Taste testing the latest plant-based meat alternatives
Hello everybody and welcome back to CNET live coverage from CES 2020.
I'm Brian Cooley, CNET's editor-at-large.
We're about to talk about plant-based foods, and I wanna start with the one that is the 10,000 pound gorilla here at CES, the announcement of impossible pork.
Now, that happened here at CES already, and it was a major announcement and they are the First and only, I think official food partner here at CES, it starts to build this story that food is tech that might have sounded kind of unappetizing and cold in the past.
Food is tech is a fascinating, tasty story.
How many of you here in the audience, first of all have seen or looked at the stories of videos about the impossible pork?
Have you seen this thing?
Okay, about half you have any of you had it?
They're sampling it here.
Has anyone tried it yet?
No, not yet.
I believe they're out in front of the LVC season on this building, but the main building, they're doing like 25,000 samples.
So if you haven't seen that you can check out our coverage on seeing that.
I took a taste test of that before they unveiled it.
And it's a big story.
Everyone's focused on the idea of ground beef patties, burgers and ground pork now and that's the whole impossible beyond the story we've been talking about in 2019.
There is so much more going on, on top of those great ideas in plant based foods.
And today we're going to take a look at some of them.
So joining me on my left side are three plant based Rockstar companies, that you may not have heard of other, I think some up and coming ones.
We're gonna go through them and talk about what they've got.
We're gonna taste it, with some very particular CNET staff over here.
[LAUGH] Say hi to Lauren bra who many of, in the plant based of Ave lately, Alexandra and then we got NASA down on the far end there.
So this is my CNET taste team.
They have good taste and they'll let us know what it's like.
I want to start now with our first of our of our foods that you probably don't know about.
Monica Talbert joins us now from Van Cleef seafood but the brand is wild skinny, clean.
So this is our brand new product line wild skinny clean.
And we have our plant based simply like shrimp arc, crunchy coconut virgin.
And this is almost inconceivable How do you make strip out of plants What's in it?
The main ingredient is actually an ancient superfood called konjac group.
And it is-
Konjac root, yes.
Which is like, if we find it in the wild, what does it look like?
It looks like-
Don't say a root, cuz I know, [LAUGH]
It does look like a root.
I'm guessing, okay, here we are, and we're taking a look at the preparation of it, till we get [UNKNOWN]
It's a little round, brown root.
Almost kind of looks like a A poop emoji.
And that, makes it very relatable.
All right, so here we are with some preparation that we did in the kitchens earlier.
Okay, contact crew, another main ingredient, what else is in here holding it together?
We have vegetable starch and we have paprika, and vegan seasonings, and that's it for the actual shrimp.
And then for the coating, we have gluten-free.
Flour, which is very important.
And also unrefined coconut flakes.
That's what I see on it.
Well, let's taste it guys.
Let's check out some shrimp.
So, this is the, this is the Wild Skinny Clean brand.
Van Cleve is the company.
Where are you guys based?
What got the company into this?
Well, we have been in the seafood industry for, we have been making seafood for customers for about 20 years.
And, we noticed that plant based is more than just a trend.
It's a movement.
It's almost a paradigm shift going on and we wanted to be a part of that as a seafood company, and I really get
Market driven or is it some kind of conviction driven?
So I have to admit first it was market driven, but now I really see an passionate about plant based seafood being an agent of change.
For the industry and for the future of the oceans and sustainability.
I almost think you can't talk about the sustainability of the oceans without talking about plant-based seafood.
In such a huge volume.
Yes, and it's there to decrease the pressure that we're putting on these overfished species.
That's so interesting coming from a company that is a seafood company also and still.
But not all seafood is sustainable.
The seafood that we have is 100% sustainable wild and American car.
But the plant based seafood there's there's a role that plant based seafood will play in the future of the sustainability of the oceans.
Okay, that's the story.
Now, the taste Lauren So I guess couple of mics we're gonna hand around what did you think?
I thought it was very crispy.
You can really taste the coconut flakes and I really just like the consistency of it.
It kind of really does mimic what shrimp would kind of taste and feel like so
I really enjoyed it.
Alexandra, what'd you think of that?
It was really good.
I love shrimp, like real shrimp.
You do okay, cuz some folks don't like seafood like shrimp.
The bar is very high, and it was really good.
The texture is exactly what when you bite into a shrimp, deep fried shrimp, I kinda felt like that scene in The Good Place, when Eleanor is eating all those shrimps.
