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What’s Cooking? Surprise, It’s Not Meat!

Read time: 2 Min
31st July 2020

It’s not often that the industry gets to welcome a whole new category to the menu. But that’s exactly what’s happening with the latest plant-based alternatives to meat.

In response to a rising demand for sustainable, healthy ways to eat, plant-based proteins are popping up on menus all over the globe1. And unlike traditional tofu, tempeh, or even early meat alternatives, these new foods capture the taste and texture of real meat and poultry, making them a hit with all kinds of consumers, from vegans and vegetarians to flexitarians.

These advances come as many consumers are looking for ways to reduce their meat consumption. Whether they’re changing their eating habits out of concern for their health, the environment, animal welfare, or other reasons, people are actively looking for options when they’re dining out.

While this trend began in fast food, these products are becoming widely accepted in different channels around the world. It all adds up to create an exciting opportunity for you. To help you make the most of it, we’ve put together a primer on these new products, who’s eating them and why, and how you can make the most of them to satisfy this new demand.

History of Meat Alternatives

history of meat alternatives

People have been using grain to make the center of plate for a long time, but the products that recreate the look, taste, and texture of beef or chicken so closely are more recent cooking innovations.

Some key historical dates:

200 BC: Soy-based tofu is invented in China by the Han dynasty. 

535 AD: Use of wheat gluten as protein is recorded in a Chinese agricultural encyclopedia. 

1800: Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans in Indonesia. 

1877: John Harvey Kellogg develops meat replacements from nuts, grains, and soy to feed patients in his vegetarian sanitarium in the US. 

1902: Dietitian Sarah Tyson Rorer publishes Mrs. Rorer’s Vegetable Cookery and Meat Substitutes in the US. 

1962: Marushima Shoyu K.K sells wheat gluten as “seitan” in Japan. It is imported to the US seven years later. 

1985: Soy schnitzel is created in Israel and mushroom-based meat alternatives in the UK. 

2015: Realistic raw-to- cooked beef alternatives become mainstream in consumer and quick service restaurant markets. 


  1. Eat Lancet, 2019

This article was originally published the Make it Sizzle — The New Plant-based Meat Alternatives issue of Nutripro: Nestlé Professional Nutrition Magazine. To read the full magazine, click here.


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