Beyond products made with off-the-shelf ingredients, there is a fast-emerging industry leveraging modern technology to re-invent meat, milk, eggs, and even seafood with plant ingredients.
From using artificial intelligence to decode the taste of cheese to collecting data on hundreds of thousands of plant species, here are the cutting-edge companies re-imagining plants to make better food.
Impossible Foods is a revolutionary startup that has seemingly cracked the code for making a plant-based burger that actually tastes like beef. Their incredible "raw meat" burger looks, smells, cooks, and even bleeds like conventional meat, but is actually made with an innovative mix of grains, fruit, proteins and fats.
The Impossible Burger has been hailed as a revolutionary new product that could change how people look at meat forever. They plan to launch it in stages, beginning in select restaurants in several U.S. cities.
July 2016 in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles
Ripple Foods is a startup taking on traditional dairy with milk crafted from pea protein. Their patented technology extracts only the protein from peas, allowing the product to be combined with other natural ingredients for a rich, creamy taste.
Ripple's milk contains all the calcium, Vitamin D and protein of cow's milk, but with a much smaller environmental footprint, and reportedly tastes even better than common dairy alternatives, such as soy or almond milk.
2016 in U.S. Whole Foods Markets, Target
Since their launch in 2012, Hampton Creek has taken the world by storm with their plant-based mayonnaise and cookie dough. Made by analyzing thousands of plants to discover which have the best egg-like properties (such as taste, texture, and binding ability) they launched their first product, Just Mayo, in 2013 to great reviews.
From overfishing and pollution to the use of antibiotics and even child slavery, the modern seafood industry is rife with issues. Fortunately, New Wave Foods is a company stepping up to make better seafood by replacing animals with algae.
Algae is a marine plant with a naturally fishy flavor, and by isolating its protein, New Wave is creating realistic seafood products that look, smell, and taste like the real thing.
They unveiled their first product, shrimp, in early 2016 and soon after received an order from Google, who hopes to serve New Wave's sustainable shrimp in their corporate cafeterias.
After shrimp, New Wave plans to make a splash with more algae-based seafood, including tuna, scallops and even shark fin.
When Chef James Corwell witnessed the staggering number of tuna caught for Japanese sushi, he knew the fish were in trouble. Globally, increased demand for sushi has pushed bluefin tuna and other species to the brink of extinction, with the population of Pacific Bluefin Tuna dropping 96% from overfishing.
To create a sustainable alternative, Chef Corwell - one of the few chefs in the world designated a Master Chef - searched through his culinary arsenal, and came up with an ingenious idea: make sushi out of tomatoes.
Using a special cooking method called "sous vide" cooking, slices of seasoned tomatoes are steamed or heated in a vacuum-tight container. This method helps seal in amazing flavor, and transforms the tomatoes' texture into dense, chewy pieces that look and taste like real tuna.
Tomato Sushi is currently sold locally in San Francisco, but Chef Corwell hopes to expand the product soon so people everywhere can enjoy delicious and sustainable sushi.
San Francisco, Nationwide 2016 or '17
ALL OF THE ABOVE
Based in Chile, this unique startup made big news as the first company to use artificial intelligence (AI) to decode meat and animal products, and reproduce them with plant ingredients.
Their AI (name "Guiseppe") analyzes food products, like a piece of cheese, and uses an algorithm to determine which molecules and ingredients give the cheese its taste, texture, mouthfeel, and appearance. It then uses this data to locate the same molecules in plants. With this knowledge, researchers can recreate virtually any animal product - meat, fish, milk, or eggs - using plants.
Their first product, Not Mayo, will launch in Chile in 2016, with plans to expand internationally starting in 2017.