future of protein production with plates with healthy food and protein

Deep Dive: Beyond the impossible

April 26, 2023

Just another fad, huh? Following a turbulent few months for the plant-based sector, Louise Davis asks those responsible for shaping its future, what’s next for plant-based meats?

Anyone with an interest in the proteins sector will have noticed the plant-based meats category coming under fire in some quarters of the mainstream media of late. Products, business practices, financials, and people have all been under the spotlight like never before.

With an objective hat on, some of the big players in the sector have not been doing themselves any favors in terms of negating the bad news stories. Indeed, several people we’ve spoken with cited experiences with obstructive ‘communications’ personnel at the companies recently mired in bad press. PR staff gatekeeping access to the very people that the media and consumers want to hear from – and pushing dubious narratives via the ever-implausible ‘company spokesperson’ – is certainly not helping clarify a murky situation.

Honest opinions

There’s a notable difference in communications approaches between the more established players and the newer generation of firms with accessible founders who don’t hide behind corporate spokespeople. And if a sector is perceived to be struggling, then honesty and transparency will be key in moving forward.

It’s also worth pointing out that two plant-based burger products cannot alone be used to sum up an entire market. And at Protein Production Technology International, we prefer to hear straight from the horse’s (or indeed chicken’s) mouth before pronouncing whole market sectors ‘a flop’. We always aim to present views from actual industry players rather than commentators or generic spokespeople.

That’s why, over the following pages, we have rounded up a selection of widely respected individuals who are actively involved in the plant-based meats industry and urged them to discuss where the sector can go from here.

We asked them to address the criticism that’s been aimed at previous generations of products – some of it totally valid, as several of our stakeholders acknowledge – and requested their feedback on whether the mainstream media is distorting perception of a market that has plenty of innovation left in it. We also encouraged them to showcase some cool next-gen products that are already moving this category ‘beyond the impossible’.


Representing a new generation of open, accessible and just plain friendly CEOs is Andre Menezes, the Co-founder of TiNDLE, creator of the so-called ‘ridiculously good chicken made from plants’. Menezes is often found giving praise to those who came ahead of him and says his firm is “standing on the shoulders of giants who came before”.

It is undeniable, he notes, that companies such as Beyond, Impossible, and Just have “brought this category from a vegan niche” to one capable of “capturing global attention”. They are “the pioneers who made us all question our food system” and have proven that plant-based options are not only made for vegans. “We can fight on-shelf against each other, but that is a fight that will only benefit consumers,” he adds. “The result will end up being better products, lower prices, and better communications tactics.”

The bigger opportunity, though, is for everyone to “jointly expand the category against animal farming”, hence all incumbents will “benefit from the resulting exponential growth”.

Menezes admits this growth won’t happen quickly, adding that any major technological transition is never easy or fast. “Many of the skeptics describing plant-based foods as a ‘fad’ had unrealistic expectations around how quickly change to our food system would happen.

“This adoption can take decades, sometimes centuries, but we don’t have 100 years to sit and wait for humanity to slowly shift away from animal farming. If we keep accelerating this transition to a more sustainable food system, in a few decades from now, we’ll no longer need to use animals to make the foods we know and love today.”

The biggest problem is there is a very different bar being applied to plant-based meat versus animal meat

That latter element – producing foods that people love – is key to TiNDLE’s ethos. A big selling point is that it is ‘producing products with chefs, for chefs’. Was taste therefore the number one priority when Menezes was creating his products? “Food is (almost) always purchased with taste and experience as primary drivers,” he says. “Being sustainable, nutritious, or plant-based are all considerations that are important, but only after the bar for taste and deliciousness is set. And yes, elevating to such a high bar made our path harder, and it helped us create a product that truly delivers on the key aspects people are looking for in chicken.”

Changing the narrative

When asked to comment on the recent stance of the media, Menezes says he welcomes free media and journalists who are part of the healthy and deep discussions surrounding the plant-based industry but acknowledges that it can also be disheartening to see “stories that use anecdotes or data out of context to influence a position on the category”.

At the same time, he says it forces the industry to do a better job. “As a category, we haven’t been able to organize ourselves as well as the incumbent industry has, and we need to start fighting misinformation about it.”

In addition to misinformation, Menezes says, “There is obviously an enormous – and very shallow – backlash against the number of ingredients in plant-based products. Yet many meat products contain numerous ingredients and that is never pointed out as a problem.

“We need to address this backlash and talk deeply about why adding “pepper, water, salt, spices” into a restaurant dish is great, but when discussing plant-based foods, it is seen as additives – i.e. ‘another four ingredients’.”

