More grocery shoppers are trying dairy- and meat-free alternatives, according to a new national health food study by Earth Balance, which makes a line of vegan buttery spreads, nut butters, dressings and snacks. Two thousand consumers were polled for the study, which looked at which new foods they’re trying, their top motivators and trends in healthy eating.
When asked which factors are most important to them when shopping for food, respondents said buying local (37 percent), organic (33 percent) and non-GMO (30 percent) are key. Additionally, Americans are more willing to try better-for-you-foods, with the study showing the most-tried are healthy snacks, dairy alternatives and oil alternatives.
Dairy alternatives have been tried by 29 percent of respondents. Superfoods (e.g., chia, acai and quinoa), alternative snacks (e.g., gluten-free crackers, nut butters and Greek yogurt) and alternative oils (e.g., avocado, coconut and sunflower) have been tried by 28 percent of respondents, and 18 percent have tried plant-based proteins, such as hemp hearts, lentils and spirulina.
Almost half, 42 percent, of consumers said they know more about plant-based diets now compared to five years ago, and 43 percent are more likely to try plant-based alternatives today. Thirteen percent also report trying a vegetarian lifestyle.
What’s more, over half said they’ve tried dairy-free alternatives such as dairy-free milk, cheese and yogurt. Sixty-three percent have tried plant-based protein alternatives, with tofu, meatless burgers and meatless hot dogs topping the list.
By Lorrie Baumann
Boulder Organic Foods is a fast-growing maker of fresh soups that are sold out of grocers’ refrigerated cases. “We started here locally in Boulder [Colorado] in a handful of stores, and today we’re in more than 2,000 stores nationwide in pretty much every major market in the country,” said CEO Greg Powers. “We are a dedicated organic, gluten free and non-GMO company. Everything we produce reflects those three attributes.”
The company was started just seven years ago by Kate Brown, a single mom who was looking for healthier fresh soup options. She made several shopping trips to local stores looking for a gluten-free soup brand that would meet her own dietary needs and that would also meet her goals for the food she wanted to give her daughter. When she didn’t find any, she decided to make her own.
After she began serving her soups to friends and family, one of those friends referred her products to the local Whole Foods store, which asked her to make the soup for sale there. At that point, she put together a business plan and spent a year or two coming up with recipes for commercial quantities of her soups and launched her new food business in early 2009. Powers joined the company several months later. “I joined her having a background in business, and between the two of us, with her passion and talent for cooking and her skills at coming up with new recipes, and my background in business, we built this company,” he said. “We’ve doubled our size every year since we began. It’s fast growth, but it’s also thoughtful growth. We’ve been very sure to keep the same quality, working with many of the same suppliers we worked with when we started years ago.”
Today, the company makes eight to 12 different soups at any given time – a core set that includes Roasted Tomato Basil, Garden Minestrone, Potato Leek, Red Lentil Dahl and Golden Quinoa and Kale soups, along with a rotating list of seasonal offerings in its SQF level 3 plant in Boulder, Colorado. Three new soups – Tomato Bisque, Broccoli Cheddar and Bacon Potato Corn Chowder – are launching early this month in Target stores.
Boulder Organic! packages most of its soups in 24-ounce containers. The serving size is identified as eight ounces, which works when it’s served as a side dish, but most people will want a bit more than that if they’re eating it as an entree, so in practice, most consumers will regard the 24-ounce container as enough to feed two people, Powers said. For club stores, the 24-ounce containers are bundled into a 2-pack, and Target carries a 16-ounce container.
While some of the Boulder Organic! soups are mostly vegetables with chicken stock in the base, many are vegetarian and a few include animal protein along with the vegetables. The heavy emphasis on vegetables in the ingredient deck is partly a response to the local market in Boulder, Powers said. “We have a very active vegetarian community in Boulder. For our little market, it was a good fit. It was a good way to start the company and produce products that would fit with our community.”
The company maintains its commitment to being a socially responsible woman-owned business, and 2 percent of its production is donated to a local food bank. “We try to treat all of our employees fairly and we have a very flat organizational structure,” Powers said. Employees are paid a living wage, and the company’s operations are zero waste, with everything that isn’t used up being composted or recycled. “We’re constantly looking for ways to reduce our environmental footprint further,” Powers said. “We also take food safety very seriously.”
Explore Cuisine will be launching its new Thai Rice Noodles at Expo East 2016. There are two varieties.
Brown Rice Pad Thai Noodles are made with organic, nutrient-rich whole grains. Brown Rice Pad Thai Noodles take the guesswork out of gluten-free Asian cooking by providing you with Pad Thai Noodles that are perfectly packed in a 2-ounce package.
