In the latest sign of the growing popularity of foods made from plant-based proteins, a group of companies has united to form the industry’s first ever trade association.
The $3.5 billion sector (excluding Whole Foods sales data) includes companies that make plant-based versions of meat, tofu products, and non-dairy milk, cream, yogurt, and cheeses, the trade group stated in a press release.
Thanks to Michele Simon, the public health lawyer and food policy advocate who helped to form the group, and is now its executive director, the 23 founding companies of the Plant Based Foods Association now have a seat at the table in Washington, D.C., and beyond.
However, advocating for change is already in the DNA of each of these innovative companies whose products are profiled in this article.
Consider for a moment that it is not the norm in America to make, or eat, products like almond milk ice cream, cashew cheese, or beef cutlets made entirely of plants.
Some of the entrepreneurs felt they were pushed into business due to health concerns, or allergies related to meat and diary consumption, but if you visit the company websites below, you will invariably find there additional commitments to sustainability.
Consumer demand for plant-based products has exploded in recent years, translating to an 8.7 percent sales growth over the last two years, according to leading retail sales analytics company SPINS. To compare, growth in the conventional food and beverage sector was just 3.7 percent in the same period.
Strongest plant-based growth categories in the last two years
14.4 percent – Growth in plant-based milk
12.7 percent – Growth in plant-based yogurts
7 percent – Tofu-based products
Plant-based protein is appealing not just to vegetarians and vegans, but also to meat eaters (known as flexarians) who like the taste and nutritional profile of the many new and exciting options that appear regularly on grocery shelves, or at online food retailers.
1. Axiom Foods
Axiom is a Los Angeles-based B To B manufacturer of organic plant proteins. Axiom products, sold in powder form, are alternatives to milk whey protein, or even soy protein, the latter of which has fallen out of favor with some consumers due to the widespread use of genetically modified soy seed.
Axiom is best known for its flagship brown rice protein Oryzatein. Its other products include a yellow pea protein, and a protein made from sacha inchi seeds, or what is sometimes known as the Inca peanut.
Beanfields Snacks makes bean and rice chips in 10 different flavors, such as White Bean with Sea Salt, and Jalapeño Nacho, made with black bean, navy bean, and brown rice. Their chips have twice as much protein and fiber, and a third less fat, as most tortilla chips made with corn, according to the company website.
The company is a family enterprise that is also a registered B corp, dedicated to rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
Bakersfield, Calif.-based Califia Farms is a beverage company specializing in California-grown fruits and nuts.
For those people who do not enjoy drinking cow’s milk, or who are lactose intolerant, Califia offers a wide variety of almond milks, almond milk protein drinks, almond milk coffee creamers, and cold brew coffees with almond milk. They also make a variety of tropical fruit and citrus juices.
Vancouver, Canada-based Daiya makes an impressive number (30) of non-dairy cheese products, including cheese shreds, slices, blocks, and cream cheese, as well as pizza, cheesecake, mac and cheese, and Greek yogurt.
Daiya’s cheeses are made with tapioca and potato starches, high quality oils like coconut oil, and pea protein to create the familiar texture of dairy cheeses.
Follow Your Heart was started in 1970 as a market and restaurant by four friends in Canoga Park, Calif.
Today the company manufactures a large array of egg-free, dairy-free products, including Vegenaise, vegan sour cream, cheese, dips and spreads, and salad dressings, made with expeller-pressed oils.
Brownsville, Calif.-based Freja’s Foods manufactures organic plant-based meat products out of wheat gluten, a product commonly known as seitan.
Their flagship product, 4-oz Seitan Chops, with sauce on the side, are said to smoke and sizzle on a grill. Also available are sliced deli meats, ground meat, and bites—perfect for kabobs, according to the company.
7. Heidi Ho
Portland, Oregon-based Heidi Ho manufactures plant-based cheeses, including creamy Chia Cheeze, Spicy! Chia Cheeze, and Smoky Chia Cheese, made with cashew, and flavored with veggies like red potatoes, red bell peppers, carrots, onions, and garlic.
Chef Heidi also makes Ne Chèvre (French for “no goat”), a live-culture cashew cheese available in Pure and Black Lava varieties.
This unique vegan jerky is made in Louisville, Kentucky, with a base of soy sauce, textured vegetable protein (a soy product, also known as TVP), and Kentucky sorghum (similar to maple syrup, made from sorghum cane), to achieve unique flavors such as Bourbon Smoked Black Pepper, Bourbon Smoked Chipotle, Sriracha Maple, and Sesame Teriyaki.
Eugene, Oregon-based Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss is a non-dairy ice cream company featuring coconut milk as the base.
Some of the flavors are very unique, such as Cinnamon Chocolate Fusion, and Chocolate Chip Cookie made with hemp seeds.
10. Malk Organic
Houston, Texas-based Malk Organic manufactures nut milks and cold-brew coffees with clean labels (few ingredients).
Malk varieties are made from almonds, cashews, or pecans. With this product, one can discover the nuances of the different nuts!
