by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Plant-based

Aug 25 2022

Annals of marketing: Can’t make this stuff up

This one comes from Great Britain.

Whew.  I was worried about potatoes.  What a relief!

I thought it was a spoof, but it’s not.  ASDA (formerly Associated Dairies) is a Walmart subsidiary in Great Britain.

It offers other products labeled the same way.   In case you were worried.

Jul 21 2022

Keeping up with plant-based food products

Replacing animal-based foods with plan-based foods continues to be high on the startup agenda.  Here are some recent items:

On the business side:

Plant-based meat alternatives:

Plant-based chocolate:

Sufficiently delicious?  You decide.

Jun 15 2022

Promoting low-carbon items in dining halls: an intervention

Carole Bartoletto, who works with dining services at UCLA, sent me two items.

I started with the research study.

Its title requires translation.  Low-carbon footprint means plant-based.  In this case, it means Impossible brand plant-based meat alternatives.

Their intervention succeeded in encouraging substitution of Impossible for beef, but had unintended consequences.

Although the intervention was followed by a decrease in sales of beef entrées and increase in sales of plant-based meat entrées, sales of other vegetarian entrées also decreased.

Students replaced vegetarian choices with Impossible burgers?

To their credit, the authors acknowledge the problem.

It is also worth discussing the nutritional differences between plant-based meat and other low-carbon footprint options. In general, lower-carbon foods (i.e., plant-based and sustainably-raised fish) tend to be healthier, but this is not always the case. Plant-based meat products such as Impossible™ are ultra-processed and relatively high in sodium and saturated fat. Consuming ultra-processed foods has been linked with higher calorie intake and weight gain (Hall et al., 2019).

The toolkit, in contrast, includes Impossible products but does not focus on them.  It presents a variety of vegetarian and vegan options as low-carbon options with many illustrations of ways to present this information.

This could be useful, and maybe more useful, without the Impossible products, especially if the ultra-processed meal alternatives discourage choices of vegetarian options.

Take a look and see what you think.

Note: an educational intervention in Great Britain that also gave participants free plant-based meats found more of them sto be consumed, unsurprisingly.

ADDITION, July 1: I received this message in response to this post from Hannah Malen, at UCLA:

Dear Marion,

As one of your fans and newsletter subscribers, I was excited to see that you covered the low-carbon footprint dining intervention we did at UCLA! I collaborated with the innovative and talented folks at UCLA Dining as part of my dissertation work. It was an awesome experience to design, implement, and study a real-world intervention.

Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed by your summary of the study. I felt your assessment overlooked some of the nuances that make this work challenging and important.

1) Low-carbon footprint does not mean only plant-based in this case. We created low-, medium-, and high-carbon footprint cutoffs based on life cycle analysis data and feasibility of real-world implementation. The criteria were created for the purposes of classifying menu items AND educating students about the relative impacts of different foods. Based on our criteria, low-carbon footprint included vegetarian menu items with < 2 ounces of cheese AND menu items with sustainable fish. I think this is worth noting because low-carbon footprint doesn’t have to mean ONLY plant-based or vegan…it also means some vegetarian items with cheese are NOT low-carbon footprint.

2) The decision to add Impossible plant-based meat alternative products to the menu was strategic and led by our Dining Director. As we know, it can be hard to appeal to meat-eaters, and Impossible-type products have been more successful than many other alternatives. While sales of the new Impossibile products did coincide with decreases in sales of other vegetarian items, I don’t think it’s accurate to say they discouraged choices of vegetarian options. We studied and saw shifts across basically all categories of menu items, which I think is a strength of the research. We also saw that overall, sales of low-carbon footprint items increased, while sales of medium- and high-carbon footprint items decreased. On average, this corresponded with an 8% decrease in the carbon footprint of entrees sold.

All this to say, it’s complicated, and I’m proud that we are among the first to look at the dynamics of introducing Impossible plant-based meat alternatives into food environments. Of course it’s ideal if eaters swap beans or veggies for meat, but the path to get there is certainly not easy.

Thanks for the opportunity to share our work and respond to your coverage. (And thanks to Carole for being a champion of the work and leader in creating the toolkit!)

