Forget the summer of love, it’s shaping up to be the summer of the burger – the meat free burger, that is. A number of supermarkets are embracing Britain’s growing appetite for vegetarian and vegan fare by stocking fantastic new “fake meat” products that have been wowing diners around the world with their similarity to the real thing – including, for the first time in the UK, the Beyond Burger.
With the recent publication of research showing that adopting a vegan diet is the best way to cut your environmental impact, the arrival in shopping aisles of meat and dairy-free burgers, sausages and mince that look, taste and have the same mouth-feel as animal products is set to revolutionise the way we eat, during the barbecue season and beyond.
Having already introduced Vivera’s plant-based vegan steaks to 400 stores – and seen the first delivery of 40,000 promptly sell out – Tesco has reportedly signed a deal to bring the Beyond Burger to these shores. It is made by Beyond Meat, a Los Angeles-based start-up that has received backing from tech giant Bill Gates and Twitter founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams. The Beyond Burger will apparently be ready for barbecue fans to snap up from July, with Beyond Meat’s sausages the next to arrive in store. Tesco’s year-long deal with Vivera is expected to result in more of its 40-strong range appearing on shelves too – something shoppers will be salivating over given the popularity of its steaks.
Vivera boss Gert Jan Gombert said the steaks were aimed at people of all dietary persuasions – omnivores and meat-reducers as well as vegans and vegetarians. “The smell, taste and bite can hardly be distinguished from real steak and we are convinced that this product will meet a large need of consumers. It is very important that we eat less meat, both for our own health, animal welfare and for our planet. Innovative and high-quality plant-based products can make a significant contribution here.”
All in all, it’s been a strong 2018 so far for Tesco, which says that demand for meat substitutes rocketed 25 per cent last year, but it isn’t the only supermarket getting on board. Sainsbury’s announced this week that its new vegan “fake meat” range will be going on sale later this month – and in a ground-breaking move will be sold alongside the real meat. Four hundred of the chain’s bigger stores will be offering meat and dairy-free burgers products by Naturli Foods, a Danish company whose burgers use beetroot to mimic the look of beef and mushrooms to add a meaty umami taste.
With meat free food becoming increasingly popular, particularly among younger people, the decision to sell Naturli’s products alongside meat products will hopefully convince more shoppers to give them a try. “They are so authentic as meat alternatives, that’s why we are stocking them there,” said a Sainsbury’s spokesman. Waitrose, whose vegan options have seen a “very high percentage increase” of sales, has taken the opposite tack, with the introduction of a dedicated meat free section. “We’ve done it to make it easier to find vegan products conveniently,” said Chloe Graves, who runs the supermarket’s vegan and vegetarian range. “The positive customer feedback on social media is they’re really grateful they haven’t got to spend their time reading ingredients.”
Meat free burgers dear to MFM’s heart, for obvious reasons – those made by Linda McCartney Foods – have also been sold alongside the traditional type, though not in the supermarket. The company recently teamed up with upmarket fast food outfit Dirty Burger to create the “Dirty Vegan”, which was available for seven days only, during World Meat Free Week last week. Consisting of a Linda McCartney quarter-pounder, burnt aubergine, poponcini pepper and lettuce in a vegan brioche bun, it will hopefully have made such an impression on diners that it becomes a regular offering. Watch this space!