Food Valley Society
Get connected with the members of Food Valley NL

Meatless travels the world, huge potential growth market for meat substitutes

Published: 27-05-2016, | Member: Meatless

Meatless are hard at work. In 2005 they began with a meat substitute made from lupine, and now the company has more than 20 products in its portfolio. At the forthcoming IFT Food Expo in Chicago, the gluten-free, rice-based version will take the spotlight.  

Caring for the environment. That’s the vision behind Meatless, a spin-off from meat company Hubro. “Meat production takes a relatively large amount of water and energy,” says director and founder Jos Hugense. “We wanted to develop a plant-based, sustainable alternative.”

The company initially chose locally-grown lupine, a plant with blue flowers and protein-rich peas, as the raw material, and processed it into a meat substitute. “We developed a technique based on hydrocolloids”, says the entrepreneur, “and now our process is globally unique.” The lupine-peas are ground to a paste, then seaweed extract is added as a binder, creating a fiber-like structure similar to that of chicken.

Meatless has a neutral flavor and a juicy bite. “The product fibers have a high water-retention capacity and are heat-stable.” Not only do these properties make Meatless suitable as a meat substitute for vegetarians and vegans but also perfect for use in ‘hybrid’ meat products: composite products in which part of the meat is replaced by a vegetable ingredient. “Lean meat products are often on the dry side,” illustrates Hugense. “By adding Meatless, you can make them juicier and provide an experience close to that of a full-fat product.”

The company, now operating from Canada to Indonesia, has grown its portfolio more than tenfold over the past decade. “We now have more than 20 items in the range, based on lupine, wheat, tapioca and rice,” says Hugense. The products are available dried or frozen, as fine flour or in pieces up to 20 mm in diameter. There are both red and brown versions, colored with real beet and caramel extract respectively. Two products are organic (SKAL) certified and there is a hypoallergenic, gluten-free variant based on rice.

Gluten free
For the IFT Food Expo, 16 t/m 19 July in Chicago, we made a strategic decision to put the spotlight on our gluten-free product. “Beef prices in the US are rising and demand for low-fat products is increasing,” Hugense explains. “The meat industry is working hard to find alternative ingredients that are healthy, tasty and affordable.” Such ingredients for meat products in the US must be not only gluten-free but also meet USDA regulations.

The entrepreneur has big plans.” Since 2009 we have enjoyed year-on-year growth of 20-25%; in 2016 we expect it to be nearer 50-60%” he says. “We want to continue with double-digit growth in the coming years.” Hugense believes we will see an enormous worldwide growth in the market for specialized products like Meatless. “Not only as a meat substitute or in hybrid meat products, but also as an ingredient in fish products; like meat, fish is becoming increasingly scarce and, therefore, more expensive. I also see a role for our products in low-fat cheese.”

Total Concept
The company is also making serious headway with new innovations. “We are now investigating if and, if so, with what technique to inject Meatless-flower into food,” says the entrepreneur. “It allows you to give single pieces of meat, such as turkey breast, a much juicier taste.”

Hugense expects the new technique to be commercially available in the course of 2016. You can get to know Meatless soon, for example during the IFT Food Expo in Chicago, 16 t/m 19 July, at the Holland Food Valley Pavilion, stands 2012, 2015 and 2018.