Kind regards,


May 27 2022

Weekend reading: Meat

Brian Kateman.  Meat Me Half-Way: How Changing the Way We Eat Can Improve Our Lives and Save Our Planet.  Prometheus Books, 2022. 

I hadn’t expected this book to be so compelling, but it was and I did a blurb for it.

Meat Me Half-Way is an exceptionally thoughtful and well-argued synthesis of the rationale for the “reducetarian” movement to eat less (but not necessarily zero) meat as a means to improve human and planetary health. I especially like the book’s call to unite vegans, vegetarians, proponents of plant-based and cell-based meats, and advocates for regenerative agriculture in this common cause.  Sign me up!

Kateman says

Ultimately, we all want to see the end of factory farming…we must support, or at least not actively oppose, legal approaches toward that end—even when others’ solutions for chipping away at factory farming are not our preferred ones.  This means plant-based meat and cell-cultured meat advocates not actively opposing better meat—even if they don’t think better meat is the ethical, environmental, or nutritional ideal.  This also of course means better-meat advocates not opposing plant-based and cell-cultured meat for not being “the real thing.  (P. 179)

May 26 2022

More wonders of food technology: the latest on plant-based meat alterntives

Food companies are madly trying to find plant proteins they can use to make plant-based meat alternatives.  The plant-based scene is hard to keep up with, but I am trying.

  • Tracking the plant-based protein movement: From plant-based burgers to chick’n nuggets, companies have launched a variety of new products, made acquisitions and forged partnerships to be in the meat alternative space. According to the Good Food Institute, $5.9 billion has been invested in alternative protein companies — plant-based, fermentation and cultivated or cell-based — between 2010 and 2020.

Check out the variety of plants under research.

And now we have an FDA-approved ingredient that mimics blood hemoglobin.

Obviously, there is big money in the plant-based space.

Apr 14 2022

Keeping up with plant-based: a challenge

As far as I can tell, the plan-based trend is all about marketing.  Whether it has anything to do with health and the environment remains to be seen.

When I hear about doom and gloom for this sector, I know that it has to do with investment issues.  To wit:

  • RIP Plant-based Meat Mania:  “Plant-based meat, egg, and dairy companies received $2.1 billion in investments in 2020 — the most capital raised in any single year in the industry’s history and more than three times the $667 million raised in 2019. Plant-based meat, egg, and dairy companies have raised $4.4 billion in investments in the past decade (2010–2020). Almost half, or $2.1 billion, was raised in 2020 alone. This included Impossible Foods’ record $700 million funding haul.”  Like with any emerging trend, what matters is not the absolute size of the plant-based category relative to plant-fed meat….what matters is the growth rate.  But if the growth rate is slowing, and more emerging brands are popping up then suddenly the category is crowded and competing on price and suddenly the whole category is much less interesting to investors.
  • McPlant not setting the world on fire at McDonald’s, claims analyst: ‘A wide-scale launch seems a ways off at this point…’  Despite promising test results in small-scale trials last year, the pea-protein-fueled McPlant burger – developed with Beyond Meat – is not setting the world on fire in tests at a broader selection of McDonald’s locations, according to analyst Peter Saleh at BTIG…. Read more
  • Plant-based foods sales: Plant-based meat sales stall while eggs, yogurt, and cheese gain ground, GFI, SPINS, PBFA :  The overall plant-based foods sector reported a significant slowdown (but still positive) growth for 2021 vs. 2020 with plant-based meat sales seeing flat growth while other categories grew by single-digits for the year, according to new data released by The Plant Based Foods Association, The Good Food Institute, and SPINS…. Read more

Not everyone agrees:

And none of this is stopping start-up innovations.

As for the public:

Mar 17 2022

Plant-based animal-food substitutes: an update

I haven’t done one of these in a while, so here’s my latest collection of articles on what the plant-based meat and dairy alternative industry is up to.  This seems especially appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day.

I “borrowed” the photo from this site (thanks!).

The plant-based market isn’t doing all that well?

Plenty of companies are still in this arena, domestically as well as internationally:

Plant-based ingredients are of great interest:

Some skepticism seems warranted:


Dec 2 2021

Keeping up with the plant-based food product industry

New items come out every day about the plant-based market for alternatives to meat and dairy foods.  Think of this as big business and hyper-marketing.