NZ well positioned to be global player in alternative protein market

Eco conscious millennial consumers are reshaping demand for alternative sources of protein according to the country’s largest manufacturer of vegetarian foods.

Mark Roper spokesperson for Life Health Foods – which makes plant based Bean Supreme and recently launched Alternative Meat Co. products, says growing concern for the environment is leading this demographic to seek out other options to integrate into their diet.

A nationwide survey commissioned by the company has found that millennials aged 18-34 are the most likely demographic to adopt a mostly meat-free lifestyle in the next decade.

“Among this age group, factors such as concern for animal welfare and the environment were some of the most important drivers of purchase choice; whereas if you look at older consumers, health considerations and cost of meat were the primary reasons for choosing vegetarian foods,” he says.

Roper says New Zealand is well positioned to take advantage of this emerging trend – which has seen accelerated growth in the global meat substitute market.

“Our research is showing that many consumers are not completely replacing meat in their diet – instead, they are integrating more meat-free options throughout the week. This makes development of a plant protein market complementary to our existing agricultural exports,” says Roper.

He says the new consumer driven trend is something that farmers should not fear, but rather capitalise on.

“As a producer we are looking at this growth as a promising future market. As well as a growth industry locally, there is increasing demand for these products in the more well-established markets of the US and Europe where there are potentially large export opportunities for us,” he says.

Roper says at the same time, New Zealand is well positioned as a producer nation to capitalise on millennial’s demand for plant based products.

“As a country, we have a strong agricultural research base, we are great at growing crops here, and the development of a more environmentally friendly, alternative protein market will potentially enhance the ‘pure NZ’ brand equity.

“With demand for meat alternatives expected to grow significantly in the coming years, we are looking at other sources of protein that have similar texture and taste to meat and that can be developed into added value products for the domestic and export markets.

“Plants like pea, soy, mushrooms and even seaweed can be made into products with similar properties to meat and food companies around the world are investing millions of dollars to be at the forefront of this,” he says.

Roper says the local market for vegetarian food is developing quickly with category growth exceeding 20 percent per annum.

He says sales of their recently launched Alternative Meat Co. have exceeded initial volume expectations in this market and they have expanded production to accommodate.

“Currently around 80% of our added value vegetarian products that are sold in NZ are made here. With increased demand locally and globally, greater volumes of ingredients will be required from suppliers to meet this opportunity,” he says.

Do vegetarians live longer? Probably, but not because they’re vegetarian

In the past few years, you may have noticed more and more people around you turning away from meat. At dinner parties or family barbecues, on your social media feed or in the news, vegetarianism and its more austere cousin, veganism, are becoming increasingly popular.

While the veggie patty and the superfood salad are not going to totally replace lamb, chicken or beef as Aussie staples any time soon, the number of Australians identifying as a vegetarian is rising steadily.

According to Roy Morgan Research, almost 2.1 million Australian adults now say their diet is all or almost all vegetarian. Ask someone why they are a vegetarian and you are likely to get many different answers. The reasons include environmental, animal welfare and ethical concerns, religious beliefs and, of course, health considerations.

It’s this last factor we set out to investigate. There are several existing studies on the impact of vegetarianism on health, but the results are mixed. A 2013 study, which followed more than 95,000 men and women in the United States from 2002 to 2009, found vegetarians had a 12% lower risk of death from all causes than non-vegetarians.

Given the contentious nature of discussions about vegetarianism and meat eating, these findings generated lots of coverage and vegetarianism advocates hailed the study.

We set out to test these findings, to see if being a vegetarian would translate into lower risk of early death in the Australian population. Australia is home to the largest ongoing study of healthy ageing in the southern hemisphere, the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study. This gives us a pool of more than 260,000 men and women aged 45 and over in New South Wales to work with.

We followed a total of 267,180 men and women over an average of six years. During the follow-up period, 16,836 participants died. When we compared the risk of early death for vegetarians and non-vegetarians, while controlling for a range of other factors, we did not find any statistical difference.

Put more simply, when we crunched the data we found vegetarians did not have a lower risk of early death compared with their meat-eating counterparts.

Vegetarians are less likely to be obese.
from www.shutterstock.com

This lack of “survival advantage” among vegetarians, outlined in our paper in Preventive Medicine, does not come as a complete surprise. In 2015, a United Kingdom-based cohort study concluded vegetarians had a similar risk of death from all causes when compared with non-vegetarians. This is contrary to the US-based study findings.

