Plant-based foods have catapulted into the mainstream over the last couple of years. An incredible 57% of US households now buy them and sales grew almost twice as fast as the total retail food market in 2020.
Products like meat-free bacon and sausages, burgers and pizza are now commonly put onto shopping lists. And the options are expanding all the time. You name it, there’s a plant-based version either on the shelves or in development, whether it’s butter or cheese, eggs or seafood.
And it’s not just supermarkets which are reflecting the trend. One of the world’s most famous restaurants, the Eleven Madison Park in New York, holder of three Michelin stars, is going fully plant-based, influential celebrities like Beyoncé and Benedict Cumberbatch have adopted the lifestyle and there’s even a fully plant-based food bank in Las Vegas.
The rest of the world is heading in the same direction. More than 2.5 million Australians have gone meat-free, while New Zealand isn’t far behind with one in three eating less meat or none at all. The EU recently reported 49% growth in Europeans’ consumption of plant-based foods in just 2 years, with Germany showing a 226% increase in sales of plant-based meat products during the same timeframe.
This is clearly no longer just a trend or a passing phase. Plant-based is here to stay.
It’s good for the planet. But is it good for your health?
Consumers give several reasons for switching to a plant-based diet. For some, it’s concern over the environment and a wish to help cut Greenhouse Gas emissions, as well as conserve land and water use. The high price of meat is frequently cited as well, while for others it’s an interest in animal welfare.
But by far the most common reason given is the wish to lead a healthier life. Amongst other benefits, this diet is linked to lower cholesterol, improved heart health, increased fibre and shorter recovery time after exercise. No wonder a third of American homes now have at least one person who doesn’t eat meat. And that number is growing.
Manufacturers have not been slow to react to the demand, with creative new ideas being released onto the market on a regular basis.
And why not? These products are often far lower in saturated fat and contain fewer calories. Food technology has come on in leaps and bounds, and as a result some plant based products like the Impossible Burger are indistinguishable from beef burgers – right down to appearance, which can reproduce the “bloody” look of a rare burger.
Plant-based products are a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. In fact, there’s only one downside. But it’s a big one. Some of these products are seen as an alternative to highly-processed food. Yet highly-processed is exactly what many of them are. And they often contain high levels of salt, which is necessary not only for taste, but also for smell, moisture and longer shelf life.
A report from the George Institute for Global Health found that two rashers of meat-free bacon contain more than a third of a day’s worth of salt. Falafel and meat-free sausages came second and third for the highest average amounts of salt.
The good news for manufacturers is that it’s now possible to have the best of both worlds. The taste and function of salt but with naturally 35% less sodium.
Making Plant-based products healthier
A big challenge facing manufacturers has been to create a plant-based product that tastes delicious yet offers all the health benefits their customers expect. The problem has been that the most used ingredient in making a product taste better and more savoury is salt. And unfortunately, high amounts of salt are a risk to consumers health.
The WHO recently set guidelines for Plant-based food/meat analogues to contain 250 mg of sodium per 100g. NPDs and R&Ds have started turning to artificial salt substitutes, which prove effective at driving down sodium but mean sacrificing taste and performance, and also a compromise on clean label.
But, thanks to Saltwell, it’s possible to develop healthier, tastier plant-based products. With 35% less sodium the health benefits of Saltwell go beyond just reduced sodium. The fact that healthy levels of potassium are also found in each grain is an added bonus to the all-natural sodium reduction solution that is Saltwell.
Food containing all-natural ingredients is important to many eaters of plant-based food, and once again, Saltwell helps meet the demand. Saltwell is harvested from an underground sea below the Atacama Desert. When the mineral-rich water evaporates, unique salt grains of the highest quality are formed. The grains are then purified and made food grade quality at BRC and ISO certified facilities in Cyprus.