Hybrid foods “strike a balance” between sustainable eating and optimal flavor without compromise
23 Nov 2022 --- Hybrid protein food products are retaining their position as an attractive market opportunity, as more consumers reduce their animal ingredient intake. Suppliers believe that hybrid products meet the demand for sustainable, healthy nutrition while offering authentic flavors and familiar textures that meat-eaters know and love.
FoodIngredientsFirst explores the space of hybrid food innovation. As the market for hybrid food develops, so will its meaning.
Notably, the initial demand for hybrid food products developed from the need for more plant-based solutions. In line with Innova Markets Insights number four trend for 2023, “Plant-Based: Unlocking a New Narrative,” the rapid rise of the plant-based sector has had to refocus and reposition itself to the changing demand for consumer demands for high-quality, flavorful products.
Green gastronomy will blossom as a standalone sector in 2023, giving brands significant opportunities to diversify and expand.
Consumers still want to see improvements in taste and texture, but there is a vast appetite for culinary creativity and worldwide flavor profiles. Two-thirds of Innova Market Insights global survey respondents expressed a desire to try plant-based versions of traditional, local cuisines.
US$3.2 million investment this week to bring down costs for cultivated meat alternative proteins and help drive cell-based companies production to scale.Recently, cell-based meat has become a key area to watch. Molecular farming start-up Bright Biotech captured a
In the US, the cultivated meat revolution changed gear as FDA gave an “historic” nod to cell-based chicken. Upside Foods became the first company in the world to receive a “No Questions” letter from the US Food and Drug Administration for cultivated meat, poultry or seafood, which means the government food agency accepts Upside’s conclusion that its cultivated chicken is safe to eat.
According to Steakholder Foods, the first commercial cultured meat products available will likely be hybrid foods. A spokesperson from the company tells FoodIngredientsFirst: “Our goal is to expedite our market entry by leveraging our cultured fat technology with plant-based foods to create hybrid products. We are opening a pilot plant in Belgium next year to begin scaled up production of cultured fat, and plan to sell it to plant-based producers as a taste-enhancing ingredient.”
“Although existing plant-based meat alternatives are largely limited to vegetarians/vegans and flexitarians, we believe hybrid foods can play a role in expanding the potential market for cultured meat to omnivores and even strict carnivores,” the spokesperson notes.
One of the biggest complaints about plant-based meat alternatives, is that they often lack the same juicy taste, texture and flavor as real meat. One reason is that they lack animal fat, which contributes to the look and texture of meat as well as to how it cooks and ultimately tastes, flags Steakholder Foods.
“Cultured fat can significantly enhance the texture, flavor and mouthfeel of plant-based meat alternatives, giving them an altogether meatier taste than what’s available with current plant-based meat analogs. Plant-based meat producers are eager to embrace cultivated fat as an ingredient not only to attract but retain consumers. We believe that hybrid foods could help boost adoption of meat alternatives significantly.”
Combining two plant-based protein types and coining them “hybrid” may garner further attention. As previously reported by FoodIngredientsFirst, hybrid technologies are an “excellent way to reduce meat intake,” according to Nancy Stachiw, R&D director, North America at ICL Group.
However, hybrids have some taste, texture and mouthfeel challenges.
Enjoyment without compromise?
Pia Meinlschmidt, product manager at Planteneers, says more people are watching what they eat for reasons such as climate protection, animal welfare and health.
“Hybrid products can tick these boxes and appeal most to meat-fans who want sustainable enjoyment without compromising.”
Since hybrid products combine the benefits of animal foods and plant-based alternatives, the core target group is adventurous consumers who are happy to try something new, according to Meinlschmidt.
“Most of these consumers are meat-eaters interested in new solutions that don’t require them to give up the flavors they love,” she continues. “Many are not yet willing to entirely forego their favorite dishes but are looking for ways to eat healthier and reduce their CO2 footprint.
Planteneers believes the answer is hybrid products that combine meat and plant ingredients. “They offer the flavor and texture that consumers want. In the best case, they also cost less than the animal-derived ingredients,” adds Meinlschmidt.
Hybrid meat products contain meat and plant ingredients like vegetables, plant proteins, mushrooms or seeds. This saves animal resources and offers a product that has numerous benefits.
Hybrid products have less meat, fat and cholesterol than comparable meat products. Like the originals, they are rich in proteins but also contain fiber. This is a nutritional benefit regular meat cannot offer.
Notably, the demand for high-quality, sustainably produced proteins looks set to keep rising. Consumers and the industry both want more ways to diversify their protein sources. Another aspect is the growing world population – which recently officially hit eight billion – and also requires new solutions.
“Currently, hybrid products consist of combinations of animal and plant-based components,” explains Meinlschmidt. With Planteneers’ fiildMeat+ line, the company provides the basis for making many different hybrid products.
Planteneers has leveraged its knowledge of plant-based stabilizing systems to develop its fiildMeat+ range.
“Whether for ready meals with burger patties and nuggets, or fresh products like bratwursts and ground meat, producers can make various meat preparations with the plant-based fiildMeat+ compounds,” states Meinlschmidt. “Depending on the recipe, protein-rich legumes like lentils or chickpeas are used, along with vegetables that have the right flavor profiles.”
Wherever possible, Planteneers avoids ingredients with e-numbers in its stabilizers, likewise methylcellulose, artificial flavors and flavor enhancers.
“The components for flavor and color are kept separate, as usual, to give manufacturers wide scope for variation. Our stabilizing systems consist of proteins and other plant-based components. The final products can be made with conventional processing machines,” underscores Meinlschmidt.
How does the hybrid future look?
According to Meinlschmidt, hybrids of cell cultures and meat are “definitely conceivable.”
“When the new generation of hybrids reaches market readiness, new and interesting products will come our way, including ones based on cell cultures or precision fermentation,” she details.
“We’re keeping an eye on developments in cell-based proteins. These combinations, which require only a small amount of cultured meat, are an attractive way to improve the taste and quality of plant-based meat alternatives and thus increase acceptance among the target group.”
Planteneers is optimistic that hybrid products containing either animal and cell-based protein or plant and cell-based protein will, in the future, help supply the world’s growing population with more varied protein sources.
In notable developments in this space, food-tech company Enough joined forces with cultured meat company MeaTech 3D’s subsidiary Peace of Meat earlier this year to unveil a host of hybrid products using mycoprotein and cultivated fat biomass. The two companies will assess the commercial benefits of adding cultivated fat biomass to products.
A survey previously conducted by Peace of Meat, a supplier of cultivated fat, revealed that 68% of plant-based meat producers would be “likely or very likely to incorporate cultivated fat into their products.” Of the 50 respondents, 58% reported that they are likely or very likely to use cultivated meat as an ingredient in their plant-based products.
By Elizabeth Green
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