Does that mean everyone should drop the asparagus, fire up the barbie and fill up on snags, steaks and cheeseburgers? Not necessarily.

Other ‘healthy’ factors

It’s standard practice in epidemiological studies to statistically control for various factors (we call them “confounders” as they may confound an association). We controlled for a number of factors to get a true sense of whether vegetarianism by itself reduces risk of death.

It’s important to acknowledge that in most studies vegetarians tend to be the “health-conscious” people, with overall healthier lifestyle patterns than the norm. For example, among the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up participants, vegetarians were less likely than non-vegetarians to report smoking, drinking excessively, insufficient physical activity and being overweight/obese. They were also less likely to report having heart or metabolic disease or cancer at the start of the study.

In most previous studies, vegetarians did have lower risk of early death from all causes in unadjusted analysis. However, after controlling for other lifestyle factors, such as the ones listed above, the risk reduction often decreased significantly (or even completely vanished).

This suggests other characteristics beyond abstinence from meat may contribute to better health among vegetarians. More simply, it’s the associated healthier behaviours that generally come with being a vegetarian – such as not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly – that explain why vegetarians tend to have better health outcomes than non-vegetarians.

In a separate study we conducted using data from the 45 and Up Study, we found people who ate more fruit and vegetables, particularly those who had seven or more serves per day, had a lower risk of death than those who consumed less, even when other factors were accounted for.

And although there is unclear evidence a vegetarian diet promotes longevity, studies have consistently shown other health benefits. For example, a vegetarian diet has been consistently associated with a reduced risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

A meta-analysis (a statistical analysis that combines data from multiple studies) from 2012 concluded vegetarians had a 29% lower risk of early death from heart disease and an 18% lower risk for cancer.

It’s important to keep in mind that the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer agency of the World Health Organisation, has classified the consumption of processed meat as carcinogenic and red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans.

So what does it all mean?

While we can’t say for certain if being a vegetarian helps you live longer, we do know having a well-planned, balanced diet with sufficient fruit and vegetables is certainly good for you.

We also know sufficient physical activity, moderating alcohol consumption and avoiding tobacco smoking are key factors in living longer. And the growing body of evidence shows vegetarians are more likely to have these healthy habits.

The Conversation

Melody Ding, Senior Research Fellow of Public Health, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Marley Spoon expands vegetarian menu

Meal kit delivery company Marley Spoon has become the first service in the market to introduce vegan protein options to its menu.

In a bid to encourage Australians to expand their gastronomical horizons and promote sustainable eating habits, the company has entered a partnership with Plant-Based Foods to work with their portfolio of ethical plant-based brands.

Tuesday 1st November is World Vegan Day, and Marley Spoon is kicking off their new menu to celebrate the day. Upcoming dishes include Beefless Moroccan Tagine, Creole Vegetarian Tofu Burgers, Vegetarian ‘Chorizo’ and Beans with Jasmine Rice, and Vegetarian ‘Chicken’ Burgers with Panini Rolls. All the meat alternatives used are 100% plant-based.

Dave Malcolm, co-founder of Marley Spoon Australia, says the company wants to offer as much variety as possible: “We’re very focused on two things: cooking and sustainability. We’re bringing together new flavours, cuisines and cooking experiences for our members to try and explore, and we’re acting on our commitment to be as sustainable as possible.

“Australians Google “Vegan” more than any other country, so there is a growing interest in these options. The environmental and health benefits of eating vegetarian and vegan foods are undeniable, so we’re excited to be exploring this side of cooking,” said Malcolm.

2.1 million Australians (11.2% of the population) are already vegetarian or vegan, and around half the population are meat reducers. That amounts to around 1 in 4 people actively choosing plant-based options, with NSW at head of this trend, manifesting a 30% growth in vegetarianism since 2012.

“Ultimately, the game changer in the vegan product world is taste,” says Plant-Based Foods CEO Cale Drouin. “Today’s plant-based brands have hit the mainstream because people can now choose what’s best for their health, sustainability and animals, without any compromise on enjoyment.”

World Vegan Day is celebrated each year with a number of festivals and exhibitions around the world promoting the benefits of the vegan lifestyle. In Australia, the biggest event for 2016 is the World Vegan Day festival in Melbourne (wvd.org.au), with additional local celebrations happening around the country that welcome all comers to discover the ever-growing range of plant-based products and dishes out there.

