"We wanted oats to be the #1 ingredient" in plant-based meat, said Maija Itkonen, co-founder and chief innovations officer at Finnish startup Gold & Green, which has developed a proprietary mechanical manufacturing process enabling it to create fibrous plant-based meat products with oats as the primary ingredient – an industry first.
"Our Pulled Oats only have five ingredients [oats, pea protein, faba bean protein, rapeseed oil, salt] and no methyl cellulose, additives, binders or fillers.
“Oats can be slimy to handle because of the beta-glucan, and they don’t behave the same way as legume proteins, but we’ve come up with a way to use them,” added Itkonen, an industrial designer who launched Pulled Oats in Helsinki, Finland, in 2015, where they were an instant hit.
Moves into the retail market in The Netherlands came next, followed by foodservice launches in multiple European countries. A move into the US market via a partnership with Sysco (via its Cutting Edge Solutions program) came this year, with a US retail launch planned further down the line, said Itkonen, who added sales topped €5m last year.
“We’re also developing our industrial portfolio [to sell ingredients to CPG companies].”
More protein and fiber, less saturated fat
While the Gold & Green products stand out in the plant-based meat space for their ultra-short and clean-label ingredients list, the nutritional profile (more protein, more fiber, a lot less saturated fat) is also attracting consumers, many of whom say they are choosing plant-based products because they are better for you as well as better for the planet, said Itkonen.
“The combination of oats and legumes also makes Pulled Oats a source of complete protein.”
‘If you’re eating these products every day, and feeding them to your kids, you want something you can feel good about…’
The Pulled Oats (there are also oatballs, patties and Deli Oats) have a meaty, ‘pulled’ texture with a good bite and neutral taste, but are not designed to precisely replicate the taste and texture of conventional meat, Itkonen told FoodNavigator-USA.
“We’re not trying to mimic every aspect of meat, the products should stand on their own. There’s a clear demand for healthier plant-based products with a good ingredients list and nutritional profile, it’s the next wave, with a cleaner label.
“If it’s something you’re having as a party food, it doesn’t matter, but if you’re eating these products every day, and feeding them to your kids, you want something you can feel good about.”
Gold & Green - which is now majority-owned by Finnish food maker Paulig Group - currently supplies the US foodservice market via Sysco with products manufactured from its own plant outside Helsinki and shipped frozen, but the longer-term plan is to manufacture locally with co-packers, she said.
Pulled Oats ingredients: Water, oat (oat bran, whole grain oat flour, oat protein), pea protein, faba bean protein, rapeseed oil, iodized salt.
Nutrition: 100g of Pulled Oats contains 30g protein, 5.9g fiber, 0.7g saturated fat and 203 calories.
By way of comparison, an equivalent amount (100g) of Beyond Beef contains 17.7g protein, 1.8g fiber, 4.4g saturated fat, and 230 calories.