Menezes concedes that some plant-based meat products did have too much salt, were overprocessed, and so on. “For our products, we looked to address such concerns, but the biggest problem is that there is a very different bar being applied to plant-based meat versus animal meat.

“We need to stop the narrative that the number of ingredients in plant-based foods should be close to zero,” says Menezes. ”Plant-based foods can be fortified and can be made functional, which would give them another competitive edge over animal meat. That said, it will add ingredients, and we need to collectively have that deeper discussion that more ingredients do not necessarily have negative effects.”


“Praise and criticism always jump out for an emerging field,” says Jen-Yu Huang, Co-founder of vegan fat company, Lypid. “I think it’s great to see different perspectives that can inspire everyone to think deeper on the challenges and the future.

“Alternative meat provides people another option within their choices of food. It also initiates far more development and discussion toward a more sustainable food system – for plant-based food manufacturers and animal meat producers alike. So I believe the rise of plant-based meats will lead us to a better world.”

In the near-term, Huang predicts a rapid influx of different kinds of plant-based foods as well as different cuts of meat. “I think there will also be more ‘data’ added to the labeling to support how plant-based meat is healthier and more sustainable,” he adds.

But not all plant-based meat is actually healthier – certainly the early generation of products came under fire on that front, and often in terms of taste, too. Does Huang believe today’s producers have tackled these issues? “Nothing comes out perfect in the very beginning,” he feels. “I do think we are moving in the right direction of clean label, fewer ingredients, and better nutritional profiles.

I do believe the whole industry is moving toward the right direction of clean label, fewer ingredients, and better nutritional profiles

“Taking Lypid as an example, our PhytoFat is designed to have 90% less saturated fat compared with current products, to make it much healthier than animal meat. And we just represent one part of efforts in the overall industry.”  

Lessons learned

In terms of what Huang has learned from products that came before his own, he reckons that taste is the most important factor, even ahead of how sustainable or healthy a product is – and that taste is the key in producing more ‘meaty’ plant-based meats. “That’s why we started Lypid focusing on developing alternative fat, as we believe fat is the ‘secret ingredient’ that makes meat so tasty,” he explains.

Lypid uses microencapsulation technology to achieve that taste. “In the pharmaceutical or supplement industry, people use microencapsulation technology to help better deliver the nutrition,” Huang continues. “We leverage similar technology to develop designer fats. We use encapsulation to recreate the texture, mouth-feel, and delivery of flavors while using vegetable oils and water as main ingredients. The platform allows us to bring juiciness and meatiness to plant-based meat.”

When it comes to commercialization and scale, Huang reports rapid and pretty smooth progress compared with many technologies in the sector. “We successfully set up our first pilot production line in 2022. That’s how we were able to co-launch plant-based patties with Louisa Coffee, a large coffee chain in Asia. We are scaling up the production to more than 100 tons in 2023 and plan to launch products into the US market in Q3 2023.”

Huang is especially proud of one product currently under development, explaining that, “We are leveraging our fat to create a thick-cut pork belly. I have to say, it tastes really good!”    

Always focused on the bigger picture, when asked what he’d say to those who suggest cultivated meat is the real future, rather than plant-based meat, Huang says pragmatically, “I believe we all have the same goal – to make the planet and our food system better – but just via different approaches. As a scientist, I think we must combine the advantages of different approaches to make the best foods. Therefore, I believe that the combination of cultivated meat and plant-based technologies is the way to go.”


According to Mike Leonard, CEO of Motif FoodWorks, the future of plant-based meats looks bright – it’ll just take a little while to achieve its full potential. “To call the sector a ‘fad’ would be a gross mischaracterization of our nascent industry,” he begins. “Innovation – and its natural ups and downs – always comes with backlash. When the internet and motor vehicles first debuted, there was doubt that they would ever take off. Now, they’re a part of our daily lives.

“The plant-based industry is dealing with barriers to adoption such as taste and texture,” Leonard admits. “But we are too close to breakthrough innovations in these areas to pull the plug now. The industry is constantly evolving, new ingredients are coming to market, and I suspect in the next five, 10 or 15 years, consumers will have many more choices when it comes to incorporating plant-based alternatives into their diet.”

Recent events have prompted the question, ‘Have we reached peak plant-based beef burger?’ Not at all, according to Leonard. “There are – and will be – so many ways to further improve on the basic burger design, whether that be through flavor, texture, or visual attributes.

“Plant-based meats in general have a lot of potential. At Motif, we are working on alternative beef, pork and chicken options, all of which have shown a lot of promise. The ability to create plant-based meat products that have the same versatility as traditional meats is important, and I think in accomplishing that, we’ll see where the best innovation lies.

