Background

Due to a steady increase in the world population and rapid economic progress in developing and newly industrialised countries, global meat production is continuously growing. However, the production of animal protein requires a lot of resources and cannot guarantee the basic supply of food for the human population. For the production of 1 kilogram of animal protein, 3 to 8 kilograms of vegetable proteins are required. As a consequence, half of the plant proteins produced worldwide is currently used as animal feed. Moreover, meat production, mostly associated with industrial livestock farming, contributes to the emission of carbon dioxide and methane. In the future, it is of utmost importance to make food production and consumption more sustainable, which could be achieved by replacing animal proteins with plant proteins.

The introduction of meat analogues (also termed meat substitutes, meat alternatives and meat replacement food) in Western markets is a relatively recent development, starting at the beginning of the 1960s. In contrast, products such as tofu and tempeh have been eaten in Asia for centuries. In addition to these traditional Asian products, the launch of meat analogues started with the production of texturised vegetable protein, which is produced by cooking extrusion of usually defatted soy meal or soy protein concentrates. Only in recent years proteins other than those from soy and wheat gluten have been introduced as the starting materials for the production of meat analogues. In particular, combinations of different ingredients seem to be a promising approach for mimicking the fibrous and juicy texture of meat muscle, as opposed to the more “spongy” products which have been available up until now.

The number of vegetarians and number of consumers who are reducing their meat consumption has been increasing over recent years. Besides environmental considerations and health benefits, an increasing number of public issues relating to food and, especially to meat and meat products, can be held responsible for this. In order to achieve a considerable reduction in the consumption of meat, meat analogues must be competitive with meat products. Although several aspects support the shift in the diet from meat to plant proteins, the market for meat analogues is still quite small, probably due to the fact that present meat analogues do not meet consumer preferences with regard to sensory quality. Especially the bite, taste and juiciness score often low by comparison with meat. To obtain a larger market share, meat analogues have to be developed that better meet consumer demands than the present meat analogues, and this could be achieved by means of consumer oriented approaches.