Are You a Flexitarian?

Our language is so interesting the way it evolves. Take the word “flexitarian.” On the surface, it appears to mean “omnivore.” But there is indeed a slight but important difference. People who eat both meat and plants are “omnivores.” Vegans can be considered “herbivores.” But humans are not “carnivores,” because we cannot survive on animal products alone, like other species.

So, what distinguishes an “omnivore” from a “flexitarian?” Flexitarians tend to be highly attuned to their diets, and seek out nutritionally sound, clean-label food products; they will, without nary a hesitation, purchase – and enjoy — plant-based foods, such as meat alternatives. Omnivores tend to just eat animal and plant-source foods, heavily processed or not.

According to a March 7 2017 special report, “The Rise in ‘Flexitarian’ Lifestyles” appearing on http://www.foodingredientsfirst.com – globally, there are about 375 million people who identify themselves as vegetarians, and this number is growing as more people are cutting back on the amount of meat and meat products they eat in order to be healthier, more compassionate to animals, and to promote more enduring sustainability for protein sources. In this article, describing flexitarian characteristics, author Elizabeth Kenward writes, “These flexible vegetarians can be more discerning than vegetarians or vegans, and want better tasting products that are more reminiscent of meat, further driving innovation in the food sector.”

And influencing food manufacturers they are: According to a report issued by Innova Market Insights, a global market research firm, brands large and small are launching meat alternative foods at a flurry – the category experienced, globally, a 24% average annual growth in product launches between 2011 and 2015.

Look around your natural products supermarket or even a mass supermarket and you will still see that most of the meat substitutes are still soy or wheat based. However, you will begin to notice more meat substitute products made with pea protein, grains, nuts and even fruits. “A look at the top protein ingredients as a percentage of meat substitute launches tracked in 2015 found that wheat protein (27.2%) and soy protein (26.6%) dominated, but egg protein (7.1%), pea protein and mycoprotein [used in Quorn] (4.1%) are also trending in these products,” said Lu Ann Williams, who is director of innovation at Innova Market Insights.

To see what’s out there to enjoy, we recommend visiting http://www.plantbasedfoods.org, a recently launched association for manufacturers of innovative plant-based foods.

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