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Vivera… Vegetable steaks

Vivera… Vegetable steaks that look just like the real thing

Dutch company Vivera is producing vegan steak and, according to them, they’ve beaten the rest of the industry to the world’s first authentic-tasting steak made from 100% vegetables.

By the end of this month, the steak will be on the shelves of 400 branches of British chain Tesco, with Vivera expecting to produce millions more this year.

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The 400 supermarkets where the vegetable steak will soon be available account for some 10% of the total number of stores in the British supermarket chain.

“It’s normal not to have it on the shelves right away,” says Vivera’s sales manager Gert Jan Gombert to Business Insider. “In addition, we want to increase our capacity and production gradually.”

The special thing about the vegetable steaks is that they’re produced in a different way to many other meat substitutes.

A well-known production method for meat substitutes is extrusion, in which vegetable protein (often soy or wheat) is heated while moving and pressed out of a tube while rotating. At Wageningen University, experiments with shear-cell technology are being conducted.

But Vivera’s vegetable steak is made differently — and their recipe is a secret. “It’s a combination of the right ingredients and the right processing,” says Gombert. “The ingredients are on the packaging, the processing secrets we keep to ourselves.”

The list of ingredients includes soy and wheat proteins, coconut oil, barley extract and wheat starch, with Vivera using fillet and sirloin steaks as a guideline for the structure and taste of their steaks.

There are already other companies that claim to sell vegetable steaks, but according to Gombert they just don’t meet the characteristic requirements of a steak.

“You see it a lot on packaging, especially in France, but these meat substitutes lack the texture of steak. The juices have to run when you take a bite. It’s not for nothing we consider it ‘the Holy Grail’ of meat substitutes.”

Four people spent a year and a half working on the development and marketing of the product.

“We’ve never spent that much time developing a product before. Not even half that amount of time,” says Gombert.

At Vivera, product developers are given one day a week to work on their own ideas. One day Gombert and his colleague Richard Jansen (head of sales) were given a prototype of the steak to taste. There was no taste in it, but the texture was there,” says Gombert. “‘We have to do more with this’ was our immediate thought.”

After that, it took another year to work on the flavour and juiciness. “And we had to figure out how to get it from the kitchen to the machines. Large-scale production is not always as simple as just multiplying the quantity of ingredients.”

In June, the steak will also be available in Dutch supermarkets. “We’ll formally announce the supermarkets in which it will be available in a few weeks but I can say now that almost everyone seems interested,” says Gombert.

Gombert isn’t interested in thinking about competition with companies such as De Vegetarische Slager: “As a founding member of the Green Protein Alliance, we think it’s especially important to work together on the transition from animal to vegetable proteins. We’ve only achieved a few per cent in relation to meat.”

However, he says: “It’s nice to surprise the market and to be the first to do so.”

Source: Business Insider

About Denise Abou Jamra

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