Vegan food: Nestlé is now bringing the Thun-Visch

Noh meat, vegetable-based substitute products are also conquering the fish shelves in German supermarkets. The food company Nestlé announced on Wednesday in Frankfurt for the coming year the market launch of a plant-based tuna alternative under the name Garden Gourmet Sensational Thun-Visch.

Heike Mieville-Mueller, responsible for the division’s German business, did not want to give an exact point in time.

The market for animal-based food substitutes is booming. Market researchers anticipate a 67 percent increase in sales for so-called semi-finished meals to 326 million euros this year.

The proportion of vegan products at Nestlé is still low

That would amount to a doubling of sales compared to 2018. These products have broken the market niche in which vegan and vegetarian products have been stuck for decades.

Measured against the market volume through the sale of meat and sausage products, it is only a comparatively small fraction.

On Nestlé’s total sales of 92.6 billion francs, the 200 million francs (185 million euros) due to meat alternatives are modest.

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But the share continues to grow strongly. During the Corona crisis, the demand even increased, observes the top management. “Interest in plant-based alternatives has increased for various reasons,” said CEO Mark Schneider of the Reuters news agency.

This is also due to an increased interest of consumers in personal health and in weight control. In the first half of 2020, the Swiss group’s sales of plant-based foods rose by a total of 40 percent.

World market leader Nestlé is trying to be at the forefront of the movement, but has to face strong competition. In the overall veggie market, the Swiss are the second strongest brand in Germany behind Rügenwalder. “Fish substitutes are the next big trend,” Mieville-Mueller said with certainty.

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Indeed, consumer discomfort and pressure on the fish industry in the face of environmental problems and overfishing of the seas are growing in line with the difficulties facing meat producers.

When it comes to fish alternatives, however, the competitor Frosta has the lead. A few months ago, Frosta presented its first product with a plant-based alternative to fish fingers.

In Switzerland, Nestlé’s tuna substitute has been on the refrigerated shelves for five weeks. According to Oliver Nussli, manager responsible for research and development in the meat alternatives sector, the product, which is astonishingly fish-like in terms of consistency and taste, consists of just six ingredients, with peas making up the largest share.

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Nussli assured us that no coloring or flavorings were used. However, developing the tuna alternative was a challenge.

According to the food engineer, at Nestlé alone, more than 300 of the Group’s 3,500 scientists work on the development of plant-based substitutes for meat and fish. Accordingly, a three-digit million amount of the total research budget of 1.7 billion Swiss francs (1.56 billion euros) should flow into this sector annually.

Other food manufacturers also invest large sums in perfecting imitation meat and fish in terms of color, smell and appearance. One of the biggest challenges is mimicking the texture of meat fibers, says Nussli. The typical mouthfeel is created by the long protein threads that are characteristic of muscle tissue.

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“We have to pull out the vegetable proteins without breaking the amino acid structure,” the researcher tried to give a generally understandable explanation. However, every vegetable protein behaves differently. “A large part of research and development in the food sector today consists in culinary art,” said Nussli.

One result of the research is the second generation of the vegan burger patty, which is about to start trading. In between there were already several optimizations. The development of the new recipe only took seven months.

The color changes from pink to brown when fried, similar to a beef patty. The new variant also contains less fat, salt and carbohydrates than its predecessor. Nestlé has changed its name. The “Incredible Burger” became the “Sensational Burger”.

In the future, Nesquik will do without lactose

A lawsuit had been filed against the original name, which was dangerously close to Impossible Foods, the name of its most important American competitor, in terms of trademark law.

Nestlé is also responding to CEO Schneider’s enthusiasm for vegans in other product areas. The company announced the launch of more dairy-free products.

The Group’s own drinking cocoa brand, Nesquik, will in future be able to do without lactose and will instead use vegetable proteins, making it a certified vegan product. In Europe, the markets would be gradually converted, starting with Spain, Portugal and Hungary.

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