By channeling cutting-edge technology, food tech companies make vegan bacon that looks, tastes and feels like pork bacon, convincing flexitarians and carnivores alike. Crispiness, moisture, bite, and flavor are the top challenges R&D and scientific teams must overcome to win over consumers.
“It looks, cooks, and tastes just like the cruel kind”
According to Coherent Market Insights, vegan bacon is becoming increasingly popular because companies have developed healthier alternatives. The global vegan bacon market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.6% between 2022 and 2032, totaling around US$ 2,425.4 million by 2032.
Let’s look at the technology behind some of the most popular brands of vegan bacon.
Hooray Foods — emulsion tech
San Francisco-based Hooray Foods launched its first plant-based bacon in 2020, claiming that it rivaled the taste and texture of pork bacon but with 65% fewer calories, 75% less fat, and 40% less sodium.
To make vegan bacon, the food tech uses a trademark emulsifying technology that binds rice flour, coconut oil, tapioca starch, spices, and seasonings with encapsulated oil droplets, allowing the product to crisp and taste like conventional bacon. Its latest iteration, an improved version called the Awesomer, was named “Best Breakfast Meat Product of the Year” (beating animal products) at the 2023 Mindful Awards.
The Awesomer bacon is available at over 1,000 retail locations across the US, including Whole Foods Market, Wegman’s, Raley’s, Good Eggs, and grocery delivery services. In 2021, the brand debuted in Canada at retailers across Ontario and British Columbia, including Sobeys, Safeway, and Thrifty Foods.
The Vegetarian Butcher — plant & fat tissue tech
The Vegetarian Butcher has launched an improved bacon — NoBacon 2.0 — made with new plant and fat tissue technology that the company claims can deliver the texture, oil release, and translucency of animal bacon.
TVB’s tech leverages the properties of wheat, soy, and plant oils to mimic the essential characteristics of pork, such as crispiness and moisture. The fat tissue tech makes the plant-based fat strips translucent while cooking, something that was not possible before. Additionally, thanks to the new technology, the bacon has 20x more oil droplets, eliminating additional frying oils and giving customers the real bacon experience. NoBacon 2.0 launched recently in the Netherlands.
MyForest Foods — air mycelium tech
MyForest Foods leverages AirMycelium technology — a solid-state fermentation process — to grow the mycelium of fungi with woodchips instead of sugar. For optimum growth, the company recreates the characteristics of a forest while guiding the mycelium to produce its natural geometrical patterns in block-like foams. MyForest Foods’ most notable achievement is that it has unlocked how to grow these fungi root blocks at an industrial scale in vertical farms.
MyForest’s first product, MyBacon, is a block of gourmet mushroom mycelium sliced and infused with coconut oil for sizzle and beet juice for color. Each slice contains all nine essential amino acids, delivering a complete source of protein. It sounds simple, but to develop the perfect piece of mycelium bacon, the company says it spent more than two years on R&D.
Founded in New York in 2020, MyForest has raised over $55 million to date from investors including Robert Downey Jr.’s Footprint Coalition Ventures. The brand is available at 100+ retail and food service locations across New York and Massachusetts.
THIS — Fat 2.0
Last December, UK plant-based meat company THIS launched a new “more realistic” version of its carnivore-fooling plant-based bacon, called THIS Isn’t Streaky Bacon. The company uses its olive oil-based Fat 2.0 technology for a smoky flavor and meatiness, while allowing the rashers to crisp with only 17 kcal per unit.
Co-founder Andy Shovel commented: “It’s taken 2 years of cutting-edge research and development to launch this. Not to mention the 1000s of taste tests and inordinate number of grey hairs acquired. We couldn’t be happier with where we’ve landed. Our new streaky rashers can easily trick a meat-eater into thinking they’re pork bacon. They’re awesome.”
La Vie — three techs for one simple product
La Vie plant-based bacon is available in France, the UK, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. It has become a successful brand in only two years, launching onto mainstream menus in several food service locations, including Burger King.
La Vie attributes part of its success to not releasing products until its plant-based bacon tastes equivalent to regular pork bacon. The brand’s ‘true secret’, however, lies in three technologies that make it possible to replicate pork using plant ingredients.
Plant-based fat technology makes the bacon crispy and moist. Another tech recreates “lean bacon” (so it’s healthier) without using texturing agents; a third development combines and balances leanness with fat. The result is an alternative to bacon that has seven times less saturated fat, fewer calories, fiber (something meat does not have), proteins, and no nitrites or nitrates.
La Vie Bacon won Best Vegan Bacon at the PETA Awards 2022: “It looks, cooks, and tastes just like the cruel kind,” shared PETA on social media.