Aisle Spy

New plant-based products promise none of the guilt but all of the pleasure

Waitrose’s range is made from a new soy protein, as meat-free foods continue to be the subject of experimentation.

25 October 2017

Sinking its teeth into meat-free foods, Waitrose has just (literally today) launched a range designed to appeal to flexitarians. These juicy products are made using a new soy protein that, according to the supermarket, has both the appearance and the flavour of real meat.

We can see the ecstatic target market now; those conflicted souls who salivate over the thought of a plump chicken or tender beef between their teeth, but have niggling health and environmental concerns about indulging in the real McCoy for breakfast, lunch and dinner. To the rescue comes the latest innovation in plant-based food, riding in on a white horse (not for consumption) to save the day.

In the words of Chloe Grave, a Waitrose vegetarian buyer, it’s specifically aimed at those “who want to reduce their meat intake without the compromise.”

Importing expertise

The 30 new dishes are being made in partnership with The Vegetarian Butcher, a Dutch outfit founded by Jaap Korteweg. The former cattle farmer says on his company’s website that he wanted to become a vegetarian, but “missed the taste of meat so much, that he promised himself he would only eat meat when he went out for a meal.”

So he set about developing meat substitutes to fool the brain, resulting in vegan nochicken chunks, vegetarian nomeatballs and vegetarian notuna. Okay, so the names are less than genius, but the plant-protein-based inventions have attracted interest across Europe. Cities in Switzerland, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands all stock Korteweg inventions, as do stores like Alara and Natural Health in London.

A hard habit to break

It would appear Korteweg isn’t the only one who can’t entirely kick the meat habit, as the growth of the flexitarian demographic has shown. Mintel reckons that 28% of Brits cut back on their consumption in the first half of the year.

Waitrose’s fresh offerings could be a boon for these consumers. The goodies include tikka masala and lasagne made using the soy protein, as well as more pure (but consciously stylish) veggie fare like beetroot burgers and arancini.

“Vegetarian meals are one of our fastest-growing categories, with sales up 14% year on year,” Grave noted, “and we know this will only get bigger.”

There’s been a lot of buzz about similar meat-substitute ventures Impossible Food and Beyond Meat. However, neither innovator has made it out of the States yet. As Waitrose brings the Vegetarian Butcher’s products within easy access of everyday consumers, it will be interesting to see if the American companies can get into Europe before more local businesses sew up the market.

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