There was a time someone with severe lactose intolerance couldn’t enjoy a pint of coffee ice cream without getting a stomachache. Those days are long gone now, as brands have begun offering a plethora of non-dairy options in all sorts of flavors for those not about dairy.
Take Trader Joe’s new Cold Brew Coffee and Boba Coconut Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert. While this mouthful may give you brain freeze if you dive in too fast, there’s nothing about this robustly-named product that hasn’t piqued my coffee dessert-loving interest.
The brand’s newest flavor features a creamy coconut milk base, with the flavors of cold brew coffee made from Thai-grown Arabica coffee beans, and chewy tapioca pearls.
You can find this entirely vegan frozen dessert at the freezer section of your local Trader Joe’s.
One of the biggest questions surrounding fast food for 2021 was which chain would make a 100% plant-based breakfast sandwich first.
With spots like Burger King and Starbucks switching their meat options, and major vegan egg and dairy suppliers available, we knew the addition was coming to give plant-based folks a true breakfast sandwich option.
However, none of the major chains that were fielding plant-based breakfast meats were the first to go fully plant-based for breakfast. Instead, it was Starbucks rival Peet’s Coffee and Tea.
Peet’s combined vegan cheddar, Beyond Breakfast Sausage, and vegan JUST Egg into their new Everything Plant-Based Sandwich, which puts all of the above into a fully vegan Everything Bagel thin.
It’s a simple combination of already existing plant-based options, but it’s the first amongst major fast food players, which means everybody else will likely follow suit in the immediate future.
Peet’s Everything Plant-Based Sandwich is now available at participating locations nationwide.
With Ben & Jerry’s stepping up to the plate and being a prominent supporter of social justice, it only made sense for them to link up with ardent social activist and former NFL start Colin Kaepernick to release a brand new, permanent flavor.
Named “Change the Whirled,” the entirely vegan offering features a caramel non-dairy sunflower butter base with fudge chips, graham cracker swirls and chocolate cookie swirls. It’s a tasty plant-based option that makes sense for Kaepernick, who is a vegan himself.
This partnership is an appropriate nod to the courageous work Kaepernick has done to champion social justice, pursuing equity for Black and Brown people, and confronting systemic oppression and police violence. With Ben & Jerry’s aspiring to become a social justice company themselves, this sweet collab is a step in the right direction to shedding more light on the social justice ills that have plagued America. What’s more, this new flavor will also support the work of Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camps, which he founded to advance the liberation and well-being of Black and Brown communities.
Change the Whirled will be available as a full-time flavor at Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shops and on store shelves nationwide in the United States beginning in 2021 with a suggested MSRP of $4.99-$5.49.
In a move to further position themselves as a grocery store alternative to ground beef, Beyond Meat is taking a page out of the beef industry’s playbook. They’re going to start selling blends of their plant-based product that vary based on fat content.
The new forms don’t have official names yet, but one is being touted as the “brand’s juiciest patty” while the other is described as the company’s “most nutritious patty yet.” To differentiate, you could almost think of them as “Extra Juicy” and “Lean.”
In terms of ground beef varieties, you could consider Beyond Meat’s regular version to be standard ground beef, “Extra Juicy” to be like 80/20 or Extra Fatty, and the “Lean” one to be like a 96/4 blend of beef.
The “juiciest patty” form still has 35% less saturated fat than 80/20 ground beef, while the “most nutritious” form has 55% less saturated fat than 80/20 ground beef.
For context, Beyond Meat’s current iteration has 5 g of saturated fat per quarter pound, and 80/20 ground beef has about 8 grams of saturated fat per quarter pound. The “juiciest patty” form should have slightly more fat than Beyond’s standard product. Meanwhile, the “most nutritious form,” at 55% less saturated fat than 80/20 beef, would have slightly less than 4 grams of saturated fat per quarter pound based on Beyond’s claims.
Some folks will be sampling the new varieties in a sold-out tasting event in Los Angeles later in 2020. As for everyone else, they can expect to find the new options in stores in early 2021.