Meat alternative catered to ‘flexitarians’ hits shelves

With the dietary habits of Australians changing, the Alternative Meat Co. (AMC) has unveiled a range of plant-based options comparable to meat.

The innovative food is designed to meet the needs of the growing trend of ‘flexitarianism’, a diet which is heavily plant-based but allows for some meat consumption. An Alternative Meat Company (AMC) shopper survey completed with Buchanan Group of almost 3,000 people over 18 shows a huge number of unsuspecting Aussies are part of the less-meat movement.  Despite estimates showing that 3.9 million Aussies are actively looking to cut back on their meat, only about 1 in 5 (22%) of that number would think of themselves as flexitarians.

With recent research showing a diet too high in certain meats can be harmful, AMC products provide a nutritional taste alternative to match the new needs of the modern Aussie. Reduced cholesterol and reduced risk of cancer are just some of the health benefits enjoyed by eating more plant-based foods.

And as the products are grown, not bred, they are also eco-friendly, so Australians know they are making a positive impact on the world when buying AMC. Better animal welfare and offsetting the negative environmental impacts of meat production – such as high water and crop demands – are just some of the environmental benefits.

The products are designed to suit any taste preference and come in five distinct flavours: Lightly Smoked Beef-Free Chunks, Zingy Chipotle Beef-Free Strips, Zesty Lime & Chilli Chicken-Free Strips, Lemon & Thyme Chicken-Free Strips and Sesame & Coriander Pork-Free Shreds. These are available in major supermarkets around Australia.

 

Women say vegie eating men smell better

Eat fresh, smell fresh – that’s the message from researchers at Macquarie University, who recently completed a new study indicating that men who eat more vegetables smell more appealing to women.

By providing sweat samples to female participants to evaluate, and cross-referencing it with markers of greater fruit and vegetable intake, the study has found that eating fresh produce results in more pleasant-smelling sweat with “floral, fruity, sweet and medicinal” qualities.

“The news that eating more vegetables can make you smell better comes as no surprise to anyone in our industry,” said AUSVEG spokesperson Shaun Lindhe.

“We already know that consuming the recommended amount of daily serves of vegetables has health and nutritional value, and that eating fresh vegetables is a vital part of a balanced diet, but it’s great that research is continuing to find even more benefits to eating veggies.”

“This research comes on the back of a study in 2015 which found that vegetables help to make your skin look great – so between the nutritional, aesthetic, olfactory and taste benefits, there are myriad reasons to load up your plate with fresh Australian vegetables.”

“When you add in the sound and texture of a crunchy carrot, crisp capsicum or other fresh veggies, having a salad can pay dividends for all five of your senses.”

The Macquarie University study, led by Dr Ian Stephen, asked female participants to evaluate the sweat samples on several affective, qualitative and psychophysical dimensions. This was compared to skin spectrophotometry measures for the male participants.

Previous studies have found that carotenoids, which accumulate in humans through fresh vegetable consumption, contribute to the yellowness of skin in Caucasians, meaning that slightly yellower skin is a mark of greater intake of fruit and vegetables – and has also been found to increase someone’s facial attractiveness to others.

“Australians are incredibly lucky to have our hard-working growers producing high-quality fresh vegetables right in our backyard, so do yourself – and the people around you – a favour by putting more veggies on your plate,” said Lindhe.

Image: Jeremy E.W. Fredericksen via Creative Commons

Vegetarian and ‘flexitarian’ marketing opportunities on the rise

The global trend towards reducing meat intake in the diet has led to the emergence of new opportunities to target vegans, vegetarians, non-meat eaters and non-red-meat eaters. New opportunities are emerging too for so-called flexitarians, who mainly eat a plant-based diet, but do occasionally eat meat.

Innova Market Insights data shows a +60 per cent rise in global food and beverage launches using a vegetarian claim between 2011 and 2015. Launches featuring the term “vegan” also rose to account for 4.3 per cent of total introductions in 2015, up from 2.8 per cent in 2014 and just 1.5 per cent in 2012.

“This trend represents a growing opportunity for high-quality meat alternatives, which is also being reflected in the 24% average annual growth in global meat substitute launches recorded between 2011 and 2015,” said Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights.

Germany has been leading this trend, with high levels of innovative NPD in meat alternatives and meat substitutes, and 69 per cent of consumers claiming to eat meatless meals once a week or more. The US is lagging behind on just 38 per cent, although 120 million Americans do already eat meatless meals, so this must represent a major opportunity.

