Best vegan products to try in 2021
It’s World Vegan Month. The annual event marks the coining of the word “vegan” by Donald Watson, founder of the Vegan Society, in 1944. He took the first and last letters of the word “vegetarian” to create the word, apparently as a statement against vegetarians who ate dairy products. While the practice of avoiding animal products has been around for millennia, these days, veganism is decidedly mainstream. And with animal welfare, the climate crisis and health now front of mind for many, more brands are innovating with new vegan offerings. We take a look at some of the best vegan products on offer in 2021.
2021 PETA Vegan Food Awards
2021 has been a huge year for vegan food. Newly emerging vegan start-ups, iconic household brands and restaurants big and small have stepped up to meet the ever-growing demand for vegan food. As people concerned with animal welfare and the environment increasingly move towards a plant-based diet, progressive brands are changing with the times. PETA’s Vegan Food Awards highlight some of the best vegan products now on offer. This year’s awards featured 16 categories, including best vegan fish & chips, best vegan ice cream, best dairy-free milk and launch of the year. Here are just some of the winners.
Best Vegan Chicken: Vegan Fried Chick’n Popcorn Chick’n
Vegan Fried Chick’n products are a take on seitan, which is made from wheat gluten. Popcorn Chick’n is a tasty snack that offers an alternative to the classic comfort food.
Best Vegan Meat: vEEF Artisan Plant-Based Pulled “Lamb”
From the meat-alternative company co-founded by executive chef Alejandro Cancino, vEEF’s plant-based lamb is made using shiitake mushrooms and Australian fava beans.
Best Vegan Bacon: NEXT! Plant Based Extra Crispy Bacon Style Strips
Made from non-GMO soy and wheat proteins, NEXT! plant-based bacon sizzles, smells and tastes almost like the real thing, but is cholesterol free and low in fat.
Best in Vegan Cheese: La Petite Fauxmagerie
Most Innovative Vegan Product: Sprout Organic Infant Formula
Gold Coast parents Jen and Sel worked with food technologists to create the world’s first vegan infant formula. It meets FSANZ requirements and is approved by paediatricians.
To check out the full list of winners, head to peta.org.au
Nourish Vegan Awards
Nourish Magazine has also named the winners in its vegan awards, which are voted for by readers. More than 210,000 votes were cast across 26 categories that included vegan food and drink, vegan beauty and fashion, vegan living and wellness and vegan dining. Winners in the vegan food category include Beyond Meat for Best Plant-Based Burger, Cocobella for Best Vegan Yoghurt and Nature’s Kitchen for Best Vegan Ready Meal. In the dining category, Lord of the Fries won Best in Vegan Casual Dining and Smith & Daughters, run by Shannon Martinez, won Best in Vegan Restaurant Dining. Nutritionist and podcaster Simon Hill, author of The Proof is in the Plants, was named Vegan Changemaker of the Year.
To check out the full list of winners, head to nourishmagazine.com.au
Best for customer satisfaction
Opinion on the best vegan products appears to vary, depending on who’s voting. Canstar Blue’s 2021 Customer Satisfaction Award for plant-based food brands has rated Gardein as the overall winner. The review compared eight different brands on variety, taste, texture and consistency, quality of ingredients, packaging, value for money and overall satisfaction. Gardein came out on top, followed by Linda McCartney’s and Beyond Meat. The survey of more than 750 Aussie consumers also found some other interesting facts, including:
• 44% feel the quality and variety of vegan products in supermarkets is improving.
• Only 19% of vegan food consumers follow a strictly vegan diet.
• 29% say they feel judged for being vegan.
You can check out the full results at canstarblue.com.au
Dreamy vegan chocolate
Melbourne-based Pana Organic makes chocolate that’s so rich and luxurious, you won’t even notice that it’s vegan. When founder Pana Barbounis started Pana Organic in 2012, he wanted to change the way the world enjoyed chocolate. He’s created a healthy chocolate indulgence using ethically sourced, certified organic ingredients from around the world. Now Pana Organic has added some new treats to the range: Fruit & Nut and Macadamia & Mango. The aim was to revisit the flavour combos that chocolate lovers have enjoyed for years but to put a unique Pana stamp on it. And just in time for Christmas, the chocolatier has also released limited-edition vegan truffles in mylk and mylk caramel flavours. Pana Organic also won Best Vegan Ice Cream at the PETA awards and Best Vegan Ice Cream and Best Vegan Chocolate at the Nourish Vegan Awards.
New kid on the block
Just when you thought the vegan products category couldn’t get any more crowded, here comes another one. And this one has a vegan spam in its range. OmniFoods has launched its 100 percent plant-based pork-style proteins called OmniMeat into Woolworths and select retailers across Australia. The OmniMeat range includes three new plant-based pork alternatives – Mince, Luncheon and Strips. The range is made using a blend of plant-based protein from non-GMO soy, pea, shiitake mushrooms and rice. OmniMeat Luncheon is the first of its kind globally and a healthier alternative to other processed meat products.
More improvements on the way
University of Queensland engineers and food scientists have begun a culinary quest to recreate the sensory experience of eating meat in plant-based proteins. It’s part of a three-year Australian Research Council project in partnership with US-based food tech company Motif FoodWorks. Attributes like taste, texture and smell combined are primary drivers for consumers when considering a meat-free option. The research team is working to understand the mechanics that occur during eating and stimulate them in a laboratory. The project aims to “unlock the secrets of food” to help manufacturers design plant-based options that live up to the taste and texture expectations of consumers.
Next-gen alternative proteins
Innovations in texture and mouthfeel are the latest developments in the booming plant-based protein industry. Canberra-based Nourish Ingredients has developed a fermentation process that mimics the molecular structure of animal fats without having to use animal products or fats like coconut or palm oils. This allows them to tailor flavour profiles and mouth-feel properties to acutely mirror any number of animal proteins. Nourish has teamed up with Australian cell-based meat company Vow to match cultured exotic meats with animal-free fats. Vow’s cell library includes alpaca, water buffalo, rabbit and crocodile. So we may be seeing some more unusual alternative protein offerings on our supermarket shelves in the not-too-distant future. Right now, it’s a case of watch this space.
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