History of Plant Based Meats

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History of Meatless Meats

Over the past several years and, in particular, over the past year, meatless meats and meat substitutes have been rising in popularity. There are a number of reasons for this, including increasing concerns for the environment, cost, and health benefits; and several companies have emerged to fill the market, including Impossible Meats and Beayond Meat.


  • Globally, the "real" meat industry is worth $1.4 trillion currently. However, experts believe that, within the next decade, meatless meat "could capture about 10 percent" of that amount.
  • Specifically, the meatless meat industry is expected to reach $140 billion by 2029.
  • According to researchers at Barclays, "while lab-based meat is still likely several years away from hitting supermarket shelves, plant-based protein continues to gain ground vs. its animal-based counterpart, and we expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future".
  • Alternatively, the market for "textured vegetable protein, tofu, tempeh, seitan, and other plant-based sources" is expected to reach $7.5 billion by 2025.
  • For a variety of reasons, Americans are becoming increasingly interested in more plant-based diets, including meat substitutes and imitation meats.
  • According to a recent survey on the subject from Nielson, "39 percent of Americans are actively trying to eat more plant-based foods".
  • Some of the reasons for increased interest in reducing meat consumption are the environmental impact of producing and eating meat, health concerns, and cost.
  • Despite this increased interest in meal alternatives though, "the average consumer will eat 222.2 pounds of red meat and poultry this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture".
  • Perhaps the two most well-known companies in the meat substitute space are Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, both of which have soared in popularity over the past year.
  • Beyond Meat went public in May 2019, initially selling their stock for $25. However, due to extreme popularity, the stock has since jumped to $169 per share, giving the company "a market capitalization of more than $10 billion".
  • Alternatively, "Impossible Foods closed an additional $300 million in investor funding".
  • Both brands are being sold by a number of fast food chains, including McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, and KFC.


  • While imitation meat didn't debut until many years later, tofu and seitan have been available as viable meat substitutes since about 535 B.C.E.
  • Seitan was discovered in 535 B.C.E. by Chinese cooks, and was used because of its texture, which is similar to that of meat.
  • Seitan became popularized when Chinese cooks realized "that wheat flour can be soaked in water and rinsed until all the starches wash away, leaving a matrix of gluten proteins behind".
  • Years later, tofu was discovered in China as well.
  • Although the discovery wasn't documented until 965 C.E., it's possible that people have been eating tofu since around 164 B.C.E.
  • While tofu was found to be cheaper and more readily available than seitan, its texture was further from that of meat.
  • The earliest form of imitation meat in the western world was protose (also called nuttose), which was created by John Harvey Kellogg — the leader of Battle Creek Seventh-Day Adventist Church — in the late 1800s.
  • Protose is composed of peanut butter, mashed beans, water, corn starch, onion, sage, and salt. The mixture is then steamed to create imitation meat.
  • Because of the strong flavors in the ingredient, protose tasted primarily of peanut butter.
  • While this early form of imitation meat tasted nothing like the food it was meant to replicate, "a growing vegetarian movement had taken hold of the country" and this "healthy" alternative to real meat grew in popularity.
  • Though protose would likely not be billed as healthy today, it was one of about 100 recipes created by Kellogg which he marketed as "healthy".
  • In the early 1930's, a company called Loma Linda Foods began to release "some of the first commercially available soy- and wheat-based fake meats".
  • The company first opened in 1890 and quickly became "a leader in sustainable foods".
  • Today, the company markets and sells a number of meatless recipes, meals, and alternatives, such as "tuno" which is an alternative to tuna and a plant-based taco filling.
  • In 2002, Burger King released the first fast-food veggie burger in the United States, called the BK Veggie Burger.
  • Later that year, McDonalds followed suit, releasing a veggie burger which they'd already been selling in the UK, the Netherlands, and India since the early 1990's.
  • The burger contained 330 calories and sold for $1.99.
  • The full meal included "a patty made of vegetables, grains and spices, the same four-inch sesame-seed bun used for the chain's hamburgers, shredded lettuce, two tomato slices and 3/8 of an ounce of reduced-fat mayonnaise".


  • One company selling a number of meat alternatives and imitation products is Linda Loma Foods, the parent company of which is Atlantic Natural Foods.
  • The company produces a number of meatless meals, meat substitutes, imitation meats, and meatless recipes.
  • Some examples of products sold by Linda Loma are "Tuno" which is a seafood alternative, "Big Franks" which are a plant-based alternative to hot dogs, and meatless sloppy joes.
  • Perhaps the most "interesting" of these is Tuno, which is an imitation seafood. While imitation meats — such as burgers and chicken — have been rising in popularity, imitation seafood has been less available.
  • While sushi may seem like something that cannot be substituted with a vegan alternative, one recipe has tried.
  • Nigirizushi is perhaps the most well-known sushi in the world, involving "a slice of raw fish atop an oblong, compacted mound of rice". Typically, nigirizushi is served with a side of wasabi and seaweed.
  • An alternative recipe for this utilizes watermelon, cantaloupe, or skinned red bell peppers, rice "mixed with a blend of lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, a wee pinch of sea salt and ginger", and "a thinly sliced strip of nori seaweed".
  • Perhaps one of the most ubiquitous meat snacks is jerky, which is known entirely for being made of dehydrated meat. For this reason, the vegan alternative made by Primal Spirit Foods is one of the more interesting examples of meat substitutes on the market today.
  • These "meatless vegan jerky" snacks are made from all vegan ingredients, including dehydrated vegetables, seitan, and soy.
  • "Primal Strips are delicious, healthy, meat alternative snacks providing the positive health benefits of Soy, Seitan and Shiitake Mushrooms, all with full meaty satisfaction."
  • The company offers a number of jerky flavors, including Thai peanut, mesquite lime, teriyaki, hot & spicy, and hickory smoked.
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Trends in the Meatless Meat Industry