The trend towards flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan diets has accelerated the move toward the use of plant-based proteins as meat substitutes. The majority of meat substitutes are still soy- or wheat-protein based, but products are evolving with alternative protein ingredients such as egg, pea, ancient grains and nuts.

Innova Market Insights - Flexitarian Lifestyle is New Trend #IFT16

“Paradoxically, another key area of opportunity in meat substitutes may be in targeting meat eaters as much as vegetarians,” noted Williams. “While many vegetarians may opt for a diet rich in vegetables and beans, meat eaters may turn to meat substitutes if the product is right. Instead of just finding alternatives, technological solutions also need to be focusing on the development of meat substitutes closely mimicking the taste and texture of meat products.”

 

 

Why it’s impossible to actually be a vegetarian

In case you’ve forgotten the section on the food web from high school biology, here’s a quick refresher.

Plants make up the base of every food chain of the food web (also called the food cycle). Plants use available sunlight to convert water from the soil and carbon dioxide from the air into glucose, which gives them the energy they need to live. Unlike plants, animals can’t synthesize their own food. They survive by eating plants or other animals.

Clearly, animals eat plants. What’s not so clear from this picture is that plants also eat animals. They thrive on them, in fact (just Google “fish emulsion”). In my new book, “A Critique of the Moral Defense of Vegetarianism,” I call it the transitivity of eating. And I argue that this means one can’t be a vegetarian.

Chew on this

I’ll pause to let the collective yowls of both biologists and (erstwhile) vegetarians subside.

A transitive property says that if one element in a sequence relates in a certain way to a second element, and the second element relates in the same way to a third, then the first and third elements relate in the same way as well.

Take the well-worn trope “you are what you eat.” Let’s say instead that we are “who” we eat. This makes the claim more personal and also implies that the beings who we make our food aren’t just things.

How our food lives and dies matters. If we are who we eat, our food is who our food eats, too. This means that we are who our food eats in equal measure.

Plants acquire nutrients from the soil, which is composed, among other things, of decayed plant and animal remains. So even those who assume they subsist solely on a plant-based diet actually eat animal remains as well.

This is why it’s impossible to be a vegetarian.

For the record, I’ve been a “vegetarian” for about 20 years and nearly “vegan” for six. I’m not opposed to these eating practices. That isn’t my point. But I do think that many “vegetarians” and “vegans” could stand to pay closer attention to the experiences of the beings who we make our food.

For example, many vegetarians cite the sentience of animals as a reason to abstain from eating them. But there’s good reason to believe that plants are sentient, too. In other words, they’re acutely aware of and responsive to their surroundings, and they respond, in kind, to both pleasant and unpleasant experiences.

Check out the work of plant scientists Anthony Trewavas, Stefano Mancuso, Daniel Chamowitz and František Baluška if you don’t believe me. They’ve shown that plants share our five senses – and have something like 20 more. They have a hormonal information-processing system that’s homologous to animals’ neural network. They exhibit clear signs of self-awareness and intentionality. And they can even learn and teach.

It’s also important to be aware that “vegetarianism” and “veganism” aren’t always eco-friendly. Look no further than the carbon footprint of your morning coffee, or how much water is required to produce the almonds you enjoy as an afternoon snack.

A word for the skeptics

I suspect how some biologists may respond: first, plants don’t actually eat since eating involves the ingestion – via chewing and swallowing – of other life forms. Second, while it’s true that plants absorb nutrients from the soil and that these nutrients could have come from animals, they’re strictly inorganic: nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and trace amounts of other elements. They’re the constituents of recycled minerals, devoid of any vestiges of animality.

As for the first concern, maybe it would help if I said that both plants and animals take in, consume or make use of, rather than using the word “eat.” I guess I’m just not picky about how I conceptualize what eating entails. The point is that plants ingest carbon dioxide, sunlight, water and minerals that are then used to build and sustain their bodies. Plants consume inasmuch as they produce, and they aren’t the least bit particular about the origins of the minerals they acquire.

With respect to the second concern, why should it matter that the nutrients drawn by plants from animals are inorganic? The point is that they once played in essential role in facilitating animals’ lives. Are we who we eat only if we take in organic matter from the beings who become our food? I confess that I don’t understand why this should be. Privileging organic matter strikes me as a biologist’s bias.

Then there’s the argument that mineral recycling cleanses the nutrients of their animality. This is a contentious claim, and I don’t think this is a fact of the matter. It goes to the core of the way we view our relationship with our food. You could say that there are spiritual issues at stake here, not just matters of biochemistry.

