September 13, 2023
Innovation in meat alternatives has followed a classic hockey-stick curve. For decades, the category remained largely the same: tofu, seitan and tempeh. But in recent years, increasingly more innovations have emerged. Today, the pace of product launches points straight up.
They were called vegan products at first. Then brands pivoted, seemingly en masse, to marketing meat alternatives as plant based. Now vegan is back, but with a fresh take: craft vegan.
We first heard the term from Mitch Orland, senior vice president of merchandising and procurement at Earth Fare, a chain of 18 natural grocery stores mostly in the Southeast.
Whereas the first big wave of plant-based products was mainly burgers, nuggets and cheese slices, craft vegan includes long-aged hard cheeses and fine salamis, plant-based seafood, and dairy-free butters and creams that have as much élan as those made from animal sources.
Orland is excited about this trajectory, saying he constantly experiments with new vegan products, both for Earth Fare’s assortment and cooking at home.
Over the last few Natural Products Expos, the quotient of brands introducing next-level vegan products has risen dramatically. Ditto for NEXTY Award submissions. The new offerings have persuaded many industry insiders—us included—that people choosing to shun animal products no longer must settle for wan substitutes. Instead, given the high (and escalating) quality of vegan innovation, they can proudly serve cheese and charcuterie boards with plant-based wedges of bleu and brie, slices of salami and scatterings of shrimp that thrill with bright flavors and winning textures.
Actual Veggies The Actual Truffle Burger
How’s this for craft vegan: a burger made from loads of whole vegetables, beans, spices and lots of mushrooms—along with real white truffles? This yummy product also boasts 9 grams of plant protein and 8 grams of fiber and is Non-GMO Project Verified. While many of the plant-based burgers on the market don’t quite fall into the “craft vegan” category, Actual Veggies’ plant-forward patties elevate the vegan burger in a welcome way.
Good Planet Foods Olive Oil Cheese Blocks Greek-Style Feta
As brands continue boosting the quality of vegan cheese, Good Planet’s has upped the ante with a new line that uses olive oil as a main ingredient. This Greek-Style Feta is just one of the new options and it’s a triumph. As olive oil is a superfood, this dairy-free cheese comes with low saturated fat, no cholesterol and a healthy dose of calcium along with other botanical advantages.
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