Plant-based products are now able to closely mimic the taste and texture of meat and dairy items. However, unlike meat and dairy items, plant-based products are not animal-based, rather they draw their form and taste from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, or beans. Although “plants” are usually classified as Kosher from the outset, because processing occurs even in plant-based products, kosher supervision is necessary. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have voiced pros and cons to the plant-based movement. Those in favor are environmentally concerned, as factory farming comprises approximately 8% of all U.S. emissions, while those against want farming to continue as usual.
Will the conventional meat and dairy industry become extinct due to the plant-based revolution? Likely not, as 90% of meat and most dairy consumption still comes from animals. However, the expansion and popularity of the plant-based movement can’t be denied as it has produced comparable flavors and potentially healthier alternatives.
Some benefits of avoiding meat intake involve less calorie consumption and a reduction in the chance of developing heart disease. A dairy-free plant-based diet has the advantage of preventing milk allergens from developing. Also, it offers options for the lactose intolerant, helps in digestion and reduces exposure to antibiotics and hormones that are often injected into the animals For vegans and vegetarian consumers, plant-based products offer a variety of options to boost protein intake.
OU Kosher certified companies are heavily vested and investing in the plant-based arena. Investments in new infrastructure – such as building plants – and the expansion of product lines are happening quickly.
In the plant-based “meat” industry, Impossible Burger, an OU Kosher certified company, continues to be a dominant player. It uses soy as the primary substitute for the meat. It has received close to $1.3 billion in funding to date. Rabbi Yitzchak Gutterman, the Rabbinical Coordinator who handles the Impossible Foods Inc. account, confirmed that currently the burger is “wildly popular and the demand is constant.” Regarding taste, he said, “it’s really similar to meat.”
Nestle has also entered this space by recently investing $300 million to produce its Nestlé’s Plant-Based Protein Center of Excellence in Moss Landing, California. They now offer the Awesome Burger primarily made of pea protein under its Sweet Earth brand certified by OU Kosher. Nestle is also investing $100 million in China in terms of infrastructure, plant-based products and other rollouts. In terms of the plant-based focus, Mark Schneider, chief executive officer of Nestle said, “As a company, we have set ambitious climate goals. This is part of our promise to develop products that are good for you and good for the planet.” Cargill, another OU Kosher certified company, will also soon be soon rolling out operations in China.
ADM, an OU Kosher certified company, is heavily invested in the plant-based market and recently introduced a line of pea proteins that can make meat alternatives. In this category, among other products, they introduced Prolite MeatXT(6009-C) that is OU kosher certified. Regarding the company’s plant-based vision, Jacquelyn Schuh, ADM’s product marketing director for alternative proteins, said, “The key to winning over consumers with plant proteins is fine-tuning the product for optimal sensory appeal. It is essential to get aspects like taste and texture just right.”
In the dairy-free plant-based arena, oat milk is enjoying popularity. It can be consumed on its own or serve as an ingredient for other products, especially in yogurt which is trending. Oat milk is simply a mix of rolled oats and water that is blended and strained with a mesh pad. Oats are full of fiber and nutrients. Interestingly, if you purchase oat milk from a manufacturer as opposed to making it at home, you will get more added nutrients. This is because manufacturers will often add Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, calcium and riboflavin in the fortifying process, to supplement those same nutrients found in cow milk.
In the area of oat milk and oat milk based yogurt, there are many choices. Califia Farms, an OU Kosher certified company, offers it as a drink called OAT – Oatmilk. WWF Operating Company, an OU Kosher certified company, under its popular Silk brand, offers many oat milk and oat milk-based yogurt flavors. Chobani Inc., an OU Kosher certified company, offers as a beverage, Chobani Oat Drink Plain and if you want to mix it up, they have Chobani Pineapple Turmeric Plant-Based Drink along with a lot of other flavors.
Plant-based snacks have become very popular as well. Hershey’s and Meir Bagels, two OU Kosher certified companies, offer good choices in this area. Hershey’s offers four vegan products under its Greenr brand. The products are Vegan Creamy Chocolate Confection, Vegan Creamy Chocolate Confection with Almonds and Sea Salt, Vegan Dark Chocolate Confection and Vegan Dark Chocolate Confection with Almonds and Sea Salt. Meir Bagels, an Israeli-based company with a worldwide presence, offers Sea Salt, BBQ and Everything pretzels under their Dream Pretzels brand.
The plant-based movement is now a mainstay in the food industry. They have put a strong emphasis on presenting products that taste and feel like their counterparts. It has many attractive elements, as it considers the environment, offers health benefits and gives more choice to the consumer. Whether you’re seeking plant-based alternatives in the meat, dairy or snack sector, it is now easily attainable.