The culinary revaluation of plant-based food is in full swing. The megatrends of health, ethical food and vegetarianism, as a diet with a lengthy tradition, have developed in a way that is setting a new direction for the meat-based food culture in our industrialised countries. After all, food trends are part of a permanent development cycle, and the changes they initiate in our food culture will impact back on them, too.
The culmination of the combined megatrend of health, ethical food and the vegetarian movement is veganism, which has led to the development of new foodstuffs (i.e. plant-based substitutes for meat and dairy products), as well as strong countertrends and innovations. Organic farmers are focusing on older cattle and pig breeds, while butchers are turning to high-quality dry ageing, and scientists are working to bring in-vitro meat to the market – all from a perspective of more sustainable, ethical and environmentally responsible meat production. This has led to the development of a new trend (“flexitarians”), which brings together these conflicting trends and helps stimulate the further development of plant-based foods, such as protein snacks developed around plant-based raw materials, which will also prove popular with omnivores.
At a broader level, plant-based food covers the flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan diets, and is being increasingly used to designate animal-free products in place of “vegan” (which many consumers perceive as an ideological battle cry and a symbol of prohibition), and as a way of appealing to the growing number of people who are adopting a healthier diet and want to reduce their extensive meat consumption, even if partially for environmental reasons, but take a sceptical view of rigid diets.
Strictly speaking, “plant-based” can also include restaurant or home-cooked meals in which vegetables and grains predominate, with fish or meat serving as no more than a minor accompaniment to enhance the meal, with quality rather than quantity at the forefront. From a sustainability perspective – CO2-equivalent emissions for the climate-change aspect and material input for the sparing use of resources – both organic and in-vitro products have the potential to be winners in the future.
About the author
Hanni Rützler has made a name for herself both within and beyond the German-speaking countries as a food trend researcher with her multidisciplinary approach to questions of how we eat and drink. As an author and speaker she is particularly appreciated for bringing theory and practice together. Her annual “Food Report” is one of the most influential publications in the restaurant and foodstuffs sector.