What IS Plant-Based Food? 🥗 New Advances Expand the Definition

Theresa "Sam" Houghton
August 17, 2020

Good Monday, fellow nerds! 🤓💗 Coming at you today with a roundup of 100% animal-free headlines. It’s pretty clear by now (unless you’re living on a spaceship like all those people in WALL-E 🚀) that plant-based is way more than a trend, and innovators are running wild with the possibilities.

Ready for a quick trip through the weird and brain-bending world of alt everything? Let’s go! 🙃

Move Over, Additives — Here Come the Mushrooms

Ever wonder why even “healthy” processed foods have so many additives? Because processing makes food taste — to put it politely — funky. 😅 Hence added sugar, salt and flavors. But mushrooms (yes, mushrooms) are starting to change all that. Colorado-based MycoTechnology, Inc. just raised $39 million to continue developing its approach to functional ingredient manufacturing using a mycelium-based fermentation process. So, instead of a bunch of additives, more packaged goods could soon be sporting ‘shroomy solutions on their ingredient lists.

No Cow, Please: Microflora-Based Diary is Here

Dairy from microbes, 🦠 not cows! No, this isn’t science fiction — and it’s not as off-putting as it sounds. At the same time that plant-based milks (particularly oat milk) are booming, cow-free dairy is starting to make its mark. Startups like Perfect Day — and its first D2C venture, Brave Robot — are poised to shake up the dairy aisle with a range of products that feature real dairy proteins made with the power of microbes. No cow 🐄 required.

At $58 for four pints, though, the current Brave Robot line is a bit outside the everyday consumer’s price range. Definitely not your average comfort food — so be prepared to slow down and savor if you decide to give it a try. 🍨

Would You Like Some CBD With That?

CBD comes from plants, too, and more people want it — in their baked goods. The CBD edibles market was hot 🔥 last year, doing $25.9 million in sales. Take a look around the next time you’re in a specialty store, and you’ll see it: CBD in everything from beverages to bars. 🍫

Looks like there could be some potential here for plant-based food innovators and CBD oil companies to collaborate. Could it be the dawn of a new era of CBD-infused alt food? 💭 Only time — and potential FDA approval — will tell.

And While You’re Baking, Try Some Alt Flours

Remember trying to find regular flour at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic? Hint: You couldn’t. (No yeast, either.) Because, all of a sudden, home baking started to take the world by storm like a flashback to the 50s. And, also all of a sudden, consumers started discovering the myriad other flours that have been the darlings of paleo and keto bakers across the Intarwebz for years.🍞

As a result, makers of nut flours, gluten-free blends and other quirky baking alternatives may have a new fan base. It will be interesting to see if opportunistic pandemic-era bakers stick with alt flour even when all purpose becomes readily available again.

Plant-Based is Popular but Still Largely Misunderstood

With all the new products and trends appearing on the scene, it should be no surprise that most people have almost no idea what “plant-based food” really is. One-fifth of Brits think food has to be green to qualify, even though 68% of them have tried products made from plant-based proteins. 🌿

Among U.S. consumers ages 16 to 49, the majority still believe “complete” animal proteins are superior to plant proteins, an error that’s driving a “positive or neutral” view of soy protein over other plant proteins. This lack of understanding presents an opportunity for alt protein companies to educate consumers 👩‍🎓🧑‍🎓— and capture more market share.

What’s your take on the plant-based and alt foods boom? Are you a fan of the innovation, or do all the new products make your head spin? 👇🏻👇🏻