Food tech brings 'veggie-centric' products to market

Friday, 07 May, 2021

Food tech brings 'veggie-centric' products to market

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is enabling New Zealand to tap into the growing market for plant-based products, where vegetables are showcased ‘centre stage’.

A diverse range of new processed vegetable products is now available on the market, thanks to a $147,000 investment from MPI’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund — and the government body said more innovation is underway.

The two-year project led by Food Nation, which kicked off in mid-2019, aimed to develop a range of plant-based ‘meat alternative’ foods using mushroom seconds and an array of other more novel plants.

“Many of the plant-based meals currently on the market revolve around ‘fake meat’,” said Miranda Burdon, co-founder of Food Nation.

“They try to reflect the taste and texture of meat, rather than showcasing the various plants they are made of. The products we’re developing are predominantly and unashamedly made of mushrooms, grains and vegetables,” she said.

“They are free from soy, dairy and gluten, so people with all types of diets can enjoy them.”

The Auckland-based company is using fresh New Zealand ingredients as much as possible, working in partnership with New Zealand producers such as Meadow Mushrooms, Kiwi Quinoa, Hemp Farm and the Pure NZ Buckwheat Company.

Steve Penno, MPI’s director of investment programmes, said the skills and ingredients Food Nation is using are in their infancy in New Zealand, and the work they’re doing with food technology institutions and other plant food suppliers and processors in New Zealand is building this capability.

“There’s a growing global market for alternatives to meat-based protein, and our support of this project will help New Zealand to tap into that market much faster. This investment will have benefits for New Zealand businesses looking to enter the market, and help build our plant-based food sector.”

Burdon said without SFF Futures funding, Food Nation wouldn’t have got where it is today.

“It’s helped us with the development end immeasurably, enabling us to develop our know-how and capability as we innovate to deliver new taste sensations.

“Our market research found that consumers wanted a mince-like product first and foremost as it’s so versatile in cooking, so that was our first area of focus,” said Burdon.

“There are around 50,000 edible plants in the world, so there’s no shortage of options.”

The products have a four-week shelf life without using preservatives, achieved by changing the cooking process and packaging. By using fully recyclable packaging and mushrooms that don’t make the grade for supermarket shelves, the product is also helping to reduce waste.

The company is already turning heads internationally — taking out the ‘Best meat alternative’ category at the World Plant-Based Awards in October 2020.

Image credit: © Rodionov

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