Plant-based Instant Noodles Launched in U.K.

UK chef and restaurateur Carl Clarke has launched his latest venture – a plant-based instant noodle brand called Future Noodles. The DTC brand plans to change preconceptions around instant noodles, producing nutritional instant food with sustainably sourced ingredients and plastic-free packaging.

Effectively meal kits requiring only boiling water, the 100% vegan noodle pots are designed to be a “nutritionally complete, natural plant-based instant noodle that is affordable, convenient, healthy”. After a successful Kickstarter campaign which raised more than £55,000 to begin production, Future Noodles has set up as a DTC brand across the UK with each pot selling at £3.75.

With flavours including smoky shiitake and miso noodle soup, as well as yellow curry with fresh spices, the brand is really looking to reinvent the instant noodle market. Additionally, in partnership with charity food bank Fare Share, the company also runs a ‘Buy One, Give One’ initiative, which has resulted in the donation of over 8,000 meals so far.

Source : Vegonomist

Americans Are Eating More Meatless Meat Than Ever, But It’s Still Not Much.


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Kenny Torrella wrote . . . . . . . . .

It can be hard to keep up with the plant-based food industry. Every month seems to bring buzzy product launches and press releases from startups about the millions of dollars they’ve raised from investors. At the same time, big-name traditional food companies continue to launch their own lines of dairy- and meat-free foods at a rapid clip.

Each year the Plant Based Foods Association and the Good Food Institute — the two main groups that advocate for meat and dairy alternatives — publish a state of the industry of sorts, analyzing how these products actually perform in grocery stores. It’s a useful zoom-out that helps put the blitz of plant-based food development into perspective.

Their latest report looked at 2020 sales figures and found that — as with the previous year — plant-based food retail sales grew much faster (27 percent) than the total US retail food market (15 percent). And this wasn’t just on the coasts; there was more than 25 percent growth in all US census regions.

Plant-based meat sales grew by 45 percent and plant-based milk sales were up 20 percent from 2019.

The growth may be eye-popping, but there’s a big caveat here: Supermarkets had an unusually good year. Early in the pandemic, panic-buying sent grocery sales surging, and earnings remained high throughout 2020 as people cooked at home more to avoid crowds and save money, giving the sales of both plant-based and animal-based foods a big bump.

Another important caveat: The plant-based food category is starting from a very low baseline. A 45 percent increase in plant-based meat sales over one year is a big deal, but it can be brought back down to earth by a grim, stubborn fact: More than 99 percent of the meat we eat in the US still comes from animals.

But this continued year-after-year growth at the very least shows there is growing demand for alternatives.

Plant-based is now more than a trend

In the mid- to late 2010s, it was common for journalists and market research groups to predict plant-based as the next big trend. Years later, it’s clear that it’s more than a trend — it’s a sizable sector of the food industry, especially alternative dairy, which is becoming less and less alternative.

Fifteen percent of fluid milk sales in retail are now plant-based, plant-based butter is at 7 percent, and plant-based coffee creamer 6 percent. Some subcategories of plant-based meat are getting more and more consumer dollars, too — for example, 2.7 percent of packaged meat sales are now plant-based. To be clear, these figures are for sales, not volume. Since plant-based products tend to cost more than their animal-derived counterparts, the actual volume of plant-based milk and packaged meat that Americans are picking up at the grocery store is likely a good amount lower than 15 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively.

Despite the relatively small share of grocery dollars spent on plant-based foods, investors are confident that alternative proteins will continue to capture more and more of the overall food industry. Last month, GFI reported that in 2020 alone, the alternative protein sector raised $3.1 billion from investors. That’s more than half of all the money raised in this space over the past decade. Much of the $3.1 billion went to big names like Impossible Foods and Oatly, but many newer companies got a boost, too.

It will take many years to see if this investment — a lot of it likely to be used on R&D — pays off, but it sets up the industry to make headway on its biggest challenges: bringing down the cost of plant-based products, making them taste better, and making them more widely available.

On the price and availability front, Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, and Eat Just have continually lowered prices while getting into more and more grocery stores (and restaurant chains) — though not quite enough to bring in lower-income consumers.

Compared to the popularity of meatless burgers and sausages (the products the biggest plant-based food companies have focused on), consumers aren’t buying a lot of plant-based chicken or fish alternatives, which is bad news for chickens and fish, as they’re killed in the highest numbers and typically raised in the worst conditions.

