Plant-based meat is no longer a novelty; it has finally gone mainstream. And it’s not just vegans and vegetarians driving the fake meat food trend either, meat eaters and ‘flexitarians’ are too. Whether for health, ethical or environmental reasons, one in three Australians are now actively looking to cut down on their meat intake. According to Roy Morgan research, about 2.5 million Australians have all, or almost all, vegetarian diets.
International market research firm Euromonitor projects that Australia will be the third-fastest growing vegan market in the world estimating that the nation’s packaged vegan food market will be worth $215 million by year’s end. By 2030, the food category is expected to be valued at $6 billion in Australia.
To satisfy demand and sensing profitable returns, major supermarkets, cafes, restaurants and fast food outlets are stocking their shelves with more alternative protein options than ever before.
There’s also a growing number of entrepreneurs establishing plant-based food businesses. According to an ABC report, the number of “mock meats” on Australian shelves has almost tripled in the last decade and new products with vegan labelling has almost tripled in the past five years.
These plant-based food companies are leading the meat-free revolution in Australia:
Former British Aerospace engineer Nick Hazell migrated to Australia 15 years ago and turned his attention to food production after realising that the current version of food production is unsustainable. He founded v2food a meat substitute made from soybeans (the company’s name was derived from Version 2 food), in 2018, developing v2food with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The meat substitute can now be found in fast food chains across Australia and New Zealand, including Sydney’s Soul Burger, which sells 4,000 plant-based burgers each week.
After raising $35 million in Series A funding last year, the company is setting its sights to export high-quality plant-based protein to the global market. “It is impossible to feed the world the way [people] want to eat, with the [limited] amount of meat that we can grow,” he told SBS News. “It takes 10 times as much grain or legumes to feed a cow, which you then convert into protein.”
In December 2019, after successfully raising $1.5 million in funding, plant-based meat company Fable Food Co. (Fable) launched.
The business is a relatively new venture by Michael Fox; former co-founder and CEO of Shoes of Prey, Jim Fuller; fine dining chef turned Mycologist (mushroom scientist), and Chris McLoghlin; a mushroom connoisseur co-founded Australia’s largest certified organic mushroom farm and has won both Young and Organic Farmer of the year awards.
A mushroom-based meat alternative, Fable is made from 62% shiitake mushroom and other wholefoods. It is minimally processed to meet the brand’s mission to be the cleanest, healthiest and most responsible meat substitute on the market.
Fable is now available in 600 Woolworths locations across Australia. It also features on various menus including celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin Star restaurants.
3. Soulfresh‘s ‘Eaty’ range of meat substitutes
Australian alternative foods and beverage manufacturer Soulfresh was founded in 2003 by former Byron Bay chef Didi Lo who sought to capitalise on the next generation of health foods such as organic and plant-based foods. The company launched its plant-based meat product range ‘Eaty’ in 2019 and offered two ranges: ready-to-eat and BBQ Classics.
Last year, the company successfully raised AU$49 million from a European investment firm. The funding helped to scale the plant-based meat business, and Eaty meat substitutes are now stocked on the shelves of Coles and IGA supermarkets.
Eaty is made from, surprise surprise, the proteins of plants. “We played around with peas, legumes, soy and wheat; each of those different base materials give you a different nutritional profile, a different protein profile and ultimately a different texture and flavour profile,” Lo explains to Inside FMCG.
4. The Alternative Meat Co.
The Alternative Meat Co. range of plant-based meat alternatives produced by Life Health Foods was introduced to the Australian market in 2016. The faux meat looks, smells and tastes like the real thing, but is made from soy, wheat and pea vegetable proteins. Products available from The Alternative Meat Co. include sausages, burger patties, bolognese and mince that are all vegan, high in plant protein and manufactured in Australia.
5. Sunfed Foods
Founded by former software engineer Shama Sukul Lee after experiencing an existential crisis, plant-based meat startup Sunfed Foods raised $9.4 million in 2018 to take plant-based meat global.
Sunfed’s “Chicken Free Chicken” is made from premium yellow pea protein and is gluten-free, soy-free and GMO-free. Made in New Zealand from imported and local ingredients, Sunfed meat substitutes have double the protein of chicken and tripe the iron of beed. The mock meat was developed to cook, feel and taste just like real chicken meat but the brand claims it is “healthier, both for you and the planet”.
The brand launched in Australia in July 2019 and is hoping to scale quickly by exporting to other countries.
“You can make a great product, but if you can’t reach all corners of the earth, then it’s not going to change the world,” Lee tells Inside FMCG.
“Scalability is critical. That’s where we’re really strong. We built everything ourselves from the ground up keeping in mind we’re a born global business and want to scale this out.”
6. Vegie Delights
Originally founded by Sanitarium, Vegie Delights is a 100% vegan-friendly brand that was acquired by Life Health Foods back in 2014. Many of the plant-based products are Australian made, processed in its factory on NSW’s Central Coast while one range is manufactured in a facility in Auckland, New Zealand. The brand is stocked in all major Australian supermarkets and makes meat-free meals easy. Shoppers have a plethora of meat substitutes to choose from; there are herb sausages, classic hot dogs, vegie mince, faux chicken slices and more.
7. Unreal Co.
Australian premium vegan food company Unreal Co. was founded in 2017 and locally produces plant-based and gluten free alternative meats which can be purchased from Woolworths supermarkets. With a team consisting of engineers, food scientists, marketers and manufacturing specialists, Unreal Co.’s product range is extensive. Customers can choose from meat substitutes such as ‘Beefy Brat’ sausages, ‘Chick’n Schnitzel’ and faux chicken nuggets.
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Cover image by Natalie Nguyen.