Five-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has become the latest celebrity to inject cash into plant based start-up 'Neat Burger'. The interest in meat alternatives has been growing rapidly over the past few years, particularly among millennials, and is set to soar by 2022. According to the Economist, a quarter of 25- to 34-year-old Americans say they are vegans or vegetarians. Businesses are frightfully keen to cash in on the boom with huge multinationals rushing to add a vegan alternative to their existing line up. Those that do can reap huge rewards. When Greggs introduced the vegan sausage roll, it became their fastest selling item for 6 years and boosted top line profits by over 10%. Even more surprising is after 65 years, KFC, a powerhouse in serving fried chicken recently disclosed it will soon be trailing a vegan burger, known as ‘The Imposter’ in some selected UK outlets.
It is important to note that while plant based foods do benefit the environment, the recipes are intended to mimic classic ‘junk’ food. The burger patties used in Neat Burgers for example are still fried in oil, topped with fried onions, a vegan cheese and mayonnaise alternative and served with a side of fried chips. Plant based foods are better for the environment but are still considerably unhealthy as the fat and salt content can be similar or higher than meat option. Greggs vegan sausage roll is slightly healthier then its pork counterpart but not enough to be considered a healthier alternative. They contain fewer calories (311 versus 327), less fat (19g compared to 22g) and more protein (12g versus 9.4g).
It is easy to be swept away by all the hype into thinking 'plant based' means a healthy alternative but don't be fooled. Yes, they are vegan and cruelty free and do help sustain the environment, but just like any other junk food, they should be consumed in moderation.