Pea-Based Chicken For Lunch, Sunflower Pork For Dinner| MENAFN.COM

Friday, 12 August 2022 05:59 GMT

Pea-Based Chicken For Lunch, Sunflower Pork For Dinner

(MENAFN- Swissinfo) More and more people in Switzerland are opting for meat substitutes consisting of protein from peas, sunflower seeds, soya or other vegetable sources. Helen James /

Vegan alternatives to meat are finding more and more favour with consumers who are concerned about the environment – and who are prepared to pay a bit more. A Swiss start-up believes it can not only replicate the taste of meat, but even better it.

This content was published on June 28, 2022 - 09:00 June 28, 2022 - 09:00

Writes about the impact of new technologies on society: are we aware of the revolution in progress and its consequences? Hobby: free thinking. Habit: asking too many questions.

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The first time I ate a vegan sausage I was very disappointed. It did not taste like meat – or, for that matter, soy or potato starch, as the ingredients indicated. It tasted rather like a piece of toasted plastic. That was five years ago, admittedly. In the meantime, food technology has been making giant strides, driven by increasing demand from consumers. Now imitations of pastrami and cordon bleu are starting to get closer to the originals in terms of look and taste. 

Plant-based meat substitutes are still a niche product, really, with a market share of 2.3% in Switzerland, but sales have doubled since 2016 . In supermarkets, one out of every six hamburgers sold is made of vegetable-based ingredients. Vegan products are becoming popular with people who eat everything but want to reduce their consumption of meat, so as to reduce their climate footprint and the use of water and ground resources. 

The food-tech scene is taking off in Switzerland, especially in Cantons Fribourg, Vaud and Zurich, where there are several food innovation centres, and, of course, the two federal institutes of technology. Over 160 start-ups have been able to secure 3% of all investmentExternal link made in 2020 (which means about CHF 2.3 billion in total). So the growth potential is considerable. 

In Swiss supermarkets, one out of every six burgers sold is composed of plant-based ingredients. Marcel Rickli

When we talk about alternative protein, one of the major players on the Swiss scene is Planted Foods, a start-up that began as a spin-off from the federal technology institute ETH Zurich. Its products are available in restaurants and shops throughout Europe, especially in Germany, Austria and France. I found out about this company the way most new brands are discovered these days: on social media. One day, Facebook flashed me a picture of some succulent bits of artificial chicken in pastel-coloured boxes in a sponsored post from which emerged the word“Planted”. It was plain to see that this could not be meat. I had been vegan for several months, but I was looking for some new kind of food that would recall the savour of meat and bring a little variety into my diet. Appetising ideas 

So I clicked on the link, which brought me to the site of Planted Foods. When I found that this start-up was Swiss, I decided to contact one of its four founders, Pascal Bieri, and ask if I could interview him. Bieri met me a few months later in the company's offices in Kemptthal, half an hour by train from Zurich. It turned out to be just a little way from the station, in a former industrial zone, where broth cubes and instant soups were produced at one time. 

The restaurant at the entrance to Planted, which is open to the public, is the first in the Hiltl chain to be completely vegan. SWI - si

I was taken by surprise from the moment I entered. Instead of entering a gloomy factory, I found myself in a restaurant in the middle of a large open space on two levels. 'Slaughterhouses hide behind cement walls. We have nothing to hide, though,', says Bieri with a broad smile that contrasts with his grey sweater. Around us people are eating and having informal work chats in what has become the first totally vegan restaurant of the Hiltl chain, which is also open to the public. The owner of the world's oldest vegetarian restaurant, Rolf Hiltl, was one of the first to invest in Planted. 

Prone to sweeping hand gestures, relaxed and quick to laugh, Bieri tells me about his roots. He grew up in a country village near Lucerne where his grandfather raised cattle and pigs. 'I had no idea that the meat I was eating had an impact on the planet until I started reading up about livestock raising,” he says. In 2016, while living in the US, he began to reduce his meat consumption. That meant turning to the vegan burger patties made by the company Beyond Meat, until he discovered the long list of highly processed ingredients that went into them. 'All those unnatural chemicals which ordinary people know nothing about,”he recalls.

Pascal Bieri, 37, is co-founder of Planted Foods planted

So in early 2017 he called his cousin Lukas Böni, who at the time was doing a doctorate in food science, and put an idea to him: 'Why don't we create a vegetable alternative to meat that is more natural than what these guys are doing?'. The cousins launched their start-up in July 2019, along with colleagues Eric Stirnemann and Christoph Jenny, and by January 2020 their first product, Planted Chicken, was already available at the Swiss supermarket chain Coop. The company declines to give financial information. 

Searching for the perfect protein 

Planted's vegetable-based chicken is made by mixing proteins and fibres of imported peas with canola oil and water from Switzerland. In the case of their“pork strips”, there is protein from sunflower and oats to diversify the profile of amino-acids. The sunflower powder is a by-product of the making of the oil which is very rich in proteins, and which is obtained by crushing the seeds. 

Planted works with many different kinds of protein, depending on the product and the manufacturing process. While he explains to me how they get from plants to vegetable meat, Bieri points to a large bag behind a transparent wall. 'That is full of fibres and proteins, a kind of flour. At this stage of the process, it's as if we were bakers', he quips. I think of him wearing an apron while he rotates a vegetable dough like a pizza. To me, as an Italian, it does not seem at all absurd... 




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