Meat doesn’t have the best image right now, with more people going vegan and even a sin tax predicted within the next five years. But it doesn’t have to be all carrot or stick, as the rise in people following a flexitarian diet does mean opportunities exist.
And it turns out that meat and vegetables can be friends. Particularly when you combine them into much-loved British eats: the banger and the burger.
This month, Waitrose launched new meat sausages which were packed with up to 35% fruit, vegetables or pulses. The sausages were specifically developed for shoppers looking to reduce their meat intake.
Amongst the range were combinations like pork, butternut squash, quinoa and kale; pork, butterbean, lentil and garlic; and pork, chickpea, spinach and tomato. Also featured: chipolatas with mixed pulses, along with beef meatballs and mince with pulses. It’s no banana and pork, but we’re still intrigued.
Putting out the flexitarian feelers
Waitrose may be putting itself out on a limb, however. The radio silence from the majority of meat manufacturers Food Spark contacted suggests the UK may not have embraced the idea – unless people are keeping very quiet because of similar offerings in the works.
One company that is investing in a flexitarian future, however, is Kezie Food. Their products in this line are generally a mixture of meat with an addition of up to 20% more vegetables.
Currently, the brand has buffalo and mushroom burgers, but it is also working on its NPD, such as patties that will include beans as well as onions.
Cole Mather from Kezie Foods says flexitarianism has been an area of growing interest for several years for the company.
“Following this trend, we knew this would be a good way to offer people a healthier choice for their meat products,” he says. “We are aware of new products such as the Beyond Meat burgers [which offers plant-based patties] and the vegetarian butcher ranges. However, as these are mainly untested in the UK market, we wouldn’t be looking to start our own development on these yet.”
Another recent development is producing free-from burgers and sausages, says Mather.
“Kezie is also striving for low-fat options to give our customers more choice when they shop. Meat is almost certainly going to remain as the staple product for Kezie, but we already produce vegetarian products for other companies and help to develop new products for them as well. So who knows what we’ll be working on this time next year,” he says.
Going all the way
The independent UK sausage company Heck took a hell of a gamble on a meat-free range in 2016. It included ‘sausages’ with cashews, two cheeses, flax and chia seeds, plus a dash of chilli. There were also veggie balls with quinoa, spinach, kale and ginger, and a quinoa, goat’s cheese and caramelised onion burger.
Andrew Keeble, who founded Heck with wife Debbie, said at the time that the company started as a meat business, but markets and people change. All of the company’s new product development takes place in-house, and it ploughs 15% of its turnover back into innovation each year.
But while its website shows the balls are still going strong, with an extended range, the sausages and burger are nowhere to be seen.
What do you think Sparkie: did Heck’s move inspire others in the industry, or were their veggie sausages just a flash in the pan?
I think a lot of meat companies would be looking at what Heck have done with launching a veg range – for a meat company to do that is very brave, but it’s propelled the brand and a lot will be following suit.
This taps into the trend for flexitarian products, and from a manufacturer’s perspective it’s far cheaper to not have to use protein or have less protein, plus there is the added bonus of a CSR or health message. So it’s a win-win really, if you can sell it with a positive message and save money.
There is a quite a large appetite for it from consumers, and research shows they don’t really care about the meat to veg ratio. It’s about the flavour profile and whether it sounds good. Plus, people are thinking less meat is even better anyway.