Meat Alternatives: 5 Innovative Product Trends to Watch

From gourmet jackfruit jerky to direct-to-consumer veggie burgers, innovations in the meat alternatives category have made this an exciting space to watch. Explore some of the trends in meatless meats that are shaping the future of the category.

2021’s Innovative Trends in Plant-Based Meats

Alternative meats are growing everywhere—from private label supermarket brands to fast food chains. Consumer interest in environmental sustainability, health, and culinary adventure continues to drive this category forward. Here’s a look at five trends in the meat alternatives category to watch in 2021:

1. Plant-Based Seafood

Many believe 2021 is the year for plant-based seafood. Following the news that Good Catch plant-based seafood (which includes tuna and crab cakes) is expanding across Europe, New Wave Foods announced its plans to launch a plant-based shrimp into U.S. foodservice this year. With Tyson Ventures as a key investor, New Wave Foods recently received $18 million to scale up production. Also this year, Schouten launched its Vegan Green Tuna.

2. Fast Food Tacos and Pizzas with Meatless Meat

The trend in fast food meatless meats is officially expanding beyond burgers. We’ve been watching as chains such as Burger King, Carl’s Jr., White Castle, and (more recently) McDonald’s embrace the plant-based burger. Now, Pizza Hut’s limited-time release of its Beyond Italian Sausage Pizza and the planned 2021 launch of Taco Bell’s Cravetarian Taco further expand consumers' grab-and-go plant-based options.


3. Plant-Based Heat-and-Eat Meals

In retail, innovation is running high in plant-based prepared meals. Sweet Earth was an early leader, making its mark with protein-rich plant-based burritos and bowls and —since Nestle’s acquisition—adding pizzas to the lineup. Gardein is also expanding in the frozen aisle with plant-based skillet meals perfect for a family dinner and pocket meals for a quick lunch. Upton’s, known for its seasoned seitan, is now addressing consumers’ needs for convenient plant-based meal solutions with its line of canned soups (including Italian Wedding and Chick & Noodle) made with seitan.

4. Gourmet Deli Meatless Meats

Sophisticated ingredients and winning flavors are taking plant-based deli meats to the next level, giving plant-forward consumers a delicious and healthy way to upgrade a simple sandwich. Options include Field Roast’s Plant-Based Deli Slices in Mushroom & Balsamic, Lentil & Sage, and Smoked Tomato and Unreal Deli’s Corn’d Beef and Roasted Turk’y Plant-Based Deli Slices—available in New York City delis. Sweet Earth is also innovating in this space, with three deli slice products recently launched.

5. Plant-Based Fine Dining

Michelin-starred New York City restaurant Eleven Madison Park recently rocked the food world with its announcement that it would be reopening post-pandemic as a vegan restaurant, citing sustainability concerns. Chef Daniel Humm explained that while ingredient costs would go down, labor would increase as the staff tackles the high-level innovation needed to transform the menu to 100% plant-based—no small feat for a restaurant accustomed to serving smoked caviar and lavender glazed duck. Expect plant-based meats to gain prominence in fine dining as other restaurants become inspired to up their plant-based game.

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Transforming the Future of Food

As the food industry continues to innovate in plant-based meats, keeping up with trends to understand the benefits consumers are seeking beyond health and sustainability, such as convenience and delicious taste, is essential. Innovators looking to make their mark in the meat alternatives category collaborate with Glanbia Nutritionals—a leader in plant-based proteins and Simpleat™ clean label plant-based meat solutions—to make the plant-based meats of the future.

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