After baking at 425 degrees for roughly 20 minutes, a Monday night dinner unlike any other emerged from my oven.
The Juicy Marbles brand’s plant-based Whole-Cut Loin looked like roast beef with noticeable striations, a somewhat crispy exterior, and an aroma like ground beef, all of which would’ve been totally unnoteworthy except for one fact: the product was made with ingredients like soy protein concentrate and wheat protein isolate.
For roughly a decade, the alternative “meat” category consisted primarily of alt-burgers, vegan sausages, and chik’n nuggets. However, emerging subcategories like plant-based whole cuts are on the rise. Per IRI, dollar sales for ingredient cut alternatives increased 6.2% year over year in the 52-weeks ending March 19, with unit sales also up 1.2% during the same period.
Juicy Marbles – based out of Slovenia, with a distributing facility in Kansas City, Kansas – is largely focused on manufacturing raw and unseasoned whole cuts.
“Besides the texture and marbling, the most practical difference is versatility,” Juicy Marbles co-founder Vladimir Mićković told The Food Institute recently. “Chefs feel the demand for plant-based meat options increasing as the number of flexitarians and vegans grows, but most of them can’t include burgers, sausages, or nuggets in their menu without tarnishing the restaurant’s concept or limiting their own creativity.
“Whole cuts solve that problem by creating a similar cooking experience to meat where the chef is only bound by their imagination rather than the ingredient.”
It took Juicy Marbles, a DTC company, nearly 3 years to finalize its whole-cut loin product. Now the brand hopes to get the alt-meat product in the hands of multiple restaurant operators and retailers later this year.
In this reporter’s experience, the cooked whole-cut loin tasted decent when seasoned with Meat-lover’s seasoning. The baked alt-meat item was crispy, with a sear, and tasted a bit like traditional steak (even if it had a unique, mildly bland aftertaste). The final product looked a lot like roast beef.
The bottom line: if I didn’t know Juicy Marbles’ whole-cut loin was plant-based I certainly would’ve thought it was roast beef at first glance – which is no small accomplishment.
“From the beginning,” Mićković told FI, “we decided that we wouldn’t create a brand that sounds like anybody else.”