Plant-based protein innovation:

Will it disrupt the future of the plant-based food industry?

Plant-based protein innovation

Evolution of plant-based meat


When we talk about plant-based meat, seldom do we consider tofu and tempeh which have been commonplace in Asian households for centuries.

By the 1960s, dry texturised vegetable protein (TVP) meat analogues came to be regarded in Western countries as well. TVP is made by cooking the extrusion of wheat gluten, defatted soybean meal, or soy protein concentrate. Because of their spongy and elastic nature, TVPs were used in patties, sauces, and stews. TVPs contain all nine of the amino acids that are essential for human beings.

The term ‘vegan’ was coined by animal rights activist Donald Watson in 1944. Modern-day veganism takes vegetarianism a step further. Vegans do not consume meat, eggs, cheese, mayonnaise, honey, whey, or anything that comes from or includes an animal. Today, veganism has seen a slight shift in its plant-based diet. Vitamin B12 is found mainly in animal products. Some vegans have been known to add fortified foods to their diet, including vitamin supplements.

While we have vegetarians and vegans gunning for plant-based alternative meats, flexitarians (those who consume plant-based meats and animal protein) are the largest consumers of the growing plant-based meats industry.

Thus, the premise for the wider consumption of plant-based alternative meats already exists.

Inadequate protein supply

With the global population increasing at an alarming rate, the demand for alternative sources of protein is increasing too. While this demand emerged years ago, it is estimated that nearly one billion people do not have access to adequate protein sources. Environment-conscious people are moving away from animal proteins and preferring plant-based proteins. However, the protein supply isn’t sufficient for the global

Need for plant-based protein innovation

Sustainability is now entrenched in our lifestyle. Everyone is a conscious consumer today. Consuming plant-based proteins will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and lower the environmental impact on animal agriculture. Simultaneously, it will offer the food industry more sustainable income, reduce food waste, and improve the nutritive intake of vegetarians and vegans.


What’s next?

Plant-based alternatives from brands like Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat have gained immense popularity in the last few years because they mimic the textures and flavors of animal-based meats. This gives vegetarians and vegans a chance to expand their plant-based diets without compromising on their choice of lifestyle.

Some of the most popular plant-based alternatives include:
Seitan: Made from vital wheat gluten; savory and chewy, ideal for stews, pasta, stir-fry, and sandwiches.

Beyond Meat: Made of pea protein, also contains dried yeast, refined coconut oil, cocoa butter, and rich protein; free of soy and gluten.


Impossible Burgers: Made of soy protein and potato


Jackfruit flesh: Lesser in protein and fat content, but rich in micronutrients like calcium, iron, and potassium.

Soy-based foods: Edamame, tofu, tempeh, soy-meat; mild flavor and versatile texture make them ideal for traditional meat-based dishes


While the above are great plant-based alternatives, the fact remains that products like Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger are highly processed and are therefore high in saturated and total fat. Some of these even contain more sodium than a single beef patty, something to ponder over if one intends to make these alternatives a regular addition to their diet.

Where is the focus now?

The need for protein innovation drives the plant-based food industry today.

Microalgae is becoming a popular sustainable source of protein. A type of single-celled organism that can be easily cultivated, microalgae offers a protein-rich alternative to animal meats. Since microalgae need fewer resources for their production, they are a more sustainable option compared to traditional livestock farming.

Cell-cultured meat is another innovative alternative. Stem cells are harvested from a live animal through tissue biopsy. These cells are then cultured in a laboratory until they form actual muscle and fat. The cultured meat is biologically identical to the meat procured from animals, however, the animals are not slaughtered to procure the meat. Although it is still a nascent innovation, cell-cultured meat can significantly reduce the environmental impact on animal agriculture.

Cell-cultured meat may not sit well with vegetarians and vegans. Nevertheless, they offer a sustainable alternative to flexitarians and meat-eaters.


Vegetarianism and veganism are becoming increasingly popular in the west, with several celebrities and animal rights activists advocating for plant-based alternatives. The demand for plant-based alternatives will only increase as the global population increases and environment-consciousness spreads. Moreover, consumers are also learning to appreciate these alternatives for their textures and flavors. The conscious consumer will opt for an alternative without batting an eyelid.

A couple of decades ago, the idea that soybean can be added to nutrition bars, soups, or even the Indian household staple ‘chakli’ was unimaginable. And yet, the power of innovation has led us to bring in plant-based proteins as a major ingredient to our diet plans. 

Thinking Forks’ end-to-end R & D solutions along with our ability to combine innovation and technology, can help brands in the plant-based industry to innovate and curate meat alternatives. We also have the capability to trudge through international markets — especially places with large Indian populations to understand their palate and offer suitable delivery solutions. Reach out to us at


Lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, almonds, spirulina, chia seeds, hemp seeds, potatoes, quinoa, beans, etc. are natural plant-based sources of protein.

Tofu, tempeh, seitan, etc. are processed plant-based sources of protein.

Seitan (wheat gluten), soybean, quinoa, amaranth, black bean, lentils, seeds (hemp, chia, sunflower, flax), and almonds are highest in protein.

Lentils, beans, nuts, nut butters, whole grains, protein-rich veggies can be added to a plant-based diet to up the protein content. Simultaneously, plant-based meats like tofu, tempeh, seitan, pea protein meats, etc. can be added to a plant-based diet.

The average consumer is becoming more environmentally-conscious and sentient. The need for plant-based protein stems from this consciousness. Consumers are preferring to eat proteins that do not necessarily come from animal sources. At the same time, vegetarians and vegans are falling short of their required intake of protein and Vitamin B12 in a plant-only diet. Thus, plant-based protein is gaining more ground.

Plant proteins help in upping your fiber intake, reducing the risk of cardiovascular ailments and certain cancers, and also assist in weight management.

Studies have shown that plant-based proteins are capable of promoting muscle growth, similar to the growth seen with animal protein.


About author

Palak holds a M.Sc. in Food Science and Nutrition and believes in holistic wellness. Her passion is to benefit the industry by developing food products, maintain food quality standards with appropriate nutrition labeling. A progressive thinker and an able communicator, she has completed her internship with various reputed organizations in the field of food and nutrition.
Ms. Palak Agrawal
Development Associate (Nutrition)