Current and future trends in the meatless meat industry have been identified as the introduction of meatless meats into fast food, the growing popularity in "flexitarian" diets, cell-based meats, and the potential impact on the environment that the meatless meat industry could have.


  • The number of fast-food companies with vegan-friendly items on their menus is steadily increasing.
  • Burger King boasts that their implementation of meatless meats into their popular Whopper recipe is so good that employees are unable to tell the difference between the vegan-friendly burger and the original recipe.
  • Carl’s Jr. is also growing in popularity due to their “Impossible Burger”, a burger similar to Burger King’s meatless “Whopper”, made entirely of plant-based ingredients.
  • Other fast-food chains who have followed Burger King's lead in adding plant-based meat substitutes to their menus include Subway, Taco Bell, and Wendy’s.
  • In addition to the fast-food chains driving this trend, Tyson has even begun generating revenue through producing “animal-free alternatives”.


  • In 2018, the average American ate approximately 222.4 pounds of red meat, the equivalent of 890 quarter-pound burgers, according to the USDA.
  • This is more than five times the recommended amount of red meat for a healthy diet.
  • A new trend is gaining popularity though, “flexitarianism” incorporates vegetarian options into fish and meat diets.
  • This diet is expected to become the driving force for the consumption of soy products in the global plant-based meat market.
  • With the leading player in the plant-based meat market, Impossible Foods is located in the United States, followed by three more companies, Morningstar Farms, Amy’s Kitchen, and Maple Leaf Foods, also being located in the United States, this trend will be most apparent in this region.
  • One report, published by Food Revolution Organization in 2018, backs this info up by showing the market being driven by the “growing uptake in flexitarian diets in North America”.


  • Also known as lab-grown, or cultured meat, these products are primarily made from the cells of real animals but are grown in food production plants. This allows for the exclusion of animals being raised in captivity and slaughtered, from the production process.
  • Though these products have become readily available to the public, they are still considered meat alternatives, and therefore meatless meats.
  • Consumers being targeted by this future trend are not the typical vegan or vegetarians, who account for a mere 3% of the American population, but instead, are the consumers who are, and likely always will be, eaters of meat.
  • These next-generation meats are the result of scientists realizing the unwavering demand for meat, and instead of trying to replace it with other meat alternatives, such as plant-based meats, trying to replace it with the same meat, but meat obtained through a more humane process.
  • Some meat alternatives made through processes similar to this include the “Impossible Burger”, known for “bleeding like real meat”, is produced with a meat protein called heme which is produced from yeast.


  • A major driver in the meatless meat market is the possible effects its production might have on the environment. These effects range from water use to land use to fighting climate change.
  • Experts identify the largest driver of this “environmental catastrophe” as animal-based food technology, stating that approximately 15% of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by livestock.
  • While the impact the meatless meat industry, in particular, has on the environment is fairly insignificant due to its share of the market being so small, experts predict that this will not remain true in the near future.
  • To further determine whether the impact that meatless meats will have on the environment will be a positive trend or a negative trend, researchers analyzed the Impossible Burger 2.0.
  • In this analysis, it was found that the Impossible Burger’s carbon footprint is 89% smaller than that of a burger which was made from a cow. In addition to this finding, there was 96% less land use and 87% less water use in the production of the burger.
  • If meatless meat continues to increase in popularity and consumers continue to make the switch from traditional meats, the impact it will have on the environment will become significant. However, if this trend does not continue, the impact that meatless meat has on the environment will remain small in scale and will continue to have an insignificant impact.

Research Strategy:

To identify current and future trends in the meatless meat industry, research began by utilizing databases most commonly known for containing market reports, as well as databases containing articles relating to the food industry specifically. While no such information pertaining to current or future trends in the meatless meat industry, our research discovered multiple articles that proved to be invaluable in helping research identify current and future trends shaping the meatless meat industry. Sites that proved to be most helpful in providing the necessary information were sites such as the New Food Magazine and Vegconomist. The information discovered through the articles published on sites such as these allowed research to identify a total of two trends that are currently shaping the meatless meat industry, as well as two trends that are expected to impact the meatless meat industry in the future.