Innovation doesn’t stop at mimicry. We need to look at new products and food forms that aren’t currently on the market

“Innovation doesn’t stop at mimicry,” Leonard also points out. “We need to look at new products and food forms that aren’t currently on the market. At Motif, we are designing totally new food forms that you won’t find on shelves today but could someday become a part of people’s everyday grocery list.”

Collaboration over competition

Leonard also notes the value of all players working together. “I believe there are big opportunities for collaboration between the plant-based industry and the traditional meat and dairy industries,” he says. “Plant-based foods are never going to fully displace traditional animal products, but they offer choices and aid in the sustainability of our planet.”

When it comes to public perception of these products, Leonard believes this will ebb and flow and is based on many factors. “Of course, the significant lobbying efforts to discredit plant-based foods don’t help, but as an industry we do need to create plant-based foods that are much more appealing – the bar for the eating experience needs to be much higher. We’re just now emerging from the first generation of products; improvements will certainly come with time.”

So, what has Motif learned from previous generations of products? As well as being keen to state that the firm fully understands that food is experiential and holds an emotional connection to consumer, Leonard thinks that for consumers to keep coming back to plant-based foods, we must address critical barriers such as flavor and texture. “Our inaugural technologies, Hemami and Appetex, tackle these issues directly. Hemami addresses the flavor and aroma of plant-based meats by replicating the same umami flavor and aroma of traditional meats. It is made through precision fermentation and is the same protein found in beef muscle that’s responsible for its distinctive flavor and color. Appetex, on the other hand, helps to deliver the mouth-feel of traditional ground meat and its springy, juicy ‘chewdown’ in a totally plant-based way.”

These technologies are being put to work in a rapidly rising number of different products. “We’re really excited about our product pipeline,” Leonard reveals. “In 2023, we’re launching some great finished products: Motif BeefWorks (both burgers and grounds), Motif PorkWorks and Motif ChickenWorks. We’re also working on our first-ever cheese product, Motif CheeseWorks, which melts and stretches more like dairy cheese thanks to a new corn protein-based ingredient technology we’ve developed.”


When some are calling plant-based meat a fad and others claim it can save the planet, where does the truth really lie? “Perhaps the reality isn’t as dire as some headlines have made it sound,” suggests Eben Bayer, CEO of MyForest Foods.

On the contrary, Bayer believes we have firmly entered the world of ‘Plant-Based 2.0’. “I anticipate that product innovation will continue to move at a rapid pace. We’ll also see a shift toward shorter ingredient labels that focus on nature-centric ingredients – things that are clean, natural, and of course, plant-based. Things that not only provide consumers a product they can feel good about (and understand!) but simultaneously heal the planet.”

Fakin’ bacon

One such product is Bayer’s MyBacon, which Time named a ’Best Invention of 2022’. There have been numerous alt bacon products on sale before, so why is this different? “Derived from mycelium and just five other ingredients, it grows in ways that naturally mimic meat tissues, offering a direct path to familiar whole cuts such as bacon strips and chicken breasts,” Bayer says. “What’s key is that it’s also nutritious and delicious. Plus, as nature does most of the work of producing it, mycelium affords clear, clean ingredient labels.”

Bayer also points out his production method has a clear advantage. “The vertical mycelium farming process can be built anywhere and on a much more minimal plot of land – something that cannot be said when it comes to traditional animal farming.”

Bayer admits that plant-based options have struggled to move past ‘ground’ or extruded products. “Until now,” he says, ”plant-based meats have been primarily made with soy, wheat, and pea proteins in the form of burgers, sausages, hot dogs, and nuggets. But, at present, 80% of all animal protein sold is a whole cut, such as bacon, chicken, and steak. This disconnect between consumers’ buying habits and the form factor of most plant-based offerings in the market presents a huge opportunity for innovation.

“Mycelium derived from fungi is a critical new category, allowing for the creation of whole cut plant-based meats that can meet the demand for non-ground offerings, while simultaneously bringing new consumers into the category.”

The vertical mycelium farming process can be built anywhere and on a much more minimal plot of land – something that cannot be said when it comes to traditional animal farming

Indeed, MyForest foods is witnessing this first-hand. “Despite the doom-and-gloom narrative about alternative meats, MyBacon went from one retail location in 2022 to more than 50 retail and food-service locations so far in 2023, selling at three times the velocity of the market leader,” Bayer states. “If figures such as that were included in the naysaying articles, it might give a different impression of the green shoots that are on the horizon.”

Another green shoot can be seen in Bayer’s own efforts to expand and diversify the plant-based meats category – his firm recently announced a move into meatless beef, via its soon-to-be launched ‘MyJerky’ product.

