Sometimes, a girl just wants a burger and doesn’t have a lot of time. Thus, it was for this writer on a busy afternoon, as I whipped into the Burger King parking lot. But wait – a (healthier) friend had mentioned their “Impossible Whopper,” made not of beef but of plant-based ingredients. Curious, I ordered one. And let me tell you, I was surprised at how good it was. It was a far cry from the days when “plant-based” meant bland tofu cutlets or other meat-free (but frankly, boring) options. There wasn’t enough seasoning to make those things taste any better than cushiony insole inserts.
However, that’s changing. Thankfully.
The movement towards menus and food items that rely less on meat is enormous right now. By 2025, the global market for plant-based foods is expected to hit almost $78 billion; by 2030, that number is predicted to double. Grocery stores are seeing demand for plant-based food items, from the freezer case to baby foods, growing at nearly double the rate of regular food sales.
The year 2020 seemed to be a bit of a turning point when it came to interest in plant-based foods. Sales among brands like Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat rose by a stunning 45%. Perhaps the COVID quarantine gave us all a new appreciation not only for our health but for our fragile planet.
Livestock farming is environmentally devastating. It requires enormous amounts of land. Forests are wiped out for pasture, resulting in soil erosion that takes decades to replace. For every pound of beef produced, nearly 1,900 gallons of water are required – not to mention the animal/chemical waste that pollutes waterways. Then there are the emissions: livestock generate 14.5 percent of the greenhouse gases that threaten our atmosphere.
The good news is that it’s simpler than ever to find genuinely tasty plant-based substitutes for meat and dairy products. At the forefront in introducing these items are food leaders, from big chains like the previously mentioned Burger King to swanky five-star restaurants.
One of the big challenges is creating not just the dishes but making them appealing and accessible enough for people to make them part of their everyday lifestyle. That’s part of the mission of the Culinary Institute of America and their initiative, Menus of Change. It brings together food experts, chefs, industry thought leaders, and investors, to help shift tastes toward delicious plant-forward options. The goal isn’t to make people convert to full-on vegetarianism or veganism; rather, it’s about getting folks to simply dial back their meat consumption — and enjoy every bite of the journey.
We recently helped to produce a TV series for Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK. “The Sustainable Feast” reveals healthy and delicious trends happening in the food world. The full episode features some other cool stuff we think you’ll like. Please have a look and let us know what you think.