New 'fusion protein' products – half beef and half plant protein – hit the Canadian market
VANCOUVER -- There's something new in the meat section that may make you stop and think. It's called 50/50 by Maple Leaf Foods – half meat, half plant protein – and you can find it in the meat aisle at grocery stores. The company is hoping the new line, which debuted in June, appeals to consumers trying to cut down on meat but who aren't ready to give it up entirely.
Maple Leaf calls it a "fusion protein," something the company began working on when it saw plant-based foods becoming more popular.
"We started developing this product in 2018 as a direct response to consumer interest in plant-based protein," Casey Richards, senior vice president of marketing and innovation at Maple Leaf Foods, told McLaughlin On Your Side. "We know consumers have a number of barriers when it comes to consuming plant-based protein, including taste and texture and sometimes a long ingredient list."
So the product was designed to taste just like meat, while also containing pea protein from yellow peas, some corn starch, canola oil, cane sugar, and beet extract. While other meat companies, particularly in the U.S., are selling some fusion protein products, it’s relatively new to Canada.
"The primary benefit of the product is that it allows consumers who want to reduce their meat intake without compromising the taste and texture to do just that," Richards explained. "So they still get the meat taste and texture that they love, but they get to feel a little bit better about the choices that they're making and eating in a more sustainable way."
Angie Quaale, caterer, chef and owner of Well Seasoned, helped McLaughlin On Your Side cook up some 50/50 burgers in her kitchen to see what they taste like, and how similar they really are to 100 per cent meat products.
Right out of the gate, she had questions about the marketing.
"I think it's trying to appeal to everybody and appealing to nobody at the same time," Quaale said.
While cooking it up, the differences to an all-beef burger were apparent.
"The liquid that came out… is a bit mysterious to me," Quaale said. "It's such a weird texture."
When we tasted the burgers, one of the testers, Kim McFarland, found it very different than a regular burger.
"There's a weird taste to it," McFarland said. "I'm not tasting beef."
Of course, "if you put enough ketchup, mustard stuff on your burger you're not really tasting the burger anyhow," Quaale added.
"I think the difference is subtle but I'd be lying if I said there wasn't some difference," Casey Richards explained. But he said people are buying it, even though it's half the beef for double the price of regular hamburger meat. The 50/50 Beef Burger Grounds product, however, costs $5.30 less per kilogram than the premade burgers, so you could shape your own 50/50 burgers and save a little bit of cash.
And the people we polled on the street said they would give it a try. While the product was initially launched in May, time will tell if the Canadian meat market has room for a fusion protein, and if consumers will give it a chance.