Red Rice Pad Thai Noodles utilize nutritious red rice grain for authentic texture. Explore Cuisine’s Red Rice Pad Thai Noodles are a healthy alternative to traditional Pad Thai. With 4g of protein, this three-ingredient Pad Thai pasta is made with whole foods directly from the farm.
These pastas are certified organic and vegan, non-GMO and gluten free. They’re high in protein and fiber.
For 10 years, Against The Grain has been going against the trend towards food industrialization. It combines the highest quality, whole ingredients in unique ways to produce naturally gluten-free, minimally-processed products. It doesn’t compromise in taste and texture either.
Plant-based products are a new departure for Against The Grain. Its best-selling gluten-free bread and pizza products have always relied on animal protein, but when faced with the opportunity to develop a new line of products, it asked, why not create a plant-based product that was both gluten-free and grain-free? The new 100 percent plant-based Ginger Cookies and Chocolate Chip Cookies are just that. They are rich and buttery-tasting, soft and chewy, and made with real ingredients and no gums, binders, emulsifiers or preservatives. What it offers is a very satisfying, responsible indulgence that is easier on the planet.
About Against The Grain Gourmet
Against The Grain Gourmet is a celiac family-owned wholesale manufacturer of frozen gluten-free bread, pizza and cookie products located in Brattleboro, Vermont. It is also the only national gluten-free and grain-free bakery. The company’s products are made with a minimal number of ingredients with no preservatives or additives in its dedicated gluten-free and nut-free facility. It prides itself on paying its production staff the highest wages and the best benefits package in the industry.
By Greg Gonzales
Ask vegans where they get their protein these days, and eyes are sure to roll. Consumers, especially millennials, are adding more plant-based proteins to their diet than ever before. Their reasons vary, but tend to include health, sustainability and ethical concerns. “At the current trends of food consumption and environmental changes, food security and food sustainability are on a collision course,” says a 2014 American Society for Nutrition study. “Policies in favor of the global adoption of plant-based diets will simultaneously optimize the food supply, health, environmental and social justice outcomes for the world’s population.” Whatever their reasons for incorporating more plant-based protein into their diets, plant-based alternatives are one of the biggest trends this year.
According to Mintel’s 2016 Global Food and Drink Trends report, the increase in novel protein sources appeals to a wider variety of consumers, and indicates that the “alternative” marketplace might take over the mainstream animal-based market. As early as 2013, Mintel reported that more than one-third of U.S. consumers had purchased a meat alternative such as Tofurky or Beyond Meat. Seventy percent of Millennials consume meat alternatives a few times a week, with one-third of them consuming a meat alternative daily.
Some of them are switching to plant-based diets, or not eating as much meat, as a health choice. Recent research from the World Health Organization and other institutions have linked processed meat and red meat consumption to colon cancer, and other forms of cancer. Meat is also rich in saturated fats and sodium, which is bad for heart health when it dominates the diet. According to a Harvard study, replacing these fat-rich meats with foods rich in polyunsaturated fats, like nuts or seeds, reduced heart disease risk by 19 percent. Another study, from Imperial College London, showed that reduced meat consumption also helps prevent obesity in the long term. In addition, a look at the nutrition facts on meat versus peas or beans shows that the latter can provide more fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals without the extra fat the former adds. Reducing meat intake and substituting vegetables provides all the daily dietary requirements.
Consumers have also reduced their meat intake in the name of animal welfare and environment. For example, more than 8 billion chickens were slaughtered for meat in 2014, most of them living in cages too small to move around in. Some argue that this kind of pain and suffering of the animals is enough for them to make the switch, though consumers might also point to environmental factors as well. Chef and Restaurateur Dan Barber writes in his book, “The Third Plate,” that “Fixtures of agribusiness such as five-thousand-acre grain monocultures and bloated animal feedlots are no more the future of farming than eighteenth-century factories billowing black smoke are the future of manufacturing.” Barber argues in interviews, books and Ted Talks that agriculture, cooking and nature go hand-in-hand, that foods produced along with the local ecosystem are sustainable and even taste better.
Reasons for eating more plants and less meat aside, available alternatives to animal proteins run the gamut of protein sources. Quorn‘s patties and strips get their protein from a fungus to mimic the taste and texture of chicken, while Gardein’s formulation for chicken, fish and burgers do the same using vital wheat gluten. Beyond Meat’s products use a variety of sources, including pea protein, to mimic meats like chicken and beef. Vegans can still enjoy their morning eggs with Follow Your Heart’s VeganEgg, a completely vegan egg product made from algae that cooks up in a pan just like the real thing. Bean burgers, mushrooms, jackfruit, tempeh, tofu, seitan and texturized vegetable protein are just some of the other ways consumers are pushing meat proteins further off their plates. From Paleo to vegan and gluten-free, there’s something for every individual.
