GERMANY, Frankfurt. The trend towards a vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian diet is increasing the demand for sausage and meat replacement products on a purely vegetable basis.
Whether Lidl, Aldi or McDonalds: last year, thanks to the industry giants, there was no getting around vegetable burgers. But even far away from the hyped meat replacement burgers, consumers are increasingly turning to veggie products. According to the Wiesenhof Grill Study 2019, every tenth consumer now puts meat substitutes on the grill, 6% vegetarian and 4% vegan alternatives.
The veggie trend is also confirmed by retail figures. It is true that grilled cheese leads the ranking of grilled meat alternatives with 67%, followed by vegetable skewers with 55%. But 37% of the retailers surveyed in February this year stated that customers also buy meat substitutes as an alternative to sausage & Co.
The market research company Nielsen has observed disproportionately high double-digit sales growth in 2019 in all veggie categories. Within twelve months, retail sales reached a new record of € 1.371 bn., an increase of 18.1%.
The market researchers are recording strong growth explicitly in the vegetarian meat and sausage alternatives. In 2019, the food retailing sector generated sales of € 212.3 mill. in this segment, primarily with meatless schnitzels, meatballs and nuggets. Sales of meat substitutes thus increased by 36% and by 32% in terms of quantity.
After the vegetarian alternatives to milk, quark and yoghurt as well as cheese & co., the self-service sausage alternatives rank third on the sales scale. According to the market researchers, consumer markets already generate 60% of their total veggie sales with vegetarian or vegan self-service sausage. Consumers are particularly interested in boiled sausage, sausages and meat preparations.
But it is not only in terms of sales that there has been a great deal of development around the veggie sausage: the products themselves are also being further developed. In the first generation of meat alternatives, many suppliers still relied on coloured chicken egg white. However, consumers are now critical of the sometimes high proportion of chicken egg protein in vegetarian products, with the result that product variants based on animal protein are declining. The manufacturers try rather to conceive the spare products completely vegan.
Accordingly, the markets for vegetable protein sources are growing. While in Germany, for example, 16,500 ha of cultivated area were planted with field beans in 2013, by 2018 the figure had already risen to 55,300 ha, according to statistics from the Union for the Promotion of Oil and Protein Plants (Ufop). In 2018, lupines grew on 23,400 ha in Germany; soybeans on 24,100 ha.
Although protein crops are still a niche segment in this country, as a comparison with winter rape shows, which in 2018 was cultivated on 1.2 mill. ha despite a declining trend. But the niche has potential. Analysts from the market research company "Markets and Markets" forecast that the global plant protein market will increase from currently around € 17.05 bn. to € 37.4 bn. in 2025 - partly because both public institutions and major food industry groups are expanding their research activities in this area.
In addition to the protein donor soya, legumes such as peas, but also potatoes and lupines play an important role in replacement products. In addition, exotic fruits such as jackfruit, cashew, mushrooms and nuts are increasingly finding their way into product concepts for the new veggie generation.
Tofu is often the basis for ready-made meat alternatives and offers a wide range of processing possibilities due to its neutral taste. Finely crumbled and sauteed, it can be used as the basis for vegan bolognese sauce, chili sin carne or other dishes that are usually prepared with minced meat. Finely pureed and strongly seasoned, tofu can also be used to make burger fritters. For example, pressed tofu can be sliced, fried, baked and marinated and used as a sandwich topping.
Smoked tofu is smoked using the friction smoking process, giving it a finely spicy smoke flavour and often a little saltier than classic tofu. It can be used cold or fried as a topping for bread and as an alternative to ham or bacon. Cut into cubes and fried, smoked tofu goes well with stews, creamed vegetables, pizza, pasta sauces, quiches or on skewers and in salads.
Tempeh consists of steamed and peeled soybeans fermented with mushroom cultures, which are pressed into a block. In the meantime, variants made from lupines have also been found. The fermentation process increases the availability of nutrients for humans in the soybeans. Tempeh is therefore easier to digest. It goes well fried with vegetables, as a topping for bread and in salads, fried as an alternative to bacon or in curries, and breaded as an alternative to escalope. Finely crumbled and fried, it is also an alternative to minced meat, for example in tacos.
Seitan is made from gluten, the water-insoluble gluten protein in wheat flour, and contains more protein than tofu. However, wheat protein is less easily digested by the human body. Anyone who has a gluten intolerance (coeliac disease) has to do without this meat alternative altogether. In terms of its consistency, seitan is more bite resistant than tofu. Seitan can be used to prepare grilled steaks, bratwurst, fricassee and schnitzel.
Lupins are actually poisonous. Only the sweet lupine, a subspecies of the wild form, was bred away from the bitter and uncomfortable alkaloids. Lupine flour, flakes, shreds, grist or tempeh are suitable for preparing meat alternatives such as burger patties.