ONTARIO — The vegans are coming, the vegans are coming … and they are spurring demand for plant-based foodstuffs that challenge definitions steeped in traditional animal-based agriculture.
The conventional side of agriculture and food has begun to push back. There’s more than a feel-good cultural vibe to the Quebec dairy industry council’s recent pursuit of special government designation for poutine. Any ag industry observer can see the build-up to a confrontation one day with a hypothetical non-dairy cheese curd, fake gravy and spuds combination daring to use the iconic name.
In Texas, legislators have just passed a law restricting the terms meat, poultry, pork and beef to the real thing. Plant-based facsimiles, such as industry leading veggie burger maker Beyond Meat, will have to find another identity in the Lonestar State.
From milk to meat to honey, alternatives are emerging from farm fields and industry labs. They’re muscling in on the marketplace, and they’re doing so with enough success to generate headlines such as The New York Times’ declaration that “The Big Money is Going Vegan,” referring to the stock market debut of ascendant oat-milk maker Oatly. The Swedish-based darling of the non-dairy milk sector raised $1.4-billion in its initial public offering last month on Wall Street.
May 2021 also saw the release of the first vegan boiled egg product. Singapore-based OsomeFood harnesses fungi to replicate a chicken egg — or something like it — that the company calls OsomeEgg. It’s shaped like an egg, and on the box they call it an egg but there is no egg in it.
In Ontario, the latest raw (cow) milk advocate has told Farmers Forum his clients would switch to almond or soy milk — now common on store shelves — rather than buy the legal, pasteurized version offered by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario.
Catering to a vegan desire to let even insects be, California start-up MeliBio has synthesized a totally plant-based ‘honey.’ Here in Ontario, Mississauga-based BeSweet has launched a vegan honey substitute made entirely from a blend of cane sugar, rice syrup and molasses. The company also offers a spread that blends actual honey with high-fructose corn syrup (so less work for the bees in the end), and is currently featured in the Ontario Made program at Loblaws stores.
Meanwhile, the global plant-based cheese market, which was worth just over $1-billion USD in 2019, is expected to grow 12.8 percent annually between 2020 and 2017, according to Wise Guy reports. Evi-dence of that is again seen on the ground in Ontario, where plant-based spreads and vegan cheese maker Upfield Canada Inc. plans a new $18-million production facility in Brantford. Small Toronto grocery chain Organic Garage has commissioned Flamaglo Foods to produce its line of “Future of Cheese” products — plant-based cultured butter and cream cheeses.
The “cultured” or “cultivated” meat industry continues to make advances toward the day when meat of different types is grown from stem cells in vats. Start-ups are raising hundreds of millions in venture capital in pursuit of this goal.
Associated with bacon, baloney and wieners by generations of Canadians, Maple Leaf Foods has embraced ‘tempeh’ — a meat-like cake made from fermented soybeans.
The corporation aims to produce 4.5 million kilograms annually at a newly acquired Indianapolis production facility set for startup next year. But the corporation is late to the party when compared to Kitchener-based Henry’s Tempeh. With a product line carried in many grocery stores, Henry’s marks its 20th anniversary next year.
University of Guelph researchers are surveying the public and those involved in the conventional meat industry for their thoughts about cellular, lab-produced meat.
A recently published study by Arizona State University has already found that 80% of American and U.K. consumers have “a high level of openness” to cultivated meat — with 40% somewhat or moderately likely to try it. Younger generations were the most open to lab meat: 88% of GenZ (ages 6 to 24), 85% of Millennials (ages 25 to 40), 77% of Gen X (ages 41 to 56), and 72% of Baby Boomers (ages 57 to 75) were at least somewhat open to trying cultivated meat, according to the findings published May 11.