With the global population set to reach 10 billion by 2050, current levels of meat consumption are “incompatible with keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2 (let alone 1.5) degrees Celsius,” the World Economic Forum concluded in a new report, as quoted by Food Dive.
Fortunately, the plant-based protein movement shows no signs of slowing down: 34 percent of Americans plan to incorporate plant-based foods into their diet this year. U.S. sales of plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy and eggs grew by 17 percent from 2017 to 2018, compared to only 2 percent for the food sector overall, according to market research from Nielsen.
“Given the indicators we’re seeing, we believe the growth rate is likely to accelerate,” Caroline Bushnell, senior marketing manager for the nonprofit Good Food Institute, which commissioned the research, wrote in a blog post. Indeed, the number of plant-based food investment deals rose by 30 percent in the past year alone, paving the way for new startups, product offerings and partnerships across the sector—and a whole lot more vegan choices in the mainstream market.
“The past few years have been all about captivating audiences with anticipation of these products,” Mike Lee, co-CEO of Alpha Food Labs, a platform for launching healthy and sustainable food companies, told Forbes in December. “In the next two years, it’ll be all about getting to market.” Here are a few standouts, coming soon to restaurants and grocery shelves near you.
We first sampled the Impossible Burger during the COP21 climate talks back in 2015. California startup Impossible Foods has since released its signature vegan burger at almost 5,000 restaurants across the U.S., and its newest burger recipe will hit grocery shelves for the first time in 2019.
A unique biochemical process gives the plant-based Impossible Burger a distinctly meaty flavor, texture and appearance—making it a fast hit with vegetarians and flexitarians alike. The meat alternatives upstart has sold around 13 million burgers since launching in restaurants in 2016, and its Oakland production facility can churn out 500,000 burgers a month—which puts exponential growth firmly on the table, Forbes reports.
Impossible Foods and its biggest rival, Beyond Meat, will continue to go head-to-head in 2019. For its part, Beyond Meat plans to increase its production capacity threefold to keep up with demand, having outsold conventional beef patties in some retail locations, according to the Good Food Institute.
The company, which saw 70 percent revenue growth in 2018, is likely to go public this year, Forbes reported. Its investment in a 26,000-square-foot research facility also indicates the company is developing new products to complement its existing portfolio of vegan burgers, sausages, chicken strips and ground beef substitutes.
Based in Newton, Pennsylvania, Good Catch offers a solution to overfishing with a line of plant-based seafood made from beans like chickpea, lentil and fava—and investors are interested, to the tune of $8.7 million in its latest funding round.
The company will launch its signature line of plant-based tuna, along with other vegan seafood products, in grocery stores this year, according to the Good Food Institute.
Califia Farms already offers an expansive product portfolio—including almond, cashew and coconut milks, as well as dairy-free yogurts, creamers and cold brew coffees. Last week, the California-based company added a new ingredient to the list with its first line of milks made from North American whole grain, gluten-free oats.
Along with an unsweetened version, the line includes a Barista Blend to complement the company’s cafe-focused offerings, wellness publication LiveKindly reported. The brand, backed by celebrity names like actor Leonardo DiCaprio and supermodel Karlie Kloss, closed more than $50 million in its latest funding round.
Having launched in 2014, Purple Carrot is a relative veteran in the ever-expanding subscription meal kit segment. Its ready-to-assemble prep kits contain only plant-based ingredients—and it’s still the only 100 percent vegan meal kit company out there.
After receiving a $4 million investment from Fresh Del Monte Produce last year, the company will expand its line of kits to include breakfast and lunch options in 2019. Purple Carrot has grown by more than 300 percent over the past two years and is expected to double in 2019, partly thanks to the expanded menu, Fast Company reported.
Chobani, known for its Greek yogurts, launched its first dairy-free product line this month—which includes five probiotic-rich yogurts and four yogurt drinks made from cultured coconut products.
Founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya is a trailblazer in the corporate world—most notably for his fearless support of immigrants and refugees. His positioning around Chobani’s debut in the plant-based foods segment was similarly audacious. "We have a belief: if we can't make something better, we don't make it at all. And for some time, we've felt that people deserve better non-dairy options," he said in a statement. “We've come up with something that's much better than what's out there … it's a game-changer for plant-based products."
Starbucks released two ready-to-pour almond milk drinks at grocery stores across the country this month. The company made almond milk available at more than 4,600 retail stores in September, following the addition of coconut milk in 2015.
Taco Bell will start testing its first vegetarian menu in 2019, CNBC reported last week. The fast-food chain owned by Yum Brands is already known as veg-friendly: a number of its meat-free menu options were certified by the American Vegetarian Association back in 2015.
The Beyond Burger will hit the menu at more than 1,000 Carl’s Junior locations across the U.S. this month, marking Beyond Meat’s largest restaurant partnership yet. The new Beyond Burger is already available at all A&W locations across Canada.
McDonald’s appears to be warming up to the idea of plant-based foods—particularly after its McVegan burger, released in Finland and Sweden last fall, was met with acclaim across the Internet. "Plant-based protein is something we’re keeping our eye on," Lucy Brady, SVP of corporate strategy for the fast-food giant, said at a conference in December, as quoted by vegan food industry outlet VegNews.
Nestlé plans to launch the plant-based Incredible Burger under its Garden Gourmet brand this spring. The global food giant is developing additional plant-based proteins at its research and development center in Lausanne, Switzerland, Bloomberg reported. Potential 2019 offerings include purple walnut milk made with blueberries and a latte containing spirulina algae.
Unilever acquired The Vegetarian Butcher, which distributes plant-based meat products to more than 4,000 outlets in 17 countries, at the end of last year—paving the way for more vegetarian and vegan options from the global packaged goods giant.
“[The Vegetarian Butcher] will fit in well within our portfolio of ‘brands with purpose,’ which have a positive social impact, are better positioned to meet the needs of consumers and are growing faster,” Nitin Paranjpe, president of foods and refreshment at Unilever, told Food Business News. “Importantly, this acquisition will help us to accelerate our journey toward more plant-based food.”
Image credit: Courtesy of Impossible Foods