Demand for plant-based proteins on the foodservice menu has soared among Australian consumers over the past 12 months. No longer is their appeal limited to a niche market of vegetarians and vegans – today plant-based proteins are designed with flavour profiles and textures that are designed to deliver on taste and presentation, making them menu options that appeal to everyone.

“Plant-based proteins tick lots of boxes,” says David White, executive chef at Simplot Australia which markets plant-based ingredients under the 100% Not Brand.

So far it includes 100% Not Chicken, 100% Not Beef, 100% Not Chicken Schnitzel and 100% Not Beef Burger, with more products to come.

“Not only are they a great choice for people following a meat-free diet, they’re also ideal for the growing number of ‘flexitarians’ or meat-reducers – those consumers looking to cut down on their animal protein intake,” says White.

Environmental impact and sustainability – which are major concerns for millennials both in Australia and internationally – is also driving demand. “Plant-based proteins offer strong potential to solve food shortages, making it easier to feed growing populations without the carbon footprint created from running cattle and livestock. Those are macro trends but they certainly impact on consumer behaviour, and we’re seeing more and more media coverage of these issues and consequently greater awareness,” says White.

White also says plant-based proteins need to deliver on taste, texture and satisfaction. “There’s a lot of plant-based products on the market right now and a big variance in quality. Some of them have a grainy or cereal-like texture and aftertaste and that’s not what consumers want. When you’re swapping out an animal protein with plant-based, you need comparable texture and satiety – that’s the feeling of fullness you get from eating a meat-based meal. That doesn’t mean it has to mimic the taste of meat, but it needs to be just as satisfying.

“Flavour neutrality is also important. When you choose a plant protein in place of animal protein, for example in a Thai red curry or a casserole, the flavour needs to complement the other ingredients in the same way animal protein does. In other words, a good plant protein won’t detract from or alter the flavour that you want in the finished meal.”

With some chefs unfamiliar with using plant-based proteins in place of meat, 100% Not Beef and 100% Not Chicken are packaged using the IQF process. So you can use as little or as much as you want – such as trying a little on the menu and keeping the rest in the freezer until you can gauge the response from customers.

The 100% Not range has also been developed to be just as easy to cook with as you would with an animal protein.

“From the chef’s perspective, you don’t have to modify your recipes – you can do a straight swap of the protein ingredient, which makes it easy. So you can take your favourite recipes and sauces and simply swap the beef or chicken with our 100% Not Beef or 100% Not Chicken and there’s no compromise on quality,” says White.

“That’s why our 100% Beef caramelises like beef, cooks and bleeds like beef – it delivers what you expect in flavour, texture and performance. They’re also very clean products, with no emulsifiers, no binders, no flavourings or colourings and no added fat.”

More details on Simplot Australia’s 100% Not range