Changing how we view our food

Let’s view our relationship with our food in a different way: by taking into account the fact that we’re part of a community of living beings – plant and animal – who inhabit the place that we make our home.

We’re eaters, yes, and we’re also eaten. That’s right, we’re part of the food web, too! And the well-being of each is dependent on the well-being of all.

From this perspective, what the self-proclaimed “farmosopher” Glenn Albrecht calls sumbiotarianism (from the Greek word sumbioun, to live together) has clear advantages.

Sumbioculture is a form of permaculture, or sustainable agriculture. It’s an organic and biodynamic way of farming that’s consistent with the health of entire ecosystems.

Sumbiotarians eat in harmony with their ecosystem. So they embody, literally, the idea that the well-being of our food – hence, our own well-being – is a function of the health of the land.

In order for our needs to be met, the needs and interests of the land must come first. And in areas where it’s prohibitively difficult to acquire the essential fats that we need from pressed oils alone, this may include forms of animal use – for meat, manure and so forth.

Simply put, living sustainably in such an area – whether it’s New England or the Australian Outback – may well entail relying on animals for food, at least in a limited way.

All life is bound together in a complex web of interdependent relationships among individuals, species and entire ecosystems. Each of us borrows, uses and returns nutrients. This cycle is what permits life to continue. Rich, black soil is so fertile because it’s chock full of the composted remains of the dead along with the waste of the living.

Indeed, it’s not uncommon for indigenous peoples to identify veneration of their ancestors and of their ancestral land with the celebration of the life-giving character of the earth. Consider this from cultural ecologist and Indigenous scholar-activist Melissa Nelson:

The bones of our ancestors have become the soil, the soil grows our food, the food nourishes our bodies, and we become one, literally and metaphorically, with our homelands and territories.

You’re welcome to disagree with me, of course. But it’s worth noting that what I propose has conceptual roots that may be as old as humanity itself. It’s probably worth taking some time to digest this.

 

Andrew Smith is Assistant Professor of English and Philosophy, Drexel University.

This article first appeared on The Conversation. Read the original here.

Bean Supreme launches vegetarian Kumara Burger

Bean Supreme has launched the second product in their wholefood ‘café range’ following the success of their Black Bean Beetroot Burger.

Available in supermarkets from mid April, the Kumara Burger contains ancient grains (quinoa and buckwheat), kale, coconut, black eyed beans and the New Zealand kumara.

The burger is a source of protein and fibre and has no added soy. It also has a 4.5 health star rating.

The Kumara Burger (which includes four burger patties per pack) will soon be available from supermarkets nationwide with a recommended retail price of $7.99.

New solution for iron deficiency in vegetarians

Frutarom Health BU offers a new approach to tackle iron deficiency in vegan and vegetarian diets.

AB-Fortis, a patented encapsulated iron system, supports vegans/vegetarians, as well as women of childbearing years, who commonly suffer from iron deficiency. 

AB-Fortis, a clean label, GMO-free, all-natural ingredient has a high iron content and can be formulated into a full range of food and beverage applications.

Studies performed in young women and adults have shown that vegetarian (including vegan) men and women have lower iron stores than meat eaters. 

“Because iron isn't as easily absorbed from plant sources, the recommended intake of iron for vegetarians is almost double that of non-vegetarians,” explained Wouter Haazen, Product Manager for Frutarom Health. “It’s hard to increase iron intake from food alone.”

Iron is commonly recognized as a necessary nutrient for human diet. As a crucial component of red blood cells, it is vital to oxygen transport. A thorough scientific evaluation by EFSA led to the recognition that iron is a necessary nutrient that impacts energy metabolism, cognition and the immune system, among other body functions. Scientific studies demonstrate that iron deficiency leads to anemia, causing sufferers to feel chronically tired and out of breath (even after mild exertion), as well as having heart palpitations and a pale complexion.

Traditional iron supplements have a strong metallic taste and powerful oxidative properties—both undesirable for foods. They also are hard to digest, and sometimes cause nausea, constipation, gastric distress, and headaches. 

AB-Fortis is produced by a patented process to provide stable encapsulation with minimal release of free iron into the food matrix. The spherical gelation of ferric saccharate by calcium alginate results in an encapsulated iron salt with a high (40 per cent) iron content. 

Its suitability for food matrices and consumer acceptability was recently demonstrated in a successful bakery product targeted to children and launched in Spain by a market leader in this segment.