Centuries Old Foods Make Comeback With ‘New’ Vegan Food Culture

“Old-school” plant-based proteins are making a comeback, says the New Hope Network. Foods like beans, tofu, and wheat-based seitan, are reportedly holding their own while big name plant-meat producers Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods take much of the spotlight.

While Wired and like publications give Hampton Creek, Beyond Meat and other new plant-based purveyors plenty of press, legacy brands such as the 37-year-old Tofurky, which for decades bore ridicule, still don’t receive much mention. Sure, that somewhat awkward brand name doesn’t help. But the main reason Tofurky, Gardein, Lightlife Foods and others never enjoyed this level of hype is because, for years, eating ‘meat’ not from animals seemed weird to all but hard-core vegans and vegetarians,” writes Jenna Blumenfeld.

But these, let’s call them, “low-tech” foods also play an important role in today’s rapidly changing food scene.

Big Food companies are now snapping up old-school plant-based brands,” notes Blumenfeld. Nestlé recently acquired California-based Sweet Earth Foods; Canadian meat processor Maple Leaf Foods acquired Lightlife Foods; and Canadian vegan cheese producer Daiya, recently sold to Otsuka.

And while a Tofurky holiday roast may be a new experience to many consumers, these foods are actually based on very old diets and recipes. Seitan, for example, a core category for Sweet Earth, Upton’s, and Field Roast, has been made in Japan for centuries. Tofu–as in Tofurky–has probably been around for thousands of years. And look at virtually every culture on the planet, and you’ll find bean and legume preparations core to their diets. Legumes and beans are high in protein and fiber, vitamins and minerals. They’re versatile, hearty, easy to grow, and when dried, can last for years.

There used to be three primary reasons for going vegan: personal health, environmental stewardship and ethics,” Blumenfeld notes. “But now with the abundance of innovative plant-based products available, we can add taste—a powerful purchasing driver—to the equation.”

A study published earlier this year by Stanford University researchers found simply giving plant-based foods sexier names led to a 41% increase in consumption. So, while Tofurky may need to rethink its namesake (no?), It’s clear that veganism is no longer a fringe diet,” says Blumenfeld. Rather, vegan, as well as vegetarian, eating—now often referred to as plant-based eating—represents a new food culture.”

Image credit: Beyond Meat