The plant-based and vegan industry has found some novel ways to create meat substitutes. Mostly, it’s been finding plant sources of some of the proteins and other molecules key to making meat, which is what companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have done.
An emerging company, however, is taking a more direct approach to creating these proteins. They’re making products like ice cream that use real milk protein and cow DNA, yet still claims them to be 100 percent vegan.
I know that phrase is going to generate controversy. Yes, it’s the exact same protein you get from milk. Yes, it does utilize the genes from a cow to make the protein. However, it doesn’t use any animals, any DNA extracted from an animal, or animal products whatsoever.
This vegan milk protein comes from Perfect Day, who specializes in what they would describe as “fermented vegan dairy” that’s 100% animal-free.
“The cool thing is we’re doing it with fermentation, so not a single cow is involved in our process,” says Nicki Briggs, Perfect Day’s VP of Corporate Communications.
Instead, Perfect Day uses a fermentation process that’s been widely used by various companies over the years. Briggs compared it to how proteins like insulin or rennet are made today in a conversation with Foodbeast.
Rennet, the curdling protein for cheese, is traditionally harvested from a calf’s stomach. Today, 90 percent of it is vegetarian, made by getting yeast to ferment sugars into the exact same protein. According to Briggs, Perfect Day uses that exact same process to make their vegan milk protein. The result is a powder that can be used to make ice cream, cheese, yogurt, and more.
For milk, it contains two predominant types of protein: casein and whey. The protein that Perfect Day is making, beta-lactoglobulin (BLG), is one of the primary components of whey protein. “We found that beta-lactoglobulin is the most nutritious and the most functional of all of the proteins in milk,” Briggs explained, indicating that BLG was the key one needed to create a functional alternative to getting milk from cows.
To get the fungi, called trichoderma, to make the milk protein, Perfect Day downloaded part of the genetic makeup of a cow into the fungi. Segments of DNA coding in any creature are used by cells to make different key components, including proteins. Adding that code into a fungi cell known for producing large quantities of protein was the key to making Perfect Day’s product.
One could call this “genetic engineering,” but it doesn’t use a technique like CRISPR, which splices in genes from another creature’s cells. Instead, Perfect Day turned to a virtual source of DNA: Google.
“We were able to, as silly as it sounds, Google it and find the sequence online,” Briggs explained. “We were able to use this sequence to influence our microflora.”
The microflora can then grow the protein en masse in giant fermentation tanks. That is then turned into the powder that can be added to an ice cream mix or other vegan dairy products to give it a structure akin to real dairy.
Right now, there’s only two brands in markets that use this novel animal-free whey: Smitten, who teamed up with Perfect Day to make limited batches of “N’ice cream,” and Brave Robot, who heavily advertises the protein they use in their pints of frozen dessert.
Brave Robot was locally available for me, so I secured some pints to sample and analyze. They use a blend of plant oils to replace the fat you would normally get in milk, as well as sunflower lecithin (a substitute for soy) to emulsify everything together.
The result is an extremely creamy ice cream that, at serving temperature, is pretty spot on to the original. I would say it does freeze a little bit harder than regular ice cream, but is way closer than any other vegan substitute I’ve tried.
Because this ice cream alternative does use real milk protein, it’s not recommended for those with allergies to milk. Allergies are triggered by proteins, and while a different protein (called alpha-s1 casein) is a more common allergen trigger in milk, beta-lactoglobulin can still cause issues for those sensitive to milk.
This, as well as the fact that it is a real protein, are some of the larger concerns some may have in calling what Perfect Day creates “vegan.” Yes, it doesn’t use any animals, but the structure of what’s inside it and real milk are identical.
Briggs understands that, saying “We want the word vegan to be a helpful navigation tool to find products not named from animals, but don’t want to be misleading.” While she believes that Perfect Day’s product fits under the technical term for vegan, there’s a different phrase she would use as well.
“We see animal-free as the master name for this,” she said. As for terms like lab-grown, describing Perfect Day’s protein as that would be “inaccurate,” as it’s “less sci-fi than it seems.”
