The wafting scent of scrumptious schnitzels, heavenly hamburgers and sizzling shwarma is not usually associated with plant-based diets.
That is, at least, until you meet the ambitious entrepreneurs leading the meatless revolution – a culinary uprising that promises to transform the way humanity consumes its food. While the recent excitement surrounding meat substitutes – including Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods – may be welcome news for vegans, the developers have the world in their sights.
Israel has secured its place as an early and leading player in the fields of plant-based culinary innovation and cultured meat, grown in the laboratory from extracted animal cells. The rapidly-growing market for meat substitutes is driven by an increasing combination of health and environmental concerns.
Dozens of leading Israeli start-ups and well-established firms showcased their innovations at Tel Aviv Port on Monday, at the first conference for plant-based culinary innovation, targeting professionals and suppliers from the food industry. The conference was organized by Vegan Friendly and the Israeli branch of Meatless Monday.
Alongside mass munching on innovative food products, including chickpea-based ice cream and “bleeding” burgers, experts from the field presented a series of lectures on the future of meat and alternative proteins.
“Everyone is here to learn what can be served instead of meat, fish, eggs and dairy to people who want to reduce their animal product consumption,” Or Benjamin, the chairwoman of Meatless Monday, told The Jerusalem Post. “This event is definitely not for vegans, we do not market it to vegans and there are very few of the vegan community over here at all. This is intentional, as we believe that plant-based food is not only for vegans, but that everyone can benefit from moving to a more plant-based diet.”
With the growing range of plant-based solutions on offer, Benjamin said that there is no longer any need to compromise on taste, enjoyment or culinary interest when reducing meat consumption.
“There are both more and less processed products here, ranging from vegetables to burgers that stimulate the experience of a beef hamburger, but they do so without the deforestation and without a lot of the resources that go into producing meat,” Benjamin said. “This is a very exciting conference where the culinary scene meets the foodtech scene, and it is interesting to thousands of people visiting today.”
MORE THAN 350 hi-tech firms currently operate in Israel’s expanding agri-food sector, according to a report published in September 2019 by Start-Up Nation Central. Approximately a third were established during the past five years.
One of those start-ups is InnovoPro, the developer of an innovative technology capable of extracting a 70% protein concentrate from chickpeas. Proving that chickpeas are for more than hummus alone, InnovoPro has partnered with several Israeli companies to develop chickpea protein-based products.
In addition to a chickpea-based milk substitute and an entirely plant-based egg, InnovoPro launched two vegan ice cream flavors with leading boutique chain Buza on Monday, which are indistinguishable from creamy, dairy-based ice cream.
“The ‘Start-Up Nation’ started with technology and has progressed into food and agriculture, which were previously more traditional and not seen as technological sectors,” said InnovoPro founder and CEO Taly Nechushtan. “Today, we understand that the raw materials that we used in the past are not the raw materials that we want in the products of our children in the future. New raw materials need to be based on technology, and that’s why Israel – the Start-Up Nation – is a magnet of foodtech.”
The growing global population has led to soaring interest in food security solutions, including the provision of healthy and sustainable sources of protein.
For Israeli company Mixoy, the answer to providing “protein security” lies in a new range of dry, plant-based protein products that simply require mixing with water.
The company has already announced a partnership with major supermarket chain Rami Levy to sell its protein-rich products, including minced meat, chicken and bakeable cheese alternatives. Prior to mixing with water, the shelf life of Mixoy’s dry product is more than a year.
During the next fiscal quarter, Mixoy will launch a lamb substitute, and is currently developing alternatives to pork and several cheeses, including mozzarella, feta and gouda.
“What we have invented is a plant-based raw material that serves as a substitute for livestock, while giving the same level of protein that is required,” said Gil Harley, head of alternative protein export sales at Mixoy. “Our one-stop shop will not allow anybody to have any more excuses for why you need to eat animals – that’s the bottom line.”
While that objective certainly answers vegan consumer demands, Harley emphasizes that the company has far greater ambitions, too.
“Our larger objective is to provide protein security. Because of the dry product’s shelf life, it is a solution for emergency services, governments, local municipalities, armies and organizations tackling hunger in Third World countries. You can just ship it dry, mix it with water and you have your dishes. It’s a dream, a 360-degrees vegan solution, that gives you the same nutritional value and makes the world a better place.”