Barcelona-based alternative meat company Heura has released a "world's first": additive-free York-style plant-based ham slices. The product aims to satisfy rising consumer demands for healthier and more sustainable meat alternatives, particularly in Spain, where consumption of processed meat far exceeds the World Health Organization's guidelines.
Breaking Down Barriers
Heura's new product not only has a protein density of 64% but also has low total and saturated fat. This remarkable nutrient profile addresses two major consumer reservations about plant-based meats: that they are overly processed and nutritionally inferior to their animal-based counterparts. Marc Coloma, CEO and co-founder of Heura, emphasized the need for industry and institutions to pivot towards a healthier food system, particularly amidst ongoing health crises.
Technology Meets Tradition
The launch showcases technology from Heura's Good Rebel Tech division, using a novel thermomechanical process that requires just protein, oil, and water to structure the meat, eliminating the need for additives. This innovative method was funded through a €2.6 million crowdfunding campaign conducted in May. Coloma was emphatic about the product's uniqueness, claiming that these slices are not merely alternatives but successors to animal-based ham.
Beyond Ham: Future Prospects
Notably, Heura's product also addresses criticisms often leveled at plant-based options, such as being ultraprocessed "frankenfoods". The product comprises a modest 10 ingredients, including soy protein isolate, extra virgin olive oil, and natural flavors, sidestepping any chemical additives. This aligns with comments from Heura’s lead R&D scientist, Isa Fernández, who describes the product as rooted in "high science", employing mathematical models to achieve textures and flavors that mimic animal meat without the attached health risks or environmental toll.
Despite these advances, a significant price gap remains. At €2.99 for a 78g packet, Heura's plant-based ham is substantially more expensive on a per-gram basis than conventional ham. This factor could inhibit consumer adoption, especially during economic downturns and rising food costs.
What's Next for Heura?
The company has big plans for expanding its product line, with Coloma revealing that the thermomechanical technique could be applied to other types of deli meats, breaded products, vegan cheeses, and even pasta. As the plant-based protein space in Europe, a €78 billion market, continues to evolve, Heura aims to leverage its cutting-edge technology to introduce more nutrient-rich and environmentally friendly options.
With this new product, Heura is challenging not just the meat industry but also the entire food system, signaling a profound shift in what consumers can expect from plant-based alternatives.