US vegetable oils and fats producer Bunge Loders Croklaan (BLC) has introduced a range of plant-based fats designed to mimick the sensory characteristics of the meat it is replacing, the company said on 29 November.

The plant-based fats are made from palm oil and shea butter and possessed unique melting profiles that could be applied as crucial fat ingredients to meatless burgers, BLC said.

“Both can deliver more bite, a juicy mouthfeel and full flavour while producing no oil leakage or excessive smoking on a cooking surface.”

“A significant number of European consumers are adopting a version of the vegan or flexitarian lifestyle,” explained Feike Swennenhuis, marketing director for BLC Europe. “They are seeking sustainable meat alternatives that can deliver the same eating experience.”

Euromonitor International, reported that 24% of surveyed global consumers were trying to cut their meat intake, driving sales of global meat substitutes to reach US$19.5bn in 2018.

According to Innova Market Insights, meat substitutes accounted for 11% of new meat product launches (meat, poultry and meat substitutes) reported in Europe in 2018 (January to September), up from 9% in 2013. The global picture showed stronger growth still, with 14% of meat launches in the first nine months of 2018 being meat alternatives, compared with 6% in 2013.

BLC said its palm-based fat was a flaked product proven to impart better functional attributes to meat-like products. For example, it could mimic the fat bubbles and pocket characteristic of animal fat in hamburgers, and was easier to process than liquid oils or waxy fats such as more commonly-used rapeseed oil or sunflower oil.

The two products also demonstrated capabilities for improving parameters such as firmness, cohesiveness, springiness and potentially reduced the need for adding emulsifiers, gum-based texturisers, salt and other flavour enhancers, BLC said.

“This may improve clean label attributes of current meat-replacement products that have experienced some consumer backlash for being ‘overly-processed’.”

Additionally, both fats were non-hydrogenated and contained no trans fats. BLC said both palm and shea contained more saturated fat compared to rapeseed and sunflower oil, but less than animal fat, meaning they performed better on the griddle.

BLC operates as the global B2B edible oils business of agribusiness giant Bunge Ltd.