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Another year in the books, another Veganuary.
I think we can now agree that veganism itself is not a trend – plant-based food sales continue to grow rapidly. With the relationship between factory animal farming and climate change still a pressing issue, there is no reason for it to slow down anytime soon. Turns out, plant-based food is big business (topping around $7 billion in 2020). And in business, there always has to be something hitting the pike. The field of plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy and eggs should be no exception.
Based on what we’ve seen in 2021, there are some projections we can make about what’s going to be new and exciting in plant-based foods this coming year. We’ve been hearing a lot lately about cell-grown meats and hybrid half-meat, half-vegetarian products, but good ol’ vegan protein is no slouch. New innovations and business strategies continue to proliferate in the plant-based food space.
From fermentation creations to celebrity-owned brands, here’s what I expect to see more of in 2022.
Star-studded and dairy-free
From fitness to craft spirits, you know something has become a cultural mainstay when celebrities start putting their faces to it. The end of 2021 has seen some celebrity brand debuts – and for some decidedly dairy-free products. At the beginning of December, Cardi B announced the release of her new alcoholic novelty: Whipshots. It’s vodka-infused whipped cream that happens to be dairy-free. Until now, the marketing of the product does not make much of the non-dairy aspect, which shows how non-dairy products have become standardized. (That said, Cardi B isn’t afraid to his interest in going vegan.) Elsewhere in the music world, record producer Jermaine Dupri recently launched his own brand of vegan ice cream, JD’s Vegan. It is made from a coconut cream base and is intended to be sold in Walmarts nationwide. The dairy alternative market is expected to reach a value of over $40 billion by 2026. It seems likely that more entertainment stars will cross paths and start selling their own plant-based products to the coming.
Related: From gastronomy to fast food: where is plant-based food in 2022?
Jumping Ship for Vegetable Meat
The saying adapt or die is as true in the business world as it is anywhere else. And curiously, we see some of the biggest meat companies in the world doing just that – adapting. Some, like JBS, the Brazilian company that holds the title of the world’s largest meat producer, are incorporating it into their business strategy by introducing vegan chicken alongside their traditional meats. In other cases, big food industry executives are turning to factories: for example, David Hoffman, the former CEO of Dunkin who just raised $2.7 million for vegan bacon brand Hooray Foods. , and Doug Ramsey and Bernie Adcock, the executives who recently left their longtime roles at Tyson to work with Beyond Meat. These are big career moves, but they shouldn’t come as a big surprise. The plant-based food market has grown rapidly and is expected to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. It’s just good business.
Skewers without lamb
Plant-based burger patties are pretty much commonplace these days. But vegan lamb? It’s something we don’t see very often, if ever. British culinary giant Marco Pierre White recently announced that it would serve not only beef, but also whole cut lamb made by Israeli company Redefine Meat in its UK restaurants. And British brand Wicked Kitchen recently launched a vegan alternative to lamb into the retail space. If lambless lamb appeals to consumers, it probably won’t be long before it’s readily available in the United States and elsewhere.
Related: Vegan brands turn to our greatest hope: Gen Z
cruelty free crudo
It’s not like vegan alternatives to fish don’t exist – they’ve been offered in Chinese vegetarian restaurants for ages. Both Sophie’s Kitchen and Good Catch have had plant-based seafood in the retail space for several years. 2021, however, saw the introduction of sushi-grade vegan tuna in the raw bar. Kuleana’s Vegan Tuna is made from a blend of botanicals including seaweed and the koji mushroom, and it’s not just another vegan bone toss. Time Magazine recognized it as one of the 100 best inventions of 2021 (also on the list: the Covid-19 vaccine). It’s a soft launch in US retail and restaurant markets, but if Time’s enthusiasm means anything, it probably won’t be long before we start seeing it everywhere.
Removing milk from milk chocolate
Vegan candy, especially chocolate, has until now been mostly a niche dominated by specialty brands like Amy’s and Unreal. Now, finally, we see legacy brands jumping headfirst into the vegetable waters. Kit Kat launched a vegan version of its classic candy bar in several international markets earlier this year. German confectioner Ritter Sport also recently announced an upcoming line of vegan bars. The list goes on: Cadbury and Mars have already launched vegan milk chocolate confections, and Lindt plans to do so in January. However, it may be a while before you see non-dairy milk chocolate at your local 7-Eleven. Most of these products are not yet introduced in the American market. But, if all goes well, it’s only a matter of time before they start migrating out of Europe.
Related: Eating plant-based isn’t just about salads and beans. The market for vegan desserts continues to grow.
Better-for-you burgers and chickens
The nutritional value of plant-based alternatives to meat has long been the subject of debate among nutritionists, consumers and business leaders. I’ve argued in the past that the relative unsanitaryness of a Beyond or Impossible burger compared to kale or traditional black bean veggie burgers is actually part of its value. But that, of course, does not speak for everyone. Impossible Foods tweaked its patties a few years ago to contain less saturated fat and other junk. Beyond Meat followed suit earlier this year when it released a revamped, lower-fat version of its flagship patty as well as a new, even lower-fat one. Now, instead of revamping, some plant-based brands are turning to nutritional gold right off the bat. Example: These days, the maker of vegan chicken nuggets, offers a short, readable ingredient list and an impressive calorie-to-protein ratio. Expect to see more from existing and emerging brands in the coming year.
The last alternative milk: the potato
You didn’t think the alternative dairy industry was done exploring new ingredients, did you? UK supermarket chain Waitrose has named potato milk a promising product to look forward to in 2022. It is praised in part for its sustainability. Sure enough, the Swedish brand Dug will expand from Europe to the United States in the coming months. With more than 20 million tons of potatoes produced in the United States each year, it’s only a matter of time before some competitors start to multiply.
Fermentation of the future
The most recent, and perhaps most philosophically interesting, development in animal-free foods has been the use of fermentation to create proteins that are chemically identical to those that come from animals. Perfect Day is an industry leader, supplying brands like Brave Robot and soon to be General Mills, with casein and whey grown in a facility, not harvested from real cows. San Francisco-based brand The EVERY Company has developed a chicken-free egg white protein that is already offered as a smoothie ingredient in juice presses. These products are hard to label – they’re cruelty-free, but are they vegan? They are animal-free, but not without animal protein? But for those who want to eat ethically and sustainably without sacrificing the tastes they’re used to, they could be a game changer. Another SF-based startup called New Culture has raised $25 million in funding to support its quest for cow-free, but not dairy-free, cheese.
Beans and greens are great and all, but sometimes a vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, or reducer just wants something hearty and familiar. Plant-based and food alternatives to meat, cheese and eggs are anything but stagnant as a market sector. They experience new developments and innovations, raise a lot of start-up funds and attract the attention of the entire food industry. And I for one could really opt for a cruelty-free, eco-friendly, and relatively healthier cheeseburger in 2022 and beyond.
Related: Plant-Based Meat Has Officially Achieved “Global Phenomenon” Status