Could 3D-printed vegan steaks help to save the ailing foodservice?

GlobalData Consumer 9th July 2020 (Last Updated July 9th, 2020 16:10)

Could 3D-printed vegan steaks help to save the ailing foodservice?

Redefine Meat has launched what it calls the world’s first 3D-printed vegan steak, which emulates the texture, flavour and appearance of meat via the company’s proprietary 3D-printing technology. The new stake is composed of soy and pea protein, combined with coconut fat and sunflower oil, along with natural flavourings and colourings. The resulting steak product is high in protein and has no cholesterol.

The steak’s unique selling point is that its steak was developed with 3D printing in mind, mapping more than 70 sensory factors including mouthfeel, texture, juiciness, fat distribution and the fibrous muscle structure of beef. The company claims that this marks the start of a new era for alternative meat, where the scaled 3D printing of alternative ‘whole muscle’ products can replace animal rearing in a sustainable way.

The alternative steak includes its own set of plant-based ingredients formulated especially for the product. It contains alt-muscle, alt-fat and alt-blood, which combine to make a product that looks, cooks and tastes like beef. The 3D printing process allows the company to achieve unique outcomes relative to more traditional plant-based meat alternatives. It allows Redefine to build a multi-sensory product with natural-seeming variations in texture, fibres and density, and can combine these with the alternative fat and blood equivalents.

The company aims to kick-off consumer testing in high-end restaurants in the coming months, just as foodservice begins to recover from Covid-19 and lockdown. But will consumers be interested?

In GlobalData’s Week 2 Covid-19 recovery consumer survey, globally, only 3% of respondents claim they are vegan, but the appeal for an alternative to steak goes way beyond vegans; 10% of global consumers reported that they are vegetarian, and a further substantial 24% claimed that they have a ‘low-meat diet’. GlobalData also found that globally, *17% of consumers are buying more plant-based meat alternatives, while **24% of consumers claim to be buying less meat during the pandemic. Novel meat substitutes appeal to a diverse group of consumers who aim to either reduce their meat intake or even just experiment with new food.

Redefine Meat claims that the alt-steak is 95% more sustainable than actual beef and will cost less. By focusing on cost and sustainability in addition to the taste, mouthfeel and general experience, the company is targeting multiple trends that will be relevant in post-Covid-19 foodservice. As economies begin to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, unemployment is likely to remain high in the near term, meaning that disposable incomes will be lower than pre-Covid-19 equivalents. By offering a high-quality product at a lower price, the company can potentially reach a large number of people as the product goes into mass production. If the product truly is 95% more sustainable, this will also appeal to the ecologically conscious consumer, while the product’s claims of high nutritional content, plant protein and zero cholesterol will appeal to the health-conscious consumer.

The alternative steak could be the exact kind of novel menu option to attract wary consumers back to foodservice in the post-Covid-19 dining landscape.

The company plans to extend the product to European restaurants in 2021 and supermarkets in 2022.