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From grain cereals “Protose” to lab grown protein: the timeline of the vegetarian plate


At the end of the 19th century John Kellogg, a medical doctor, nutritionist and health activist, had a vision that he called biologic living. This idea entailed to improve the body, soul and mind. He treated his patients on all these fronts and, unlike other doctors at that time, encouraged them to stop smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and eating meat. For the latter he gave them a variety of meat substitutes including Protose, which was patented to be a combination of nuts and grains, making it very rich in proteins. He was convinced that this was the healthier choice over meat, as it didn’t have the risk for contaminations. The change of the century marked the beginning of a new area, that of the substitute meats.

John Kellogg (Source: encyclopedia.adventist.org)


The vegetarian movement got more momentum after scandals from the meat packing plants were exposed, pushing people to choose for alternatives. More and more companies were rising, some making veggie burgers from restaurant leftovers and some by targeting the new movement. But until the early two thousand, there was just a small group of commercial companies, like Quorn and Gardein, that were growing and innovating the so-called meat substitutes. Then, in 2009 Beyond Meat was founded providing the vegetarian community an option that was competing with all the meat characteristics including taste, texture and visual. It didn’t take long for the competition to start popping up like mushrooms in the rain, providing a variety of options and tastes.


Unlike the reasons for people to choose meat alternatives during the 20th century, a majority of the people in the 21st century made the choice because they believe it is the healthier option. The next reason was that they like the taste and only as third in line were consumers convinced to make their purchase based on animal welfare and environmental reasons.


So where is the industry now, in terms of alternative meat consumption? During the COVID-19 pandemic, the sales went up significantly for the wide range of alternatives and it seemed that people were convinced to choose it over meat. However, that trend didn’t take long. Both the sales and the stock has been in a downwards spiral. Understanding what made this shift can be explained by basically three things: realization that it is not as healthy as initially assumed, second thoughts on how much better it is for the environment than animal meat and competition with meat flavor.


It has been a long journey for the meat substitutes, and consumer’s interest is ranging from health to environment and price. With all this in mind and the fact that almost 90% of the consumers that pick up meat alternatives still consume meat too, what are the expectations for the coming years? All over the world, the global price of wheat, soy and grain shoot up. , Together with the increasing energy prices, it will affect the consumption behavior of people. When there is less money to spend, the consumer is forced to make choices and as long as real meat prices are more attractive than alternative meat prices, it will reflect in the decision making.

Whether this will weigh out stronger than the government policies towards more sustainability, is hard to predict. With the current strong competition which is adapting to the customers wishes, we are working towards a healthier, more sustainable and affordable product. People will live healthier lives with more awareness for the environment and animal welfare, without higher financial burden.



About the author: Mira holds a PhD from Weizmann Institute of Science and is published in renowned scientific journals. She had the opportunity to present her research at international conferences, as well as review/edit a variety of scientific articles and data. Over the years, she gained experience working for major pharma organizations where she specialized in clinical trials. She is currently freelancing for Rosen & Ko (https://www.rosen-ko.com/) as a food-tech consultant and scientific writer.



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