IKEA will soon be selling a plant-based version of its iconic Swedish meatballs.
Earlier this month, the official Instagram account for IKEA Food Services announced that the company is in the process of creating a new meatball that uses plant-based alternative protein, like in the increasingly popular Impossible Burger.
Though the meatballs are still in development, the brand says it plans to roll them out in all IKEA stores around the world.
Coming soon: IKEA announced that it is developing meatballs with plant-based protein
Wait for it: The company said it’s still in the testing phase, but expects to roll the meatless meatballs out in all locations
‘One of the most well-known IKEA icons is the Swedish meatball, traditionally served with cream sauce, mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam,’ the company said.
‘IKEA is working on the development of a new meatball that looks and tastes like meat but is made from plant based alternative proteins.
‘IKEA has the ambition to serve the new plant based meatball in all of its restaurants globally. In the development process IKEA is collaborating with some of the leading suppliers within the industry doing the first tests and tastings of the plant based alternative protein meatball.’
Michael La Cour, Managing Director at IKEA Food Services AB, said he is looking forward to serving them in stores.
‘We know that the IKEA meatballs are loved by the many people and for years the meatballs have been the most popular dish in our restaurants,’ he said.
Iconic: IKEA’s meatballs are traditionally served with potatoes and lingonberry jam
Options: IKEA already offers chicken meatballs (center) and veggie meatballs (right)
‘We see a growing demand from our customers to have access to more sustainable food options and we want to meet that need. Our ambition is to make healthier and more sustainable eating easy, desirable and affordable without compromising on taste and texture.’
The first in-store tests are planned for early 2020.
IKEA actually already has a veggie version of its meatballs (as well as chicken balls), but this new version will incorporate plant-based protein for a more realistic beef taste.
The company is clearly hoping to hop on the growing trend toward plant-based meat that has taken off in recent years as the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger have hit the market.
These plant-based burgers make use of a compound called heme, which the makers say gives the patty that ‘meat’ taste.
They’re everywhere! Burger King launched a plant-based Whopper, called the Impossible Whopper, last month
Testing it out: McDonald’s is selling its own plant-based burger now too, but so far only in Germany
They’ve also used other tricks to imitate the texture and smell of a beef burger — and have done such a good job that many beef loyalists are fans.
While plant-based burgers first started being served in trendy, ahead-of-the-curve restaurants in major cities a few years ago, they are now slowly popping up in national chains.
In April, Burger King announced that it was doing a trial run of the Impossible Burger in St. Louis-area stores. Soon, the chain said it will offer it in all 7,200 US branches by the end of the year.
‘The Impossible Whopper test in St. Louis went exceedingly well and as a result there are plans to extend testing into additional markets in the very near future,’ the company said in a press release.
Popping up in different places: White Castle sells an ‘Impossible Slider’ for $1.99, which are twice the size of White Castle’s regular sliders
One more! Carl’s Jr. now has a veggie burger by Beyond Meat
‘Burger King restaurants in St. Louis are showing encouraging results and Impossible Whopper sales are complementing traditional Whopper purchases.’
And McDonald’s may soon have its own version to compete. The rival chain began selling a plant-based burger called the Big Vegan TS, in Germany last month.
According to CNN, McDonald’s CEO says the company is still deciding whether it’s ‘worth it’ to add a similar product to US menus.
Other chains have decided that it’s worth it. Qdoba is introducing Impossible Foods’ plant-based ‘meat’ at all 730 locations, White Castle has a slider version of the Impossible Burger, and Carl’s Jr. has a veggie burger by Beyond Meat.
Meatsplainer: How new plant-based burgers compare to beef
If you want to skip meat, a new era of options is here.
Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are among the companies racing to tap into the massive U.S. market of meat eaters by more closely mimicking the taste of beef than vegetarian patties of the past. Others are working to grow meat in labs.
So are the plant-based patties better for you or for the planet? Here’s what you might want to know before taking a bite:
ARE THEY HEALTHIER?
As with many questions about diet, it depends. For better or worse, patties from Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods can be nutritionally similar to beef.
Beyond Meat’s 4-ounce patty is listed at 270 calories , while Impossible Foods’ is listed at 240 calories . Ground beef’s nutritional profile can range, but a similarly sized patty with 80% lean meat has around 290 calories.
Protein content is about the same, while other nutrients vary. Some may like that the plant-based patties have fiber, but dislike that they’re higher in sodium.
For overall diet, what matters more might be how the patties are served, whether it’s at Burger King , White Castle or elsewhere.
At Umami Burger in New York, for example, a burger with two Impossible patties, cheese and fixings tops 1,000 calories. Few would call it healthy, especially if served with fries and a soda.
‘People are going to be fooling themselves into thinking these are not just better, but healthy,’ said Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity expert at the University of Ottawa.
People also may not realize the saturated fat content can be similar to beef burgers, he said.
WHAT’S IN THEM?
Beyond Meat’s ingredients include pea protein and canola oil. Impossible Food’s patties have soy protein and coconut oil. Impossible says its patties have a flavor and hue similar to beef partly because of soy leghemoglobin , a protein the company makes by genetically modifying yeast.
The meat industry, meanwhile, is appealing to people who prefer simpler ingredient lists.
‘A beef patty is one natural ingredient: beef,’ says the North American Meat Institute, which represents meat makers.
HOW DO THEY TASTE?
Taste is subjective, but reviews generally say Beyond Meat and Impossible burgers taste similar to meat.
Christian Acosta, who works in New York, said he’s had the Impossible burger several times and can’t tell the difference.
‘It tastes exactly like meat,’ he said, while waiting in line to get the burger for lunch.
Unlike with a steak, any discrepancies in taste between beef and the plant-based burgers may be masked by buns, cheese and toppings. Both Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have also updated their recipes, and may keep doing so to get even more like meat.
HOW MUCH DO THEY COST?
The idea is to eventually make Beyond and Impossible burgers cost the same or less than beef. For now, expect to pay more.
At a Whole Foods in New York, two Beyond Meat patties cost $5.99, roughly double the price of two ground beef patties. Impossible burgers aren’t yet available in grocery stores. But at a Bareburger restaurant in New York, it’s an extra $3 for either of the plant-based patties.
ARE THEY BETTER FOR THE EARTH?
Experts say reducing overall red meat consumption would be better for the planet. Beef is considered taxing on the environment because of the resources it takes to grow crops to feed cows. Cows also produce the greenhouse gas methane, mostly through burps .
Christopher Field, who is at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and who knows the founder of Impossible Foods, noted people don’t have to give up meat entirely to make a difference, and that pork and chicken have much smaller environmental footprints than beef.