The evolution of a plant-based alternative to meat
From niche markets to widely accepted meat alternatives
Plant-based alternatives to meat are a growing market segment. The European LikeMeat project investigated consumers’ motivation for shifting their diets towards meat alternatives and developed a meat alternative product that resembles the fibrous structure, bite and juicy mouth-feel of meat. In a high moisture cooking extrusion process, plant proteins are converted to a base product that has a meat-like structure. Various protein sources and their combinations with further food ingredients were tested to develop this base product, including the creation of flavour components and the addition of aroma ingredients and spices. Furthermore, focus was put on the microbiota. Microbiota were analysed in raw materials as were their inactivation rates during the cooking extrusion process and their potential growth in the refined and packed food product. The LikeMeat base product serves as the base for a wide range of food preparations.
A growing awareness in the population about healthy and sustainable foods has led to a rising interest in plant protein based meat alternatives in many European countries and worldwide. The new consumer group of “flexitarians”, who reduce their meat consumption in their daily diet, is growing rapidly (1). This change in eating pattern requires new products that fulfil consumer demands of healthy and tasty products which both replace the function of meat in a dish and contribute a similar high protein nutritional value. A consortium of academic researchers, along with small and medium sized enterprises, developed new meat alternatives within the European research project “LikeMeat“ (11/2010-02/2013). This consortium simultaneously addressed