The project working to make plant-based proteins more than just fake meat

The products are predominantly made of mushrooms, grains and vegetables.
The products are predominantly made of mushrooms, grains and vegetables. Photo credit: Getty

Think of foods marketed as 'meat alternatives' and it's probably fake meat products that first come to mind.

But an innovative project backed by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is working to change that, developing more food options that "unashamedly" put vegetables front and centre of the plate.

The two-year project is led by Auckland-based Food Nation, and has received $147,000 of funding from MPI's Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund.

Miranda Burdon, co-founder of Food Nation says the company is hoping to change people's expectations of what meat alternatives can be.

"Many of the plant-based meals currently on the market revolve around 'fake meat'," says Burdon.

"They try to reflect the taste and texture of meat, rather than showcasing the various plants they are made of. The products we're developing are predominantly and unashamedly made of mushrooms, grains and vegetables."

She said the company has partnered with New Zealand producers as much as possible, working with businesses such as Meadow Mushrooms, Kiwi Quinoa, Hemp Farm, and the Pure NZ Buckwheat Co.

Steve Penno, MPI's director of investment programmes, says the project, which began in mid-2019, has already produced a diverse range of new products for market, with more innovation still planned.

He said the global market for meat-based protein was growing, and MPI's investment would help build the country's plant-based food sector.

"It's a sustainable and high-value revenue stream with a low environmental impact - and what’s more the end result is tasty and healthy."