Plant-Based Meat and Cheese Alternatives

Plant-Based Meat and Cheese Alternatives

The growing popularity of meat-free and dairy-free living is driving an exciting new range of plant-based options across Southern Europe.

As in many other destinations around the world, Europe’s plant-based food and beverage market is booming. A recent report from shows growth across the region – with the sales value of meat alternatives increasing in France especially, by 100% from 2018 to 2020. Reasons for this shift are manifold, ranging from social media’s recent spotlight on animal cruelty issues to climate concerns and rising incidences of lactose intolerance.

A turn towards plant-based living

In recent years, many celebrities from the worlds of sport and entertainment have publicly advocated for plant-based living. Similarly, documentaries like The Game Changers and Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret have helped to raise awareness of the issues that are an inherent part of large-scale livestock farming. In addition to claims of animal cruelty, climate impacts such as deforestation, biodiversity loss, greenhouse gas emissions and water shortages are all major contributors to the argument against the consumption of meat and dairy products.

As a result, vegetarianism and veganism have become not only socially acceptable but distinctly on-trend. In Southern Europe, a recent Statista report showed that almost a tenth of the population in Italy, France and Spain now choose to avoid meat. Some are also inspired by the health benefits of a plant-based diet – including a reduced risk of cancer, obesity and diabetes, and lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Similarly, the growing popularity of dairy alternatives is due in part to high incidences of lactose intolerance, a condition that research website ProCon says affects 72% of Italians.

A slew of meat and dairy alternatives

The increased popularity of vegan products is encouraging companies throughout the food industry (from producers to restaurants) to either expand their plant-based items or offer them for the first time. This means more choice, and a greater chance of being able to find a meat or dairy alternative that you enjoy. Meat alternatives tend to fall into two categories: those that, like tofu, tempeh or jackfruit, have their own unique taste, and those that mimic the appearance, texture and flavour of real meat. The latter are usually based on soya bean or pea protein and may even be coloured with beetroot juice for bloody authenticity.

Meanwhile, dairy alternatives are derived from an almost endless array of sources, from almond and soy “milks” to those made from oats, rice, cashews, coconut or hemp. Passionate about the great European cheeses? Forget the generic vegan "cheeze" of old that was infamous for its rubbery texture and bland flavour. As the effort and expense put into plant-based products increases with demand, so does the appearance of worthy replacements for brie, camembert and gorgonzola. These days, making the best choice for the animals, the planet and your own health doesn’t have to mean sacrificing the gastronomic pleasures of dining out in Southern Europe.

(*) Average meal price calculated on the basis of starter and main course or main course and dessert, excluding drinks, menu and promotional offers. The average price is an estimate only, calculated according to the prices provided by the restaurant. Depending on the country, the average price may or may not include all taxes.