier Boulder Graduate“People are starting to play with the idea that there might be a better way of doing things than just the traditional meat and dairy way of cooking. They’re finding that more and more chefs around the world are playing with plant-based ingredients with more vegetables, and society is accepting it. And that’s the driver for the change.”*
Chef Shane Witters Hicks, Escoffier Boulder Graduate, Founder of The Soulful Spread

Good Catch Foods: Seafood

Good Catch’s motto is, “Seafood Without Sacrifice.” Its mission is to protect the world’s oceans by providing plant-based options that mimic the rich flavors and flaky textures of fine seafoods. Products include substitutes for tuna, crab cakes, fish sticks, fillets, and more. With the mission of making seafood more ethical, Good Catch has received the Company of the Year Award from PETA. (You can listen to Good Catch’s Founding Chef, Chad Sarno, on Escoffier’s podcast, The Ultimate Dish!)

Plant based sushi with soy sauce on a black plate

Escoffier’s Plant-Based Culinary Arts students explore making different meatless recipes, like plant-based sushi.

Nova Meat: Chicken, Beef, and Pork

Nova Meat is a startup that is 3D printing plant-based meat and pork. Its flagship product literally looks, cooks, and tastes like a ribeye or New York strip steak. The company’s strategy is to sell its 3D printers to restaurants, which would then “print” their own plant-based meats. With protein-packed, plant-based alternatives to chicken, beef, and pork, Nova Meat emphasizes bringing quality and authenticity to the plant-based meat substitute world.

Hear from Plant-Based Pioneers on The Ultimate Dish Podcast

These leaders in the world of plant-based foods share their knowledge and insights on the Escoffier podcast:

Amy’s Kitchen: Burgers, Pizzas, Burritos, and More

Amy’s Kitchen is perhaps best known for its health-conscious, low calorie, frozen options, but actually caters to a host of different dietary needs, including plant-based, vegan, gluten-free, Kosher, and more. Amy’s has become a prominent brand offering bean-based burger patties, vegan supreme pizzas, and even veggie burger spring rolls.

Gardein: Chicken, Sausage, and More

The Gardein line offers everything from “beefless” patties to “chickenless” sliders to “fishless” fillets and more. Besides selling a variety of plant-based meats in different forms, the company also makes canned soups and chilis in classic recipes like chicken noodle and sausage gumbo–using all plant-based ingredients, of course.

Tempeh satay in a silver pan

Tempeh satay is a flavorful and satisfying plant-based dish.

Interested in a Plant-Based Food Career?

As plant-based food trends take off, you may be thinking of capitalizing on the market to create a fulfilling career. And an education in the Plant-Based Culinary Arts from Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts may be your next best step.

In addition to well-rounded diploma and degree programs, Escoffier also offers students support from Career Services, which can help assist with identifying hands-on externships and other job opportunities in the foodservice industry. And if you’re eager to explore the relationship between the quality of our health and the way we eat, check out Escoffier’s Holistic Nutrition and Wellness programs.

Explore more articles about the plant-based culinary arts:

This article was originally published on February 15, 2019, and has since been updated.

*Information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors, such as geographical region or previous experience.

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