While Perfect Day is using a technology that’s not new, they are applying it in a new way by recreating an “animal-free” milk protein that can be used to craft ice creams nearly identical to the original.
Perfect Day does plan to create the entire lineup of milk proteins and other dairy products, but those will come down the line as the company continues to grow.
Those clamoring for Jack In The Box to release some plant-based options have a reason to rejoice now, as the popular fast food chain is testing new UnChicken Sandwiches in partnership with Raised and Rooted plant-based products.
The Unchicken Sandwich will come in classic and spicy options and is made from a plant-based substitute filet from Raised and Rooted that features a split top bun, mayo, lettuce and tomato. For those curious to try this new test item from Jack In The Box, participating locations are in Reno, NV and Monterey, CA.
To help promote this new product, Jack In The Box has released chicken-scented face masks that are free. Just visit here on October 23rd for your chance to snag one while supplies last.
No word yet on a national release of The UnChicken Sandwich, but hopefully a positive reception could lead to wider availability in the future.
Switching to a plant-based diet, whether it be for ethical or environmental reasons, often comes with a cost increase. Outside of tofu, there’s not a lot of cost-effective vegan options out there.
Plant-based eggs is a category that’s particularly expensive. A bottle of JUST, equivalent to 8 eggs, costs $4.50 ($6 for a dozen). Follow Your Heart, a powder egg alternative, can cost $7 for a carton that’s equivalent to a dozen.
A new alternative, Zero Egg, has just emerged onto the market and hopes to make vegan eggs a lot more accessible. Their product, a mix of potato, pea, chickpea, and soy protein, costs 11 to 18 cents per egg, or just over $2 per dozen. It claims to have price parity to a dozen cage-free eggs, which sell at retail for about $3-$4 per dozen.
Zero Egg comes in two varieties: a formula ideal for egg replacement in scrambles, and another meant to substitute into baking mixes. The brand’s big selling point is texture, as it claims to be more fluffy than other egg alternatives available. However, it also is more versatile, as not all egg alternatives can be used for both scrambling and baking.
Nutritionally, Zero Egg’s product contains about 40% of the protein of an egg per serving (roughly 2.5 grams), but is a complete protein source. Environmentally, it uses 93% less water to produce than standard eggs.
As for cost, Zero Egg was able to bring that down through working with co-packers. They didn’t need a novel new factory process to make their substitute, making it easier to produce at scale.
Any restaurants that use Zero Egg will have ways to make it identifiable, including toothpick flags that can be stuck into sandwiches, akin to what Impossible Foods did with its initial burger launch.
Zero Egg will be available to restaurants via Gordon Food Service starting on World Egg Day, October 9th. A retail product will be hitting stores some time in the next couple of years, but there is also a “Home Store” option for any consumers who want to try to access the vegan egg through there.
Dino Nuggets have long been the fun chicken caricatures of our school lunches, snacks, and late night cravings. There are many varieties of them today, whether they contain chicken or are plant-based.
However, none yet have had the backing of Disney, who’s lent the iconic Mickey Mouse shape to a plant-based nugget poised to become as popular as the OG chicken dinosaurs.
Disney’s nugget comes courtesy of Kellogg’s, whose plant-based brand Incogmeato by MorningStar Farms is creating the nugget. The protein inside is made with soy, and the resulting product has 57% less fat and 35% less sodium than regular chicken nuggets.
These are meant to be a kid-friendly vegan alternative, giving them fun shapes like Dino Nuggets would, but also a good source of plant protein as well. Given how ubiquitous the Mickey Mouse moniker is, these will definitely be recognizable for kids all over.
It would be especially dope to see this inside of Disney theme parks, where plant-based innovation is already happening at a whirlwind pace. Kellogg’s has told Foodbeast that they don’t comment on future partnerships, but it would be awesome to see it happen.
Regardless, Mickey Nuggets are ready to take kids’ meals by storm when they arrive in the frozen chicken section of retailers nationwide this month.