The flexitarian trend is continuing apace. According to Euromonitor data, consumers who are restricting certain animal-based products, but are not following a strict vegan or vegetarian diet, account more than 40% of the global population.
Food makers are responding with a host of plant-based alternatives, largely developed from soy, pea or gluten protein, that aim to mimic meat. The sector, in general, has been criticised for using ‘ultra-processed’ ingredients and offering poor nutritional credentials.
Israeli start-up More Foods is taking a different approach, according to founder and CEO Leonardo Marcovitz.
“A large part of what people enjoy eating comes with a sense of familiarity which is sometimes lacking in meat alternatives. We tap into this feeling by using super food ingredients that everyone is very familiar and comfortable with.”
The start-up achieves this, he continued, all while ‘keeping the label very short’.
Leveraging under-utilised ingredients
More Foods’ technology is founded on pumpkin and sunflower seeds. The start-up leverages its patent pending technology to transform ‘cast-away fragments’ of seeds – produced in the manufacture of pumpkin seed and sunflower seed oil - to create ‘meaty’ textured products.
"When oil is pressed from seeds, solid material - in oil-processing industry lingo it is known as 'press cake' - is leftover, which we use as our main ingredient," explained Marcovitz.
While a small proportion of press cake is upcycled into sports protein powders, the vast majority is downcycled into animal feed.
More Foods is leveraging these ‘fragments’ to form the bulk of the protein in its products.
The start-up’s IP covers the way in which the oil is extracted from the seeds, product formulation, and how the formulations are extruded, the CEO explained.
The company is actively working on incorporating other under-utilised ingredients from the food industry to make alternative protein-based foods.
‘More protein than most cuts of meat’
The start-up’s products, which currently include More Foods Pulled, More Food Chunks, and More Foods Minute Steaks, are based on a formulation of just seven ingredients: pumpkin seed flour, sunflower seed flour, nutritional yeast, black carrot juice extract, apple extract, flavourings, and salt.
More Foods claims to boast a lower fat and higher protein profile than most cuts of meat.
“Compared to conventional meat, our products contain no cholesterol, they have very low fat (about 1%) – which is around at least three times less saturated fat than most cuts of meat – and has a higher amount of protein (27%) than most cuts of meat.”
Further, More Foods’ offerings contain a ‘high’ amount of fibre (around 6%), for which ‘meat has 0%’. The amount of iron per serving is at least twice the amount of iron found in beef, we were told.
Comparing More Foods’ nutrition credentials to other meat alternatives is ‘a bit more challenging’, warned Marcovitz.
However, standing at 27% protein, the brand sees itself in the ‘top tier’ of protein quantity for ‘any meat alternative in the market’.
“Fibre content is also very high for a meat alternative,” he added. “Many meat alternative companies use saturated fat to provide a nice mouthfeel, and this is also somewhere we stand out with our low quantity (1%) of saturated fat.”
Aside from nutrient content, Marcovitz also suggested More Foods’ products were superior in terms of ingredient tolerability. “Most meat alternative products in the market are made from soy and seitan, which are major allergens. By using the ingredients that we use, our ingredients list contains no major allergens.
"Also, many companies use protein isolates, and we are able to use flours, which allow our products to conserve high amounts of minerals, such as potassium (there are higher levels in our products than bananas) and calcium (our products contain more calcium than milk).”
Spotlight on sustainability
From a sustainability perspective, More Foods’ protein source makes for strong credentials.
“Because the bulk of the ingredients in each of our products use side steams from the oil pressing industry, our products are very sustainable,” the CEO told this publication.
More Foods’ products use ‘multiple times’ less water and land compared to meat-based protein. The same goes for greenhouse gas emissions: “Multiple times less greenhouse emissions are produced,” Marcovitz stressed.
Comparing More Foods’ sustainability credentials with that of other plant-based meat offerings, the CEO said it really depends on the plant-based meat product in question.
“In any case, because we use the seed flour (rather than isolates), it means less processing is required. This means that our products can be more natural resource-efficient than many/most of the alternative products on the market.”
Bringing a ‘new experience’ to the table
More Foods is less interested in completely mimicking meat with plant-based ingredients than other players on the market.
“We bring a new experience to the plate,” the CEO explained. “We don’t aim to replicate the experience of animal meats exactly, but instead try to figure our some of the key qualities people like within meat that we can use for inspiration to implement in our products.”
This is what More Foods has worked on in its Pulled, Chunks, and Minute Steaks offering. And there is more on the way.
“Products on our roadmap include textures/experiences that are alternative to lamb and pork meats. Each one [will] have various cuts [such as pulled, chunks, and whole-cut], as well as different cuts we are developing,” we were told.
More Foods has already launched its first three products via pilot launches in Israel. Partner restaurants include Mexicana, Pita Basta, Butti, and Bernard. Later this year, the start-up plans to enter the European market as well.
Marcovitz continued: “Our initial launch is through foodservice and we aim to start entering the retail market in Q1 2023.”