Growing consciousness about mindful and healthy eating has prompted a change in the food and beverages landscape of the country in the last few years — be it the awareness around vegetarian or vegan food, or ditching animal-based meat for ethical reasons. There has been an increase in people vouching for plant-based/vegan or mock meats. Often found on restaurant menus today, mock meats replicate the taste, flavour, texture and visual appeal of animal-based meat but make use of “sustainable and naturally available alternatives” to push for “better products — both in terms of nutrition, and environment”.
“We are on a mission to revolutionise how the world eats meat. To avoid another pandemic, it is important to cut down on the consumption of meat. Our products are aimed at non-vegetarian eaters who want to switch to healthier, environment-friendly food without compromising on the taste of their favourite dishes. Our scientists have been successful in identifying what gives meat its unique texture and taste and so our products taste, look, feel and cook exactly like meat,” Sohil Wazir, Chief Marketing Officer of BlueTribeFoods, a Mumbai-based company that offers minced chicken and chicken nuggets made from soy and pea extracts.
What are the common meat substitutes?
There are a variety of meat substitutes in the market including soy, green peas, jackfruit, wheat gluten (Seitan) and beans of all types. “Most of the meat substitutes are mixed with whole grains, nuts and seeds to provide a varied texture to mimic meat and enhance nutritional value,” explained Dt Lakshita Jain, Certified Clinical Dietician, Meat Technologist and Founder, NUTR.
Agreed Sairaj G Dhond, Founder and CEO, Wakao Foods, a company that offers jackfruit-based products. He said recent changes have encouraged people to explore sustainable food options, leading to a surge in demand for plant-based meat. “Currently, the alternatives for meat are limited to soya chunks and mushrooms for vegans and cottage cheese for vegetarians. Jackfruit, being the new entrant to the industry, has been generating a ton of buzz and gaining popularity because of its meat-like texture and versatility. The fruit is popularly known as a superfood because of its multiple nutritional benefits and defines itself as the perfect alternative to meat because of its unique characteristics.”
What benefits does mock meat offer?
Mock meat is known to score brownie points when it comes to having low calories and fat content as well as being a good source of protein and fibre. Multiple studies have shown that replacing animal meat with faux meat alone can cut down the risk of heart-related diseases, blood pressure, cancer, and diabetes.
Dt Jain said mock meat options are great for people who are advised to avoid or limit their red meat consumption. “Diabetes, cholesterol and hormonal imbalance and PCOS are few conditions where going meat-free can be beneficial.”
BlueTribeFoods, which started operating in 2019 and has now expanded to eight cities in India, mention that their products retain the same nutrient profile minus the cholesterol and excessive salt content. “Created with intensive research and innovation in food science and technology under Dr Navneet Singh Deora, PhD, the company’s plant-based meat offerings contain the same concentration of proteins, minerals and other nutrients that you would get from animal meat. With no antibiotics, steroids, GMO or hormones, these cholesterol-free products are low on sodium and environment-friendly,” said Wazir.
The substitutes are also lower in calories and cholesterol than the regular chicken meal, mentioned Dt Jain. “It can also help in reducing fat intake by 80 percent compared to conventional meat. Also, mock meat is cholesterol-free, low in saturated fats and high in fibre,” she said.
What should you be mindful of?
Read the label and avoid it if it contains edible refined oil like palm oil, sugar, modified food starch and colourants as its first three ingredients. Also, check sodium and fat percentage before buying, Dt Jain suggested. “There is no black and white answer which one is healthier. Vegan substitutes/ mock meat can be equally unhealthy. Limit the intake to 2-3 times a week,” she said.
What’s the connection between meat consumption and the environment?
According to an India Bioscience report, the per capita annual consumption of meat increased to 4.4 kg per person in 2019, placing pressure on production lines. This, in turn, has resulted in greater demands for water and land resources for rearing livestock.
New Delhi-based Jadwani mentioned, “I think meat analogues are a very good replacement for meat products as they require less water, grain and we are able to conserve our vital natural resources. This in the long term impacts our health, environment and is soul-friendly (guilt-free).”
According to Mock meat and its role in health: A review, published in February 2021, the younger population is inclined towards reduced meat consumption due to environmental reasons. At the same time, the pandemic is accelerating the consumption of meat-alternative products as consumers become more climate-conscious and vegan diets gain ground globally, it noted.
Last year, during the peak of the pandemic, Bollywood actors Riteish Deshmukh and Genelia D’Souza, who turned vegan four years ago, announced the launch of Imagine Meats, a plant-based meat foods company. “We’re not looking at changing everyone. This is a new market, it’s a niche and emerging market. Of course, there is a future where everyone is thinking of plant-based food, and it’s fantastic,” Deshmukh said.
According to experts, the demand for mock meat is ascending and it will only quadruple in the coming years. “The alternate meat option will serve as a healthy choice to many and a fun new option for vegetarian consumers and people who have adopted veganism,” said Dhond.