Future proof meat alternatives

There has been a boost in the range and consumption of meat alternatives over the past years. A trend that is likely to continue rising in the upcoming years. These products often cover the consumers’ needs to replace meat, which is an improvement for animal welfare and our planet because of lesser environmental impact. Though, by making use of local chains even more improvements could be made. Next to that, most of these products cannot be categorized as healthy products yet, since they do not comply to the healthy food standards.

What is a healthy meat alternative? The Netherlands Nutrition Centre has summarized determinants for healthy meat replacers. A product that does not fall under these determinants can still be sold in the supermarkets, but cannot be recommended as fitting into a healthy diet. In order to be classified as a healthy meat alternative product should meet the requirements for saturated fat (≤2,5 g/100 g), salt (≤1,1 g/100 g), iron (≥0,8 mg/100 g) and vitamin B12 (≥0,24 mcg/100 g) and/or B1 (≥0,06 mg/100 g). Furthermore, the products should contain no added sugar and at least 20% of the total energy value must come from protein [1].

Examples of current healthy meat alternatives

Not all meat alternatives are unhealthy. Less processed meat alternatives and products using as few ingredients as possible are often the most healthy option. The following products are some clean label examples that are available in the Netherlands.

Well known are the very first “meat substitutes” like tofu and tempeh, which are both clean label and healthy. The processed tofu and tempeh options are often healthy as well, even though they contain added salt. An example of processed, yet healthy and local tempeh is the one from Bumi. Bumi marinates the products, but they still contain a high nutritional value, containing high levels of protein (18.5 to 20g/100g) and a low amount of salt and saturated fats which makes it a healthy and convenient option for consumers. Made from (European) organic lupin, it has a local and therefore more sustainable value chain compared to other meat alternatives. Bumi can be found at organic supermarkets in the Netherlands and Belgium, in meal boxes for consumers and at wholesalers for restaurants.

Recently awarded as the ‘Best Innovative Product’ at the Horecava in Amsterdam January 2020 (a Hospitality fair in the Netherlands). Pulled Oats is a combination of oats, peas and fava beans which makes it a product high in protein and iron, low in fat and soy free. Pulled Oats is an example of a next generation meat replacer that let go of traditional meat formats and created a tasty, wide applicable and healthy product. It is a product by the Finnish company Gold & Green and is being sold in various countries mostly in Europe. 

Plenti by Ojah is a semi-finished product that is mostly well known for its vegan chicken pieces. These clean label chunks are sold to many big brands in Europe that co-pack it with their own brand name to  finally sell it at retailers. The product gets its’ meaty structure from high moisture extrusion of soy. This technology enables Ojah to remain a “clean product” which is high in protein, low in calories and contains the essential amino-acids. In this way, you get the meaty experience and similar protein quantity and quality compared to meat.

The Dutch Weedburger is made of Dutch seaweed of the North Sea and soybeans, it is a local and healthy burger with a matching green Weed bun. For the Dutch Weedburger macro- and micro algae are used for their vitamins, minerals, omega fatty acids, iron and calcium. It is also high in protein and contains about the same amino acid composition as meat protein. It is yet a more sustainable option than meat as it can be grown in salty water and uses hardly any drink water nor farmland. The buns are mostly sold in food service and at festivals, but also direct-to-consumer.

New possibilties

As can be seen, there are a lot of opportunities for business to step into, especially in more clean label variations. However, the need for healthier options in the vegan sector does not stop at meat replacers. Development of luncheon meat alternatives and the upcoming non-dairy cheese is very important as these products are often high in salt and saturated fats and low in protein and dietary fiber [2-3].

This article is written by The Protein Cluster, part of Foodvalley NL.


[1] Netherlands Nutrition Centre – Vleesvervangers

[2] Distrifood – Vega beleg past niet in de schijf van vijf

[3] RTL nieuws – Bietenwraps, vegan kaas en proteïneshakes: is dat nou gezond?