Since entering the United Arab Emirates at the end of 2019, the fake meat market has exploded. Most burger restaurants in the UAE today offer vegan options, from Beyond Meat to Impossible Foods, while supermarket shoppers will find everything from vegan sausages to hash on them. shelves.
Even halal food producer Al Islami Foods in the UAE has jumped on the plant-based bandwagon with a burger made from sunflower protein.
But for those who find such offers still too “meaty”, or who have never been a fan of beef, there is good news. While fake meats have traditionally stuck to beef substitutes, plant-based chicken is on the rise and it looks like it’s here to stay.
Vegetable chicken is nothing new. The competition has intensified with a number of exciting new launches from big players: Impossible Foods recently announced plans to launch plant-based chicken nuggets made from textured soy protein and sunflower oil, in the fall of this year. The announcement follows rival Beyond Meat’s launch of fake chicken fillets.
So why the renewed interest in fake chicken?
Andre Menezes, co-founder and CEO of Next Gen Foods, the company behind the plant-based chicken brand Tindle, says it’s all in its versatility.
“Chicken is the only truly universal protein. Unlike beef, which is mainly eaten in the United States, Argentina, and Brazil, chicken is eaten in all countries, [in] every kitchen.
This means that the demand is potentially even greater than that for plant-based beef. Tindle, launched in Singapore in 2021, is already sold in more than 70 restaurants in Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau. And it now plans to enter the UAE market in September.
“The UAE has an incredible market for chicken – its per capita poultry consumption is the highest in the region,” says Menezes.
Given the demand, this begs the question of why companies have been so slow to come up with chicken substitutes in the first place.
“It’s mostly about the fact that it was companies in the United States that pioneered the fake food movement and the most common dish is the beef burger. Also, given that sustainability has been a major driver and beef production is a very inefficient system, you will understand why most companies have started to develop beef substitutes, ”explains Menezes.
The ingredients and versatility of vegetable chicken
While each company has their own recipe and ingredients for their plant-based meats, Tindle prides itself on just nine ingredients: water, textured protein (with soy, wheat gluten, and wheat starch), Lipi, nut oil. of coconut, methylcellulose and oat fiber. Among these Lipi, a mixture of vegetable fats and aromas, is their own creation.
Menezes explains that the product has been retro-engineered to recreate “three things we love most about real chicken”: the fibrous texture, the taste of chicken that comes from chicken fat, and the versatility.
The final result ? ‘Chicken’ patties that smell, taste and cook like the real deal, without the birds harming themselves in the process.
The product, which is sold in the form of 50 gram patties, can be molded and shaped into different sizes, whether for a skewer or for a shawarma stand. This is also the reason why it has been used by names such as chef Manjunath Mural who ran the four-Michelin-starred restaurant The Song of India in Singapore. W Rafa Gil from Hong Kong, finalist on Netflix The final table, is also a fan.
Indeed, a brief scroll through the dishes prepared with Tindle includes favorites such as butter chicken, sushi, dumplings, katsu curry, and kung pao chicken.
When Tindle launches in the United Arab Emirates, it will be sold exclusively to restaurants and chefs, Menezes said.
“It’s part of our strategy to show consumers that you can have a delicious herbal experience, made even more special by a great chef. In fact, in the food space, it is the most difficult nut to crack. Great chefs will never work with a product they don’t like, so making that connection has been a great experience for us, ”he says.
Who buys vegetable chicken?
While Tindle’s products are actually made in Europe, the Singapore-based company is seeing a growing demand for fake meats in Asia.
Although Menezes admits that “the average demand is currently lower than that of Europe or the United States”, there is a growing hunger which “has come out of nowhere and is increasing very rapidly”.
“We see a lot of enthusiasm in global cities, especially among 18-35 year olds, people who are urban, well educated, global,” he says.
However, nine times out of 10 their consumers are not vegans, but meat eaters, so “the product must be able to compete with the real one”.
“The reason a lot of people turn to meat substitutes isn’t because they don’t eat meat; but due to sustainability factors. It’s for people who love meat but don’t like the way it’s produced. They want to reduce their consumption, limit it to special occasions, whether from an environmental point of view, for animal welfare reasons or for health reasons, ”he says.
However, there is one aspect that may deter meat consumers – this fake chicken is usually double the price of the real one.
“In the future, it will be cheaper than chicken, because we are, after all, taking the animal out of the equation,” explains Menezes. “But now, due to the scale of production, the prices are slightly higher.”
While that doesn’t make a big difference to Tindle, as the company works directly with restaurants, which typically absorb the cost or price of the dish at most 20% more than the chicken equivalent, Menezes says customers are generally happy to pay. for this lasting solution.
“As a person coming from the meat industry, I can honestly say this is the future. I knew this the first time I tried the wrong one. And I think someday everyone will feel the same. You just have to try it and have access to it. And, as it expands into the mass market, it will only get cheaper. “
Updated: July 21, 2021, 5:27 am