How do you want your steak? Medium, well done or plant-based?
Meat substitutes are trendy, there’s no denying. The range of these products in supermarkets is growing almost weekly and the number of Google searches for “plant-based meat” has increased almost tenfold since 2018. It is clear that meat substitutes are no longer made solely for the inveterate hippie who renounced meat years ago. No, every environmentally-conscious individual is trying to reduce his (or her) ecological footprint on the earth a little by skipping meat for a day. So it is not surprising that all the big boys in the food industry (even those who, traditionally, were completely focused on meat production) try to respond to this hype by launching their own products as soon as possible, or by acquiring smaller brands.
Yet it is strange that the prices of these products are currently so high (€ 2 or more per vegetarian burger, compared to € 1 or less for the average meat burger). In a market where the average consumer puts the interest of his (or her) wallet above the interest of the planet, it is difficult to have a lasting impact on the environment. In January of this year, Het Financieel Dagblad warned about rising prices due to a surplus of demand and a shortage of supply of the ingredients used in such products. Does that mean that the price of the products will only continue to rise, rather than fall?
At TOP we are convinced that the price of meat substitutes is determined more by supply and demand in the supermarket than by the supply of raw materials. The majority of the range of meat substitutes on the supermarket shelves currently consists of hamburgers and smoked sausages. But ask yourself, how many burgers and smoked sausages do you eat on average per year? That is why TOP looks beyond these products. We are convinced that the real needs of consumers can be served with products that they are really waiting for, which leads to an increasing demand for meat substitutes (and a decreasing demand for meat). This will make it more attractive for primary producers to grow the necessary raw materials on a large(er) scale (for example, instead of raw materials for animal feed). Raw material prices and product prices consequently, will then automatically fall to the average price of meat.
In the past year, with the help of an extensive market study, TOP investigated the 15 most consumed meat products in Europe and America. As you read this article, we are working hard to realize vegetarian variants of all these 15 products. Not all products on this list consist of ground “meat” such as hamburgers or sausages, but of “intact” muscle tissue, fat tissue and/or connective tissue. Mimicking these structures is one of the challenges TOP currently invests, together with various partners, a lot of time and capital in. In this way TOP tries to contribute to a future in which, in a restaurant, you’ll be asked: “How would you like your steak? Medium, well done, or plant-based? ”
Food Technologist / Business Developer
P.S. Before you start shouting: “Yes but…”, indeed, TOP is also working hard on vegetarian burgers and smoked sausages. This is mainly because we believe that there is still a lot of room for improvement in both categories.