A new food stabilizer created in Germany will allow meat-alternative producers to create more 'realistic' meat-style foods that will appeal to omnivores.
The breakthrough comes at a good time: the meat alternative market is currently booming, with an increasing number of vegans and veggies - as well as flexitarians (who reduce their meat intake) - looking for animal-free meal ideas.
While many are turning their back on animal foods for ethical reasons, environmental and health concerns also play a part in the growing sector.
To capitalise on the veggie boom, manufacturers are increasingly seeking ways to create more meat-like veggie foods.
The new 'stabilizing and texturising system' developed by Hydrosol, a food stabilization company, reportedly creates a meat-like texture using 'HydroTOP High Gel 30', which aids the development of items like vegan nuggets, as well as vegan burgers and patties.
Dr Carstens, head of product development for meat and sausage products at Hydrosol, says: "The system is based on a specific combination of hydrocolloids and fibers that act as emulsifying and stabilizing components. First, an emulsion is made with HydroTOP High Gel 30, oil and water.
"This stabilizes the hydratized texturate through thermoreversible gelling, meaning that heating the formable mass turns it into a product that is pleasantly firm to the bite.
“In application, the synergies and interactions between HydroTOP and the protein texturate are used to full effect. High Gel 30 turns the fibrous structure of the texturate into a meat-like structure.”
The nuggets, which are soya and gluten-free, don't contain any flavor enhancers or phosphates. They can easily be frozen.
The system is expected to be first used in products on the Scandinavian market, according to a Hydrosol source, who adds that a range of products made from plant protein which will be 'closer to meat and fish than ever before', is being worked on by the company.
A spokesman for Hydrosol said: "[The] new stabilizing and texturing system comes at a time when all types of consumers, not just vegans, are looking for innovative product options to reduce their meat intake.
"The growing popularity of new product development on a vegan platform is substantiated by new product launch data from Innova Market Insights, with a 58 per cent increase in product launches recorded with a vegan claim in 2015 from 2014, with a further 35 per cent increase in 2016 from 2015.
"New product innovation with vegan suitability is not likely to be slowing down in the foreseeable future, with plant-based milks and meat substitutes already rapidly moving into the mainstream."