“People need the information so they can make their choice, even in the space of non-meat proteins,” said Minh Tsai, Founder and CEO of Hodo Soy. “Even now, there’s a lot of choices. With information, both in terms of what it tastes like and what the ingredients are, customers will have that info and make the right choice when it comes to taste, and when it comes to health.”
Sioux Natural is introducing Veggan, a plant-based egg substitute that matches the nutritional and functional properties of whole eggs in baking, while minimizing the health risks we’ve come to know with conventional eggs. The new product comes much to the relief of chickens, vegans, and those with egg allergies everywhere as well as those watching their cholesterol.
“We are proud to offer a clean, plant-based, allergen-free egg alternative in a time where large-scale egg production can’t keep up with maintaining the health and safety of their flocks or their eggs,” said Paula Persinger, President of Sioux Natural, LLC. “Veggan is a natural choice for people avoiding animal products, allergens, and GMOs, and for the companies who’d like to make food for them while also benefiting from cost and risk reduction.”
Since Veggan is created through sustainable, minimally processed, GRAS-certified ingredients, it virtually eliminates the risks we’ve come to recognize—and bear—from large-scale egg production practices. The product offers identical performance: Veggan offers a 1:1 volume and weight substitution, which eliminates the need for additional allowances or reformulations.
Veggan’s ingredients are available and easily sourced at a cost savings to eggs. Without having to rely on flock health, using plant-based Veggan minimizes the huge price increases that occur when chicken populations are fighting widespread illness, like the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in 2015. Not only is Veggan immune to bird illnesses, it also substantially reduces the microbial risk for salmonella and listeria in a way that large-scale egg production simply can’t. When eggs get recalled, so do every product and recipe they touch. Using Veggan helps preserve corporate bottom lines, company reputations, and the health of the end-consumer.
Replacing eggs with Veggan also allows the baking industry to expand their product offering to customers with gluten, cholesterol, and environmental sensitivities. With its amazing functionality, neutral flavor profile, and clean label, Veggan is a clear choice for waffles, donuts, breads, cakes, muffins, cookies, and more.
“It’s always refreshing when science can make good, wholesome food healthier and more accessible,” adds Persinger. “And it’s exciting to see a product that has just as many applications in Grandma’s kitchen as it does in large-scale baking operations.”
By Lorrie Baumann
Demand for a vegan product that scrambles like a real egg has exceeded the expectations of its maker. “We’ve never had a launch like this on a product. Stores are selling – one sold 700 in the first week. Another ordered 500 and sold out in a week. The volumes are just through the roof,” says CEO and Co-founder of Follow Your Heart Bob Goldberg about VeganEgg.
Goldberg is no stranger to product launches. Follow Your Heart products include Vegenaise, an egg-free, dairy-free mayonnaise alternative and Vegan Gourmet cheese alternatives. “But there was a missing piece. No one had come up with a good replacement for an egg, although there were substitutes that could be used in baking,” Goldberg says. “A lot of people made tofu scrambles, which was a way of filling that gap, but not really well…. The challenge was an authentic representation of what eating scrambled eggs was.”
After several years of thinking about the problem, Goldberg learned about research with microalgae three or four years ago. By manipulating growing conditions and feedstocks, scientists were able to manipulate the algae to make a lot of different effects, from fiber to vegetable oils to complete protein foods. “The particular product that we use does not use genetically engineered algae because that’s against our ethic here,” Goldberg says. “Everything we do here is non-GMO.”
VeganEgg came out of that research, in which the scientists found that in addition to creating plant-based foods that did a good job of replicating the experience of eating animal foods, they were making foods that are sustainable in ways that other foods aren’t. For instance, 100 VeganEggs can be made with the same water that’s required to produce just one chicken egg, Goldberg says, adding, “A lot of chemical fertilizer and pesticides are used to grow the chicken feed necessary for egg production. All of that is avoided with a plant based egg substitute. Even the water in the process is recycled…. It’s a very sustainable product, leaving aside all of the issues having to do with animal welfare and factory farming, which is an issue for a lot of people.”