Better news for animals is the rise of plant-based eggs, which saw sales grow by 168 percent from 2019 to 2020. But more so than any other subcategory mentioned here, plant-based eggs were starting from an especially low baseline — Eat Just’s liquid plant-based egg only became widely available in late 2020, with practically no predecessors (or competitors).

Who’s buying plant-based food?

In addition to looking at in-store sales, PBFA and GFI also commissioned a consumer survey to look at who’s buying plant-based foods at the supermarket. They found that households with under $35,000 in income spend the least on these foods, while a little more than half of all money spent on plant-based foods comes from households making over $70,000 a year (the US median household income is $68,703).

Those who are purchasing plant-based foods the most? Consumers ages 35 to 44, consumers with graduate degrees, households with children, and households with income over $100,000.

This data underscores the importance of plant-based companies’ efforts to lower prices, and suggest that more companies ought to try to make plant-based meat as cheap as possible from the get-go, rather than creating an expensive, high-demand product at first in the hope it can scale and become affordable over time, the approach taken by most startups so far.

The survey also found that people of color overindexed on plant-based purchasing, meaning they were both more likely to buy plant-based foods and spend more on plant-based foods compared to the consumer panel, whereas white consumers underindexed.

This is not too surprising. A 2018 US Gallup poll found that nonwhite Americans were three times as likely as white Americans to identify as vegetarian, which could suggest that non-vegetarian people of color are more likely to buy plant-based food than non-vegetarian white people.

Overall, the share of households purchasing plant-based products went up only 4 percentage points since last year. Impressively, though, over half of American households reported buying a meat or dairy alternative in 2020 although only a small percentage of Americans identify as vegetarian or vegan. This could be caused, in part, by the widespread adoption of the term “plant-based” on package labeling — as opposed to “vegan” or “vegetarian” — as research has shown people are less likely to purchase food when it has a “v” word on it.

According to the report, the percentage of “plant-based” claims on packaging more than doubled last year compared to 2019. I’ve even seen this “plant-based” halo effect cross over to retail categories outside of food. Take, for example, Tide’s “plant-based” laundry detergent (I just hope nobody mistakes it for food).

It might be the case that non-vegetarians read “vegetarian” on a food package and dismiss it as something that isn’t for them, whereas “plant-based” is a more vague term, and rarely used as an identity.

The plant-based industry may be small, but that’s because it’s so new

These annual reports are released with a hefty dose of enthusiasm and optimism, which is warranted given how quickly the plant-based food sector is growing (and no surprise given the source).

But they also show just how far plant-based producers and advocates still have to go to achieve the enormous goal they’re setting out to accomplish: fundamentally changing how humanity has produced meat and milk for decades.

To do that, the plant-based food industry will need to see many consecutive years of significant growth before it can start to bring down the number of animals raised in factory farms.

That’s not happening, at least yet — meat consumption continues to rise slowly in the US while it explodes around the globe. But it’s also worth remembering that this new generation of the plant-based food industry is still in its infancy; it was only a couple of years ago when the sector’s biggest players even got their products on grocery store shelves.

It’ll be a while until we see if their efforts to transform the food industry gain serious ground. But the continual progress is encouraging.

Source: Vox

In Pictures: Food of Vegan Restaurants in London, U.K.

COVID-19 Variant of Interest vs. Variant of Concern: What Does It Mean?

Melissa Couto Zuber wrote . . . . . . . . .

A variant that appears to be wreaking havoc in India has been detected in Canada and sparked a temporary ban on direct passenger flights from India and Pakistan on Thursday. But experts say it’s too early to know how concerning this new version of the COVID-19 virus is.

The variant — named B.1.617 — has so far been classified as a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organization, rather than a “variant of concern,” the term attached to the variants first detected in the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa.

Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist with the University of Ottawa, said Thursday that a variant of interest is one that is “suspected” to either be more contagious than the initial strain, cause more severe disease, or escape the protection offered by vaccines.

A variant of interest can become a variant of concern if more evidence emerges that it does one or more of those things, he added.

India is dealing with massive surges in COVID-19 activity — there were 300,000 new cases reported Wednesday with 2,000 deaths linked to the virus — but the Indian government has not confirmed the new variant is fueling the current wave.

Deonandan said the variant appears to be responsible for about 60 per cent of cases in India’s most populated region, which would suggest a higher transmissibility.

He said it’s “probably around 20 to 30 per cent,” more contagious, but added that experts still don’t know if the variant causes more severe disease.

“It may be a little less bad than B.1.1.7 (the variant first detected in the U.K.),” Deonandan said. “But our biggest concern is: If it becomes common here, are we then fighting off essentially another B.1.1.7?”

Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease expert with McMaster University, said it’s important to flag this variant as one of interest because it does seem account for more and more of India’s caseload.

But, he added, other factors — including the country’s densely populated urban centres and mutligenerational homes with poorly ventilated spaces — may be contributing to how quickly it’s spreading there.

“Is it because of situations that lead to high levels of transmission and super spreading, or is there something biologically different about this variant?” Chagla said. “Or is it some combination of the two?”

Alain Lamarre, an immunology and virology professor at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique in Quebec, doesn’t think the new variant of interest is more concerning than the variants first detected in South Africa and Brazil.

He said he’s more concerned about the variant first discovered in the U.K., which is “clearly more transmissible and more virulent.”

WILL CURRENT VACCINES WORK AGAINST THE NEW VARIANT?

The variant first detected in India has a double mutation on the spike protein gene, which our current COVID-19 vaccines target. But experts say there’s no evidence right now that the approved vaccines won’t work against it.

Deonandan said the variant may diminish vaccine efficacy, “at least a little bit,” because that’s what we’ve seen with the variants of concern so far.

But, he added, that doesn’t mean efficacy will drop from 95 per cent to zero, for example.

Deonandan likened the coronavirus’s spike protein to the license plate on a car, with vaccines giving our cells that plate number so they know to keep it out when they see it.

“But if the license plate has changed, will the cell still recognize the car?” he said. “So the question is: Has an entire digit on the plate changed, or is it just a smudge on the corner?”

Deonandan added that the mRNA vaccines seem to be adept at catching different versions of the virus by targeting many aspects of the spike protein.

“So, they may say: ‘Look out for all license plates beginning with the letter B,’ rather than this specific license plate,” he said.

Lamarre said adapting mRNA vaccines like those by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech to new variants would be faster and easier than altering other types of inoculations.

“The approval process will be quicker as well because the proof of concept has been done and we know that the mRNA vaccines are safe and efficient,” he said.

WHERE HAS THE VARIANT APPEARED IN CANADA?

The B.C. Ministry of Health said Thursday there had been 39 cases of the B.1.617 lineage in the province on April 4, before it was identified as a variant of interest.

Quebec confirmed Wednesday what’s believed to be the province’s first case of the new variant, causing Premier Francois Legault to urge the federal government to tighten restrictions on air travel.

Legault said the premiers of Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia were among those behind a letter sent to the federal government expressing concerns about new variants coming into the country.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said Thursday that Canada will be making adjustments at the border for incoming flights “very soon.”

B.C.’s top doctor Bonnie Henry said some of the 39 cases of the variant in that province were directly related to travel from India, but others had no travel link.

The cases were seen “at different times over the last month-and-a-half to two months,” Henry added.

CAN WE CALL THE VARIANT A “DOUBLE MUTANT?”

While some have dubbed the variant a “double mutant,” Chagla said that’s a misnomer that conjures up false images of a super virus.

The earlier variants of concern don’t have a single mutation, Chagla said, but instead a set of them that change the virus in certain ways.

Having two mutations on the spike protein doesn’t necessarily mean the variant is more dangerous than one that has a single mutation on that gene, Chagla added.

“That’s a terrible term,” he said of the double-mutant label. “When you see double mutations as compared to single mutations people get freaked out, but in reality many of these are combinations of mutations.”

Source : CTV News

Vegetable Chili

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
3 oz finely sliced celery
2 carrots, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp celery seeds
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp chili powder
15 oz canned chopped plum tomatoes with their juice
1 cup vegetable stock or water
1/2 tsp fresh or dried thyme
1 bay leaf
12 oz cauliflower florets
3 courgettes cut in 2-inch cubes
11 oz canned sweetcorn, drained
15 oz canned kidney or pinto beans, drained
hot pepper sauce (optional)
salt

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole or heavy saucepan and add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic. Cover the casserole and cook over a low heat for 8-10 minutes stirring from time to time, until the onions are softened.
  2. Stir in the celery seeds, cayenne, cumin, and chili powder. Mix well. Add the tomatoes, stock or water, salt, thyme and bay leaf. Stir. Cook for 15 minutes, uncovered.
  3. Add the cauliflower, courgettes and sweetcorn. Cover and cook for a further 15 minutes.
  4. Add the kidney or pinto beans, stir well, and cook for 10 minutes more, uncovered.
  5. Check the seasoning, and add a dash of hot pepper sauce if desired. Good with freshly boiled rice or baked potatoes.

Makes 8 servings.

Source: Vegetarian Classic


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