It’s not just “impossible this” and “beyond that” plant-based proteins stealing meat department space and menu listings, so are blended products containing both meat and plant. These products appeal to “lessitarian” consumers who crave animal protein but want to decrease intake for reasons ranging from health benefits to sustainability concerns. This demographic eats meat and poultry, but is also welcoming of plant-based options. They are quickly learning that they do not need to choose one or the other thanks to the emerging category of blended meat and poultry products.
The Power of Meat 2019 shows that there is a great deal of consumer interest in blended meat/plant-based foods. There’s more interest than resistance, as compared to vegetarian products and cell-based meat and poultry. This curiosity has companies such as The Better Meat Co., Sacramento, California, working with meat and poultry processors to develop blended products.
“Americans love meat, but a lot of us also want to enjoy more plant-based protein,” says Joanna Bromley, co-founder and COO. “In the same way that plant-based burgers are now in the supermarket meat aisle, some forward-thinking meat companies are exploring putting plant proteins in the meat itself, and with great results.
“Much of the attention so far has focused on blending mushrooms into burgers,” she says. “That’s quite promising, but there are some drawbacks, such as reduced protein, limited functionality and product shrinkage.”
Bromley suggests working with a plant-based system, which may be a mixture of wheat, peas, mushrooms and varied functional plant fibers.
“Blending helps processors better achieve sustainability initiatives,” she says. “Blends are also cost effective. We aim to be at or below the price of the meat we blend with, so it’s an affordable option for all.”
Varied vegetables may be part of the plant-based system, too. Companies such as Perdue Brands, Salisbury, Maryland, believes that adding vegetables to chicken nuggets appeals to parents who struggle to get their kids to eat their vegetables.
To fill the vegetable void without sacrificing flavor or nutrition, Perdue is introducing first-of-its-kind Perdue Chicken Plus nuggets, tenders and patties, which combine white meat chicken with cauliflower, chickpeas and plant protein. A serving contains one-quarter cup of vegetables.
“By blending plants and vegetables with the Perdue chicken families love, not only are we helping to meet demands for millions of parents but we are appealing to the growing number of flexitarian families who have an increased commitment to getting more plants and vegetables in their families’ diets,” says Eric Christianson, chief marketing officer.
He points out that many of the new plant-based products are geared for vegetarian adults with strict meat-replacement requirements, and not for kids who turn their noses at some foods. Perdue Chicken Plus is available in the playful, favorite panko dinosaur-shaped nuggets, as well as crispy rice tenders and panko patties. When kids tested the new products, they gave high marks for the overall look, texture and flavor, he says.
“Boosting meat with high-quality plant protein is a great way to give the consumer more choices while enhancing both sustainability and nutrition,” says Paul Shapiro, CEO of The Better Meat Co., with whom Perdue partnered to source some of the plant-based ingredients.
Perdue Chicken Plus comes in a 22-oz. bag with a suggested retail price of $6.99. It will be available in foodservice and found in retailers’ freezers starting in September 2019.
Los Angeles-based Caulipower is rolling out its version of vegetable-forward breaded chicken. Arriving in stores nationwide in the fall, the baked-not-fried chicken tenders are packed with cauliflower and other gluten-free goodness, and contains no artificial ingredients. The entire 14-oz. bag is only 480 calories and contains zero saturated fat, no added sugar, 30 percent fewer net carbs, 22 percent more protein and 21 percent more fiber than the category average, according to the company. The tenders are made from Naked Truth Premium Chicken.
“The evidence that people want healthier coated and baked chicken tenders is already all-over social media,” says Gail Becker, founder and CEO. “So, we listened and our newest Caulipower meal hack was born.”
Tyson Foods Inc., Springdale, Arkansas, is on board with the animal and plant blending, too. The new Raised & Rooted brand was “created to provide great-tasting plant-based and blended foods that are rooted in how people eat today,” according to the company. The products were developed by Tyson’s innovation, culinary and consumer insights teams in Chicago and includes a burger featuring a combination of 90 percent lean Angus beef and pea protein isolate. The patties provide 19 grams of protein and contain 40 percent fewer calories and 60% less saturated fat than an 80 percent lean/20 percent fat all-beef burger. The blended burger will hit the market this fall.
Tyson’s Aidells brand is expanding its presence in the blended space with new Aidells Whole Blends sausage and meatballs. The Aidells brand is known for chicken-based ground and formed products with inclusions, such as cheese, fruits and vegetables. This new brand places more emphasis on the plant-based extras.
Aidells Whole Blends Sausage Links come in two varieties, both boasting 10 grams of protein per serving. The jalapeño, bacon and cheese flavor features smoked chicken sausage with bacon, cheese, quinoa, jalapeño, black beans, bell pepper, corn, barley and onion. The Italian Style Margherita Sausage Links contain smoked chicken, cheese, tomato, quinoa, barley, bell pepper and basil.
Aidells Whole Blends Seasoned Meatballs are also available in two flavors. The Falafel Seasoned Meatballs contain 11 grams of protein and are made with chicken, quinoa, spinach, feta cheese and roasted green garbanzo beans. The Samosa Seasoned Meatballs, which offer 10 grams of protein, include chicken, quinoa, vegetables, potatoes and green lentils.
Blended burgers have been showing up on menus this summer. Chicago-based Jake Melnick’s teamed up with the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project to offer a hand-packed blended beef and mushroom burger as its June burger-of-the-month. The $16.95 sandwich features the patty topped with aged cheddar, caramelized onions, cremini mushrooms, house-made steak sauce, cornichon aioli and butter lettuce all atop a brioche bun.