The product appeals, not just to committed vegans, but also to those who are thinking about ways to remain omnivorous but still reduce the amount of animal products they’re eating for a variety of reasons. Follow Your Heart’s target market for VeganEgg includes people who care about a wide range of issues: people who are looking for a healthier diet, people who are concerned with animal welfare and humane treatment of animals and people who are concerned about the environmental degradation from the way that much of our food is produced, Goldberg says.
He adds that, just as many people who eat meat and don’t necessarily have any intention of eliminating meat from their diet have become interested in meat analogs as a way of reducing their dependence on meat, he expects that there are those who avoid eggs for health, religious or ethical reasons but who’d still enjoy the experience of a fluffy omelet or breakfast scramble if they could have it without guilt. “People moving from the typical western diet to a diet that’s really wholly plant-based is so far down the road that there will be long time in which people in transition will be looking for foods that are familiar,” he says. “At that point, they may say they don’t need that. But we’re a long, long way from getting there.”
VeganEgg is manufactured in California. It’s gluten free, allergen free and cholesterol free, and it provides both calcium and fiber. It’s also shelf-stable with a six-month shelf life. It comes as a pale yellow powder packed in a package made of recycled paper that resembles an egg carton. To prepare a scrambled “egg,” the user mixes two tablespoons of the powder with half a cup of ice-cold water and whisks it into a yellow batter that’s ready for the skillet. “Just adding cold water is easier than cracking an egg,” Goldberg says. “Unless you’re really good at cracking eggs.” A 4-ounce package that substitutes for a dozen eggs retails for $6.99 – $7.99.
By Lorrie Baumann
Sweet Earth Natural Foods, which makes award winning, all natural plant-based foods, is on a mission to persuade more Americans that plant-based foods can be an affordable, convenient and delicious way to eat less meat. “Our food is plant based, but not just for vegetarians and vegans – everyone wants to eat more vegetables and whole grains,” said Sweet Earth Natural Foods CEO Kelly Swette. “We want mainstream customers who are trying to eat less meat because they recognize it has a negative effect on their health and the environment. Plant-based foods are simply more sustainable.”
Sweet Earth offers a range of heat-and-eat products made with plant-based meat alternatives that consumers will recognize as options for multiple day parts, starting with breakfast. They include burritos, veggie burgers, seed based energy bars and the company’s newest products, Farmstand Flaxbread Breakfast Sandwiches, which respond to the breakfast-food-all-day trend that fast food restaurants are embracing enthusiastically. “It’s nice for people to have a delicious portable option that doesn’t require a spoon. And, that portability is what makes breakfast all day work,” Swette said.
“Breakfast sandwiches are also for people who want comfort convenient foods without compromising flavor,” she added. “We see that as one of the areas where we have been particularly innovative.”
The Farmstead Flaxbread Breakfast Sandwiches come in the kind of range you’d expect from a line of breakfast sandwiches, except that a plant-based meat alternative has replaced the sausage, bacon or ham you’d find in a conventional breakfast sandwich. One variety comes with cage free eggs, sharp cheddar and meatless Benevolent Bacon™ on a bun made with whole wheat, oat bran and flaxseed. This variety provides 14.5 grams of whole grains, 22 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Other varieties are similar, and there’s even a vegan version in which meatless Harmless Ham™, a spicy chickpea patty and a sun-dried tomato spread are sandwiched on the bun. Each variety is packaged as a two-pack that retails for $4.49. Swette notes, “We have a version that’s vegan, but we also have egg sandwiches too. We’ve chosen mainstream flavors like ham and Swiss, bacon and Cheddar that people love. We know that people are interested in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, but we also think they are increasingly looking for clean proteins, free of preservatives, hormones and antibiotics.”
Sweet Earth’s burrito line also hits the mark on portability and convenience. There’s a line that’s designed around breakfast flavors and a range that’s based on food truck-type fusions of international flavors. The Peruvian Burrito, for instance, is filled with black beans, red quinoa, sweet potato, goat cheese, roasted corn and spirulina, while the Santa Cruz is filled with a classic Southwest blend of pinto beans, Monterey Jack cheese, oregano and a tangy salsa.
Sweet Earth’s products are, in general, not for the consumer who’s avoiding gluten. “That really isn’t our point of view,” Swette said. “We are more focused on what we put into the product: real vegetables, whole grains, and the natural consequences are more fiber, vitamins and inherently healthy food.”
Sweet Earth Natural Foods products are distributed by UNFI and are available in Whole Foods, Target, Kroger and other retailers nationwide.
