2–4 September 2018 • Olympia London • Trade Only

The Meat-Free Market and its demand for Alternative Protein Products

I had my first taste of insect protein courtesy of Jimini’s Sweet Mango Crickets at Speciality & Fine Food Fair last year. The edible insects are designed to be enjoyed as an aperitif, and accompany the producer’s range of energy bars - not being particularly squeamish this all seemed to make sense to me!

So earlier this month, when I attended The Caterer’s Food Service Forum 2017, I was particularly taken by a discussion on alternative proteins and the opportunities for the UK foodservice sector led by Mike Hanson, Head of Sustainable Business at independent hospitality provider BaxterStorey.

Sweet Mango Dried Crickets

What has inspired this discussion?

Fundamental to human health, protein makes up a large part of the average diet in the UK and we like to get it from meat. This is exacerbated by issues such as the ‘sports myth’ that athletes need a high meat diet, and the dominance of our ‘meat culture’, evident in Chefs training and our love for Sunday Roasts.

However the way we currently produce animal protein, when combined with a rising population, simply isn’t sustainable. And it might not be the best for us either; Public Health England’s 2016 advice urged that the UK audience diversify their protein intake to include beans and pulses.

How is the marketing responding?

Pret Goes Veggie – After polling 10,000 customers in July 2015 on how they should respond to an increasing demand for meat-free options, high street chain Pret A Manger successful launched vegetarian only versions of its stores in Soho and Shoreditch. They also announced earlier this week that they’ll be honouring the other-side of the vote by also rolling out vegetarian-only fridges in all of their stores.

London’s Most Sustainable Restaurant – for two years now, Zetter Groups’ The Grain Store at King’s Cross has been voted as the capital’s most sustainable restaurant thanks to a commitment to no beef on the menu and far less meat.  Chef Patron, Bruno Loubet, explained at the Forum how they’ve learnt not to separate vegetarian items on the menu, but to give everything equal billing as it means people are more likely to consider everything – rather than picking their favourite animal protein! (If you’re going to try for yourself, apparently their Chilli con Veggie is good enough to turn even the most blood-thirsty carnivore!).

Fresh Vegetables

Vegan Sandwiches in M&S - As concepts like meat-free Monday and #WorldMeatFreeDay gain popularity, M&S took the opportunity to tap into the Veganuary movement by adding two entirely vegan sandwiches to their lunchtime offering. Utilising chia and linseed bread and red pepper bread, the sandwiches compliment the supermarkets range of veggie pots.

Mozzarisella - Completely free from soya, gluten, lactose and preservatives, Mozzarisella is 100% vegan, made entirely from germinated Italian whole rice. In use by Italian restaurant group Zizzi’s since last summer, the product is now seeing a full roll out to the catering industry thanks to a launch by Futura Foods this month.

And it’s not just Londoners who lunch that are driving this change in retail habits, pub giant JD Wetherspoons – whose empire currently stands at over 900 pubs in the UK – partnered with The Vegan Society last year to develop their Vegan Menu to include a suitable dessert for the first time since the brand launched in 1979.

So, what about the Crickets?

To my surprise, the panel weren’t advocates for an insect based solution, with Hanson admitting that whilst they look like any other bar snack he’s just “not sure we have the stomach for it in the West”, and suggesting that in order to make change at the pace required it’s much more viable to use this as an alternative option for animal feed.

However, even if it is only a temporary solution, it seems consumer demand is still there. May saw both the launch of Jimini’s new Buffalo worm pasta and the re-launch of Eat Grub’s monthly pop-up series which sees them teaming up with Seb Holmes, founder of Thai pop-up Farang, to pair craft beer with the Chef’s favourite insect dishes!


If you're interested in unearth some new vegetarian products to help you expand your offering, check out these exhibitors at Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2017.