In 2019 there were an estimated 600,000 people eating a vegan diet in the UK, up from 150,000 in 2014 and it’s forecasted to keep on rising. With this rise there’s been an explosion of new vegan and vegetarian food products, which is amazing.
According to The Vegan Society, in 2018 the UK was top of world for the number of new vegan product launches (Mintel report). This meant 16% of all new food products launched globally were vegan, doubling from 8% in 2015.
To mock or not to mock
I’ve noticed people’s opinions are split when it comes to the topic of alternative meats, faux meat, mock meat, whatever you want to call it. And it seems especially baffling for meat eaters, why a vegetarian or vegan might want to eat a meat substitute. For me, it’s definitely not for the taste or texture of meat but so I have more variety of foods to cook with.
I’ll be honest, when I first adopted a vegan diet 13 years ago, I stuck to wholefoods like lentils and chickpeas and rarely bought meat lookalikes. Partly because unappetising soya chunks or stale-looking vegan sausage rolls at the back of a health food shop were all we had, and partly because I avoided processed foods.
These days I’m more concerned about hitting a high protein intake for my weightlifting so if my protein source has to be a little bit processed I don’t mind. I still eat lentils and chickpeas but at 9-10g of protein per 100g I can get more than double that with a soya-based product, which suits my diet more. I do mix it up though so I eat a variety of protein sources across a week.
Also, let’s be honest, the alternative meat choices are so much tastier now. Now, I’m always excited to try the latest launch and see which ones will become new staples and favourites.
Introducing The Unbelievable Alt
This bold brand has recently launched into Tesco. The Unbelievable Alt has a lot of personality in the branding and I loved that instantly. The more accessible and mainstream we can make vegan foods, the better.
The promise is a meat-like product for meat lovers; for a vegan or vegetarian like me, I can’t say that appeals. In fact, I was nearly sick when I tried a Beyond Burger as the taste was so meat-like I couldn’t hold it down. I was worried this would be the same. Luckily it wasn’t.
There are four products from The Unbelievable Alt to choose from:
All are soya based and all are high protein (around 26g per portion), a source of fibre, low in saturated fat and low in carbohydrates. This nutritional makeup was absolutely perfect for my sports nutrition needs.
Each pack (320g) has four portions and priced at £3 to £4 (each pack is slightly different) it’s unbelievably good value (easy pun).
I know this isn’t what the brand wants to hear but the products were not actually that meaty, which is great for me and other meat-free eaters who don’t miss meat and don’t want to be reminded what meat tastes like.
For me, this was a massive thumbs up. I’ve lived all my life without meat so a meaty taste would turn me off. I’m happy to leave the Beyond Meat burger-type products to the meat-eaters who have recently switched.
The flavour on all the products was subtle and while this was a bit surprising, it turned out well as they soaked up the different flavours I cooked with really well, making them very versatile.
The textures of the Pieces products were all quite firm with only a light sponginess. The mince was a chunkier than normal soya mince (which is usually quite fine and too airy). So everything felt a lot more substantial than other soya products I’ve tried, which is great for cooking – and eating, as there’s something decent to bite into it.
What did I make with The Unbelievable Alt?
I made veg stirfry with the chickenless pieces, a bolognese with the beefless mince, pasta with the lambless pieces and Asian-inspired pho with the beefless pieces. It was quite hard to choose a favourite.
I’m not used to cooking with good meat alternatives so I found it surprisingly challenging to figure out my recipe plans. Luckily there are recipe ideas on The Unbelievable Alt site.
What is The Unbelievable Alt made of?
What I liked most about The Unbelievable Alt products is not only how versatile they were to cook with, but how appealing the ingredients were. No strange artificial names, preservatives, thickeners, gums or E numbers (which can be common in meat-free products) and not laden with fat (also quite common with mock meat).
Ingredients: Plant proteins (74%) [rehydrated textured SOYA protein (water, SOYA protein, cornflour), vegetable protein powder (SOYA, potato, broad bean)], water, WHEAT gluten, rapeseed oil, natural flavourings, rice flour, yeast extract, onion powder, garlic powder.
Obviously the soya protein is processed but that doesn’t bother me as I already eat tofu and other soybean products. I know soya can be a controversial ingredient due to the phytoestrogens and I know a few veggie/vegan friends who avoid it, but research suggests these are removed through processing.
Nutritionally soya is a complete protein source and contains all the essential amino acids. Choosing to eat soya, like any food, is a personal choice but for me it’s an essential part of my diet – I wouldn’t be able to hit my protein count without it.
So if I’m passing a Tesco I will definitely be dropping in to pick up one of The Unbelievable Alt products. The question now is, which one would I buy?
Let me know if you’ve tried any of these and what you thought – catch me on Instagram @YanarFitness.