If it tastes great on pizza, does it matter if the plant-based product resembles a cut of spicy pork? Beyond Meat, a plant-based maker of meat substitutes, has been struggling to nail a pepperoni dupe, reports Bloomberg.
The brand was set to bring a number of meat alternatives to KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, but has yet to successfully deliver on that promise. The Beyond Fried Chicken “nuggets” (we all know they’re nuggets even if KFC refuses to call a spade a spade) took three years to make their debut at KFC. On top of that, despite it being in development since October of 2021, Beyond’s carne asada meant for Taco Bell has yet to be tested in a restaurant.
All of this struggle to replicate meat products with plant-based ingredients, brings up an interesting question, one that might be crucial to a brand like Beyond Meat: Does every meat need to have a plant-based substitute?
Plant-based can just be
Before there was Impossible or Beyond or any other brand looking to ape meat, there were just proteins out there that were not meat and weren’t trying to be. Options like tofu, seitan, and tempeh were all staples of a non-meat eaters diet and still are for some.
In fact, at the height of the pandemic, tofu had an intense spike in popularity (options like Impossible and Beyond Meat were also available to the public), reported The Washington Post. Sales and Google searches for tofu recipes were doubling, perhaps because of a meat shortage at the time or because most tofu was vegetarian, vegan, and affordable at a time when the economy was suffering due to COVID. Whatever the reasons, tofu was having a moment and no one was asking why it didn’t look more like pepperoni.
Yes, there was a time when people didn’t understand plant-based proteins or had a misconception that they couldn’t be delicious, but we’ve reached a point now where many are open to at least trying these non-meat proteins. A survey from the International Food Information Council, a nonprofit educational organization, found that 24% of adults were consuming more protein from plant sources in the past year and another survey from the same organization found that 28% had tried plant alternatives to animal meat in 2020.
I’m not saying that meat substitutes that mimic meat shouldn’t exist. What I’m saying is that there’s no need to try that hard to make a plant-based product into something that it just isn’t. At this point, enough people are at least aware of plant-based meat alternatives that there’s no need to try to trick their taste buds. Focus on creating flavorful, fully vegan or vegetarian products, and the food will sell itself.