This company uses a fairly unique and high quality method of preserving their nut milks, called high pressure processing (HPP). The process works by applying high pressure to the bottles under cold water, eliminating pathogens and bacteria, while eliminating the need for additives.
11. Match Meats
Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Match Meats manufactures plant-based meat. The company is targeting the food service market, with options of ground beef, chicken fillets, or crab meat sold in bulk. Match meat encourages the use of their meats in a large variety of familiar meat dishes, such as Sloppy Joes, Thai Curry, and Ravioli Filling.
12. Miyoko’s Kitchen
Fairfax, California-based Miyoko’s Kitchen manufactures artisan vegan cultured nut products, mostly from cashews and rice koji, a fermented product used in Japan for making soy sauce and sake.
Products include a European-style vegan cultured butter, fresh mozzarella, Double Cream Chive cheese, Sundried Tomato Garlic cheese, Rustic Sierra Alpine cheese, Fresh Loire Valley in a Fig Leaf cheese, and many more cheeses.
These products definitely look good enough to serve on the fanciest of cheese trays!
13. New Barn
Healdsburg, Calif.-based New Barn makes organic almond milk using maple syrup as a sweetener.
They also make almond milk-based frozen desserts, in AlmondCreme flavors such as Strawberry, Ginger Snap Cookie, Sunflower Butter, and Banana & Chocolate Chip. An innovation for New Barn was combining eggs with the nuts to form the creamy base for their desserts. Still dairy-free!
The New Barn signifies the company’s commitment to transparency in sourcing. Watch the video below to learn more.
14. New Wave Foods
Bay Area biotech company New Wave Foods is working in a lab setting to create a truly sustainable seafood alternative. This would be meat grown in a petri dish from real animal cells. First up: Shrimp.
Part of the company’s mission is to eliminate the “devastating environmental impact that commercial fishing is posing on our environment.”
Bend, Oregon-based Next Level Burger asks us to imagine a hamburger with 22 grams of clean protein, zero cholesterol, and 100 percent taste.
Next Level Burger is a fast casual restaurant concept featuring only plant-based meat products, with compostable packaging, and reclaimed wood countertops.
Newport Beach, Calif.-based Nutpods makes a dairy-free alternative to half and half cream. We can now enjoy rich, creamy coffees without eating the cow. Available in French Vanilla, Original, and Hazelnut flavors.
This is a clean label product. The Original Unsweetened flavor is made with just purified water, coconut cream, almonds, and natural flavors.
Boise, Idaho-based Melt Organic, butter alternative that offers what the company says on its website is an “ideal combination of saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, for optimal nutrient content.”
The idea here is that since buttering our toast is a frequent affair, why not use the opportunity to gain the best nutrition possible? For those who love flavor, the company offers naturally-sweetened Honey, or Chocolate flavors.
18. Real Food Daily
Santa Monica, Calif.-based Real Food Daily is an all plant-based restaurant founded by chef Ann Gentry, who has been working to raise the standards of plant-based foods for 25 years. Her first restaurant in Santa Monica opened in 1993, exclusively using food grown with organic farming methods. She now runs three California Real Food Daily locations.
Moss Landing, Calif.-based Sweet Earth manufactures a wide variety of burritos, frozen entrees, breakfast sandwiches, breakfast meats, veggie burgers, savory grounds, and seitan, made from pulses, grains, vegetables, and spices. Labels are long, but filled with recognizable ingredients.
The company’s website has an Eco Clock that tracks how many animals it has saved—831,232 chickens so far!
Hood River, Oreg.-based Tofurky is one of the oldest and most recognized of the association’s founding members. It recently got a brand makeover, so consumers will likely enjoy its fun packaging.
The company famous for its plant-based holiday turkey now makes a wide variety of products, from Veggie Burgers and Deli Slices, to Gluten-free Pizza, and Pockets. And don’t worry, you can still buy the holiday turkey!
21. Tofuna Fysh
Portland, Oreg.-based Tofuna Fysh makes a vegan Fysh Sauce, so vegetarians can finally enjoy Thai food without fear.
It also makes a Veggie Salad, featuring young green jackfruit as the base, along with celery, onions, soy, and vegan mayo. A touch of seaweed brings home the briny flavor.
22. Treeline Cheese
Kingston, New York-based Treeline Cheese makes dairy-free soft French-style nut cheeses in four flavors, including Chipotle-Serrano Pepper and Green Peppercorn.
It also makes aged nut cheeses in classic and cracked pepper flavors. These cheeses, made primarily from cashew nuts, are clean label, with very few ingredients.
23. Upton’s Naturals
Chicago, Illinois-based Upton’s Naturals makes plant-based meats using wheat gluten (otherwise known as seitan), and jackfruit. This company has some unique flavors, such as Bar-B-Que Jackfruit, Chili Lime Carnitas Jackfruit, Bacon Seitan, Chorizo Seitan, and Ground Seitan.
The company said in a press release the Southeast Asian jackfruit is a mild-flavored, nutrient-dense meat substitute, with a texture similar to pulled pork, or shredded chicken.