Plant-based meat alternatives hottest item on Dubai's Gulfood agenda

Trade show reveals meat substitute companies are cooking up a storm among consumers

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 17 FEBRUARY 2019. Anthony Rastelli and Simion Van Der Molem with their  plant based burger patty at Gulf Food. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Patrick Ryan. Section: National.
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Plant-based meat substitutes were the hottest ticket in town on the opening day of the UAE’s Gulfood exhibition yesterday.

Companies from across the world arrived at the Dubai World Trade Centre to display their latest alternatives to meat products.

Visitors to the show were shown similar-looking food equivalents to beef, chicken, duck and pork – all made from plant material.

Vendors argued that the new products offered customers a much healthier and sustainable alternative to meat.

“This is a product that tastes and looks exactly the same as meat but contains no actual meat,” said Simeon Van Der Molen, chief executive of Moving Mountains.

“A lot of people are aiming to cut down on the amount of meat they eat. This can be for their own health or for the environment.”

Plant-based products as an alternative to meat have become more popular in recent years.

The idea was once viewed as something only for vegan and vegetarian markets, but this is beginning to change.

Recent advancements in technology closed the gap between how a regular beef burger, for instance, might taste when pitted against its plant-based equivalent.

“The issue had previously been that restaurants would only really offer salads as alternatives to meat or fish on the menu,” Mr Van Der Molen said. “Chefs would previously not want their names associated with the vegetarian burgers that were on the market.”

The Good Food Institute, an American non-profit organisation that promotes plant-based meat, said the sector was worth $3.7 billion (Dh13.58bn) in US sales last year.

They also predicted the figure was set to grow across the globe as more meat eaters turned to plant-based alternatives.

Mr Van Der Molen said a team of UK scientists, chefs and farmers had spent more than three years perfecting the recipe for his plant-based meat burger. The result, which they called the Moving Mountain Burger, is made from oyster mushrooms, wheat, soy, beetroot, coconut oil, vitamin B12 and pea protein.

Moving Mountain was not the only company showing off a burger that replicated the taste and look of a burger without containing any meat.

“More and more people are now becoming aware of the significance of healthy eating,” said Jacek Plewa, general manager of Global Food Industries, a food manufacturer based in the Emirates.

“Our plant-based burgers are a reaffirmation of our commitment to offer nutritious food and help build prosperous, healthy and happier communities in the UAE.”

Meanwhile, Tommy Dane and Niamh Dixon, from Innov Food Solutions in Ireland, were treating visitors to plant-based alternatives to shredded duck.

“The reaction in Ireland has been huge and we think there is a similar appetite for it here in the UAE,” Ms Dixon told The National.

She said that the company’s plant-based pork alternative had particular potential with customers across the region.

There were also plant-based fish alternatives on display at the show.

“Seago is a ready-to-eat snack that is a plant-based seafood alternative,” said a spokeswoman for Enterprise Singapore, part of the city state’s Ministry of Trade and Industry.

“Seafood substitutes overcome today’s challenges of overfishing and, on a more micro level, enable those allergic to crustaceans to enjoy seafood. It is an excellent source of protein.”