What Was The First Successful Meat Substitute?
The last few years have been a time of great reflection for the restaurant industry, as many fine dining establishments take a look at their impact and make small but meaningful changes that help reduce their carbon footprint.
This can include replacing their typical wholesale aprons with greener materials, reducing the amount of food waste they generate by distributing any food they cannot sell, or through their examination of the ingredients they use.
Some take a rather sudden approach to this, following the lead of L’Arpege and its head chef Alain Passard, who in 2001 produced an entirely vegetarian menu and focused on locally sourced foods, even if his decision was more creatively driven than based on environmentalism.
Other restaurants instead opt for meat-free substitutes, of which there is a growing number on the market.
However, the first to become highly successful was Quorn, made by Marlow Foods and named after a village in Leicestershire.
Quorn’s central ingredient and protein source is mycoprotein, derived from a fungus, dried, and mixed with either egg white or potato protein before being pressed and adjusted to make a range of meat substitutes from chicken to mince.
It was originally permitted to sell as food fit for people in 1985 but took until 1993 to enter the market with a huge advertising campaign and endorsements from athletes such as Ryan Giggs and Sally Gunnell.
Uniquely amongst meat substitutes, the primary market for people buying Quorn, either as an ingredient or restaurant dishes featuring it, is meat eaters wanting a way to reduce the amount of meat in their diet rather than vegetarians.
In recent years, it has shared the meat-replacement market with other producers such as Beyond and Impossible, but in 2019 supplied the baker Greggs with the filling for its highly popular vegan sausage rolls, a mutually beneficial partnership that led to the latter boosting its profits by half.