To satisfy consumers who are becoming more health-conscious but still want to continue to eat meat, Vion has launched Hackplus - a minced-meat product that has 30% less fat due to the addition of vegetable protein.
"Hackplus combines the best qualities of animal and vegetable protein," said Ken Paterson, business development director for Vion Food Wales and West England.
Vegetable protein is extracted from the wheat and blended with the meat to make a lower-fat meat product. The biggest challenge for the product development team was getting the wheat protein to blend and gel with the meat. It took two years of tweaking the recipe and trying out the ability of different liquids to make the meat-wheat hybrid product gel and achieve the desired texture.
"We see the UK, Netherlands and Germany as our core markets," said Paterson.
The firm has produced a sweeter version of Hackplus specifically for the Dutch market using protein extracted from peas rather than wheat. Apparently, it is an even greater challenge to get the pea protein to blend with the meat but it gives the product the sweeter taste that Dutch consumers prefer.
In terms of the UK market, Paterson said: "We are still researching the possibility of a value-added proposition such as burgers, meatballs and grill steaks. There is scope for reducing costs in the foodservice sector. "
Paterson said blind tasting in the UK proved that the product worked well with sauce as the wheat protein absorbed the extra flavour, which makes it an attractive ingredient for burgers, meatballs and grill steaks.