Bayer also feels there’s space in the market for innovation of all kinds. “The rise in cellular meat offers promising potential, but it still requires astronomical inputs of energy, and creates some mixed responses,” he says.

“At MyForest foods, we’re focused on harvesting a new approach to meatless food – one that can sustain and satisfy all types of eaters, and one that emphasizes sustainability at the core.

“With mycelium, we are creating a more sustainable solution for our planet and the population,” he adds. “Life-cycle studies that compare pork production to mushroom cultivation show the potential for impact on sustainability measures such as carbon, land use, and water. Traditional pork bacon production has a high carbon footprint, with a person’s yearly intake emitting 1,050 lbs of carbon equivalent, and causing water pollution from nitrogen runoff. Our airmycelium process uses far fewer resources without sacrificing the enjoyment factor by eliminating the need for animal products, excess land, and wasted water. Although we’re focused on innovating the plant-based industry, at the end of the day, lab-grown, cultivated meat is a category that ultimately looks to achieve a similar goal: healthier people and a healthier planet.”


The name of Alexandre Ruberti’s Brazilian plant-based proteins firm clearly shows where he sits within this whole debate. “Future Farm is really just that – the future of the farm,” the CEO says. “We are aiming to be the plant-based CPG company of the future, where consumers can find everything they would on an farm, but sustainable and delicious.”

Future Farm proudly sells around the taste and texture of its products, and its website states it takes ‘five times longer than some competitors… for superior plant-based foods that mimic their original inspiration’.

So, what exactly is involved in developing plant-based meat products that really do taste and feel identical to their traditional meat counterparts? “Future Farm is innovative; but it is not artificial,” Ruberti says. “We are talking about food made with ingredients of natural origin. The technology is in the production chain, not the ingredients. Here, nothing is done in a lab and no artificial molecules are used in the production.

“Behind the product development, there is a lot of care taken to produce something with a nutritional value very close to that of meat of animal origin and that imitates the taste, appearance, and juiciness of the same animal proteins. We do not use just one technology, but a combination of different technologies.”

Truth on the tongue

One of the main tools is ‘True Texture Technology’, which Ruberti describes as “a proprietary concept used to ensure the best texture and juiciness of the products”.

“We also have AI – an artificial tongue – that captures the whole flavor experience, mouth-feel, and simultaneously understands the receptors that best assimilate the vegetable flavor so we can block them and avoid vegetable aftertaste,” he adds.

Our goal is to be the go-to plant-based platform for the entire food and beverage industry

Ruberti is keen to point out that nutrition is also very important and is an area where constant improvements are being implemented. “Our new 4.0 burger addresses that,” he says. “We’ve reduced the sodium and fat for a just-as-enjoyable plant-based burger without sacrificing taste and quality.” Ruberti believes the new Future Burger to be “the cleanest plant-based meat in the category”, with only 170 calories, 3g of sat fat, and 220mg of sodium per serving. “This new formula comes from a combination of our asset-light R&D model, molecular fractioning technology, and sensory test technology,” he adds.

“I think the environmental benefits are often overlooked in this conversation,” Ruberti also points out. “Plant-based meats are just as – if not more – important to the health of the planet as they are to the health of our bodies. According to Carbon Cloud 2022, the production of our Future Burger uses 89% less land, 96% less water, and 78% less energy. Every time you buy a Future Burger, 100% of the carbon emissions produced are offset by a climate partner.”

Aside from burgers, Ruberti says he sees “an endless opportunity for innovation around all sorts of protein”, pointing out that Future Farm has created multiple new formats of chicken as well as its latest launch, Future Tvna. “Our goal is to be the go-to plant-based platform for the entire F&B industry,” he states. “Our asset-light innovation model allows us to bring new high-quality products to market quicker than any company (proven by our extensive portfolio and formula updates in such little time) and our vertical integration gives us full control of our production and supply chain (preventing any food safety and out-of-stock concerns). All of these, combined with Brazil’s vegetable abundance, give us a competitive advantage to offer high-quality, affordable products.”

No matter what some bad news stories might suggest, Ruberti feels that, rather than being a short-lived fad, we are only just getting started. “Plant-based is a young industry. There is so much room for more innovation around plant-based meats and other products. We are just scratching the surface, so it is way too early to even understand the potential of plant-based products.”

This article is republished from the April/May 2023 edition of Protein Production Technology International, the world's leading resource for the alternative proteins industry. If you wish to subscribe to future issues free of charge, please click here

If you have any questions or would like to get in touch with us, please email info@futureofproteinproduction.com

About the Speaker

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Every week, you’ll receive a compilation of the latest breakthroughs from the global alternative proteins sector, covering plant-based, fermentation-derived and cultivated proteins.
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.