Follow Your Heart, makers of egg-free foods since the 70s, and the producers of the leading vegetarian mayonnaise alternative, Vegenaise®, will launch a 100 percent plant-based whole egg replacer called VeganEgg™ to the public in early November. With egg prices at an all-time high and an increased need for a more sustainable egg alternative, Follow Your Heart is pleased to announce that VeganEgg has finally hatched. VeganEgg is an entirely egg-free, cholesterol-free egg replacer that emulates the flavor, texture and functional properties of eggs, and even makes scrambles, quiches, frittatas, as well as replaces eggs in baked goods.
The team at Follow Your Heart has always kept sustainability top-of-mind. From their own solar-powered production facility, to their entirely plant-based lineup of retail products, founders Bob Goldberg and Paul Lewin have long sought to provide their customers with better food options for both health and the environment. “Enormous amounts of water, resources and fossil fuels go into chicken and egg production, not to mention the inhumane conditions that many of these animals are subjected to,” said Goldberg, President and CEO of Follow Your Heart. “We have been working toward VeganEgg for over a decade now, and there were many challenges that we overcame before developing a product that could truly replace eggs.”
As long-standing innovators in the natural foods marketplace, Follow Your Heart is introducing two new ingredients in VeganEgg: “algal flour” and “algal protein,” both derived from a natural microalgae. “When we discovered that microalgae are a highly-sustainable source of nutritionally rich ingredients, we immediately knew they could help us make better plant-based foods,” said Goldberg. Whole algal flour and protein naturally contain high levels of healthy lipids, carbohydrates and micronutrients. These nutrient-dense microalgae also contain all essential amino acids and are a great source of dietary fiber. While not all of VeganEgg’s ingredients can be found in the traditional kitchen pantry, together they create an egg alternative well suited for use in cookies, muffins, cakes and fluffy scrambles and omelets.
All of the ingredients in VeganEgg are plant-based, allergen-free and non-GMO. In addition to functioning like eggs, VeganEgg is a good source of dietary fiber (4g per serving) and calcium (10 percent DV per serving), contains fewer calories and has less than half the fat of eggs.
VeganEgg will initially be available online through Amazon.com for $6.99 – $7.99. Each 4-ounce package of VeganEgg will produce the equivalent of a dozen eggs. The shelf life of VeganEgg is six months from date of manufacture.
By Dan Wilkins
Meat alternative Quorn, the market leader in the U.S. natural foods channel, is quickly gaining mainstream acceptance for a product line whose protein comes from fungi. “The specific type of fungi allows the mimicking of the taste of real meat with much better health benefits,” says Sanjay Panchal, General Manager of Quorn Foods USA. The Mycoprotein in Quorn products is a complete protein that’s naturally low in saturated fat and high in fiber, according to Panchal. “It has as much protein as an egg, as much fiber as broccoli,” he said.
The products contain no soy or GMOs, and the protein source is also environmentally friendly, with a carbon and water footprint that’s about 90 percent less than beef and 75 percent less than chicken, Panchal said. “In addition to the great health benefits and environmental benefits, our food just tastes amazing,” he said. “I’ve got three sons, age 9, 7 and 3, and we, probably once or twice a week, we replace their chicken nuggets with Quorn nuggets, and they Hoover them.”
Five products in the Quorn line are gluten free: Grounds, a product that substitutes for crumbled ground meat; Chik’n Tenders; Chik’n Cutlet, Turk’y Roast and Bacon Style Slices. “It gives folks looking for a gluten-free option another opportunity to use a food like ours in their recipes to satisfy their specific dietary restrictions,” Panchal said.
Quorn appeals to consumers who want to eat less meat but also want both convenience and the flexibility to adapt recipes that already work for them. “Our food doesn’t just attract vegetarians,” he added. “What you’ll find is people like our family who are complete carnivores, but if they’re looking for a way to reduce the meat in their diet, for whatever reason, this appeals. The appeal of a meat alternative, and Quorn specifically, is very broad and broadening…. Our growth rate year to date is 29 percent in sales versus a year ago and growing across all channels. We’re really pleased with our performance.”
The product line includes options like Grounds that will work for the consumer who has the time and the desire to cook meals like spaghetti Bolognese from scratch but also includes heat and eat options like Jalapeno and Three Cheese Stuffed Chik’n Cutlets for the consumer who values speed and convenience. “It’s really easy to prepare on weeknights. It’s basically straight out of the freezer and into the pan or the oven,” Panchal said. “With the nuggets, it’s 10 minutes to eating it…. With the Grounds, you mix it with a little water, taco seasoning and cheese and make it into a quesadilla. It’s a really simple food to make, and that’s why we like it as a family.”
Quorn products retail for $3.69 to $4.99 every day, depending on the retailer, for a package that serves four people. Quorn is distributed nationally.