Vege burgers take off, but producers remain cautious
FANCY a broccoli burger? A carrot sandwich perhaps?
Plant-based meat alternatives are quickly growing in popularity, and it's not just vegetarians who are gobbling them up.
Several meat-alternative products, including plant-based burger patties, are being marketed to meat-eaters as a healthy alternative.
The products aim to boost the levels of fresh vegetables in people's diet while reducing their meat consumption.
But how are local producers responding to this?
Vegetable grower and Qualipac director Troy Qualischefski said the market for vegetable alternatives to meet was growing, and the Lockyer Valley based producer was always open to new markets.
"There's obviously interest in it and people are interested in more of a vegetable-based diet which, when you're a vegetable grower, is music to your ears,” Mr Qualischefski said.
He won't be diving straight into the market but is certainly interested in where the products are moving.
"I wouldn't invest any money but I'd be happy to supply someone that was interested in chopping it up,” he said.
Beef producers are keeping an eye on the new alternatives to their farm raised product, but Crossdale grazier Don McConnel said the industry wasn't overly concerned about losing market share.
"I don't think it's a big concern for us, their cost of production too is pretty high and I think we have a lot more of a natural thing,” Mr McConnel said.
He also cast doubts on whether meat-eaters would swap a steak or burger for a vegetable-based product, even for health reasons.
"I don't think a traditional meat eater is going to go,” he said.
"They might try it as a bit of a novelty, but I think overall they much prefer the flavour of the real product.”
He said he saw big future for meat production, but said meat-alternatives needed to be very clearly labelled so consumers knew exactly what they were buying.
As for trying it himself, Mr McConnel doesn't see himself as a supporter.
Troy Qualischefski on the other hand was more open to the idea.
"Who knows? If it tastes better than lobster or Moreton Bay bug I'd probably eat some,” he laughed.
Meat-free burger hits spot
A NEW meat-free burger pattie is taking Australia by storm, with major supermarkets and burger chains selling the product.
The Beyond Burger, created by Beyond Meat, packs 20g of plant-based pea protein and has no cholesterol, soy, gluten or genetically modified organisms.
It has more protein and iron than beef but less saturated and total fat.
Australian retailers Coles and IGA and restaurants such as Grill'd were among the first to embrace the opportunity when the product arrived in Australia.
Coles category manager of barbecue and local ranging Harriet Wischer said demand for products like the Beyond Burger was increasing, and it wasn't just vegetarians taking it up.
"Our customers are becoming more and more interested in plant-based foods, but people are not so much switching to a full vegetarian diet - they're substituting veggie options a couple of times a week,” Ms Wischer said.
Beyond Burger has also been selling with great success at nationwide restaurant chain Grill'd.
Grill'd chief executive Adam Stapleton said its introduction had been very positive.
"The Beyond Burger has drawn in crowds of new guests and the feedback is that we're their go-to restaurant for a great Beyond Burger,” he said.
"We've seen the biggest increase among meat eaters who are choosing plant- based options - especially in the under-30s age group.”
The Beyond Burger is being sold at Coles supermarkets across NSW, and in IGA stores nationwide