These are really good.
I'm excited that the other one.
Cuz everyone knows shrimp has that essential sorta springiness to it whnen it's cooked.
A little bit of bounce.
What I'm also intrigued by is how it's, I don't know if the word is how it kinda segments like shrimp meat in there, the actual-
It gives you that experience, that same shrimp experience when you bite into it.
The fiber looks like shrimp.
That's like [INAUDIBLE].
That's like the magic [UNKNOWN].
Okay, we're gonna come back with some more taste reactions to the rest of our panel as we move on to our next delight here.
Deborah Torres is here from Atlas Monroe.
How you doing?
I'm great, how are you doing?
Good, you brought us something really interesting.
Because we have heard about plant-based chicken products, for example, in the past.
They're typically nuggets.
They're typically kind of generic little discs of things, right?
This is interesting.
So what am I looking at here?
What do you guys call this?
We call this our extra crispy fried chicken.It's plant based.
It's it's made out of wheat, like a wheat protein.
Yeah,>> I'm a lot of eclectic flavors in there.
Can't wait for you guys to taste.
It smells good, anything tricky about preparing this?
Let's say someone got this and and they know how to make fried chicken.
Does this go right in or do you needed to cook it a little differently.
I'm actually gonna.
Comes frozen and then you would just-
Put it in your deep fryer or your air fryer at 350.
It's ready in about five minutes.
Okay, so you've just gotta heat it, and this sauce is to go with it, right?
Yes, that's our bomb honey mustard sauce.
Okay, what was the motivation that underlies Atlas Monroe?
Why are you guys in this world?
Well actually my father was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes a few years ago.
So my family and I we went on a raw vegan diet for about 90 days and we walked with Him every day.
And we got really hungry, eating just salads and fruit salads and smoothies.
And I just went to work in the kitchen experimenting with plant flavors and textures and started making raw lasagne, raw tacos, burgers, all kinds of stuff.
After the 90 days, he was actually completely healed and he still is to this day.
But we did return to eating cooked foods, and I kept experimenting and Now we have our famous fried chicken.
Okay, Nasser, let's get you a mic.
What do you think of Atlas Monroe Fried Chicken?
I mean, with the same regards to the shrimp, what surprises me with plant-based foods is the texture and how it matches the consistency to actual chicken and shrimp.
And with this fried chicken, pleasantly surprised.
You close your eyes, you're eating Like a regular piece of fried chicken and, overall, from the taste, the texture, to the moistureness, that's the second thing that surprised me, especially with a piece of fried chicken in the oils.
It ten to ten matches it.
What do you think about this?
I think the first thing that struck me was that it looks just like a piece of regular fried chicken which is really outside, right?
It really has that same texture and consistency when you kind of break it apart, but The seasoning and the spices are so good that you really like, I took a bite and I thought, okay, maybe let me stop there, but I took a few more.
That's what they do for me cuz I'm not really into plant-based food that much.
Well, thank you.
Now, what's interesting to me is The color inside is like it's all dark meat, right?
A juicy, that juicy dark meat, yeah.
Did you do that intentionally would you would you like to make it also look like white meat inside?
Because I kind of expected it wasn't the white meat the side but I didn't know what to expect.
No, I think that a lot of plant based chicken is that white breasts kind of look We wanted, we wanted something that's going to be to see more of the darkening side.
The seasoning is killer to
That's devorah tourists from Atlas Monroe.
Well, and when I come back with all you guys, I want to I want to know what you got scheduled for 2020.
So that'll be our lightning round when we're done.
But now we gotta have dessert.
Is that the fun part?
So, Elon Steinhard is here Eclipse Foods.
And tell us what you guys have, what's your product?
Sure, so, here we go.
And here it comes.
Speak of the devil, Viva's got the most enviable job here.
So Eclipse makes- [CROSSTALK]
She's to serve great ice cream.
Plant-based dairy products-
That are indistinguishable from their animal counterparts.
We do that cuz we've created a milk from plants that functions like dairy milk.
So in the same way that you'd make ice cream or cheese or sour cream, you can create dairy products using our milk.
And the result is product with a taste, texture, functionality of conventional dairy.
Now, you're a tech guy, aren't you?
Cuz you just said functionality.
Yeah, so I-
Only tech guys say that.
Food folks don't say functionality.
Yeah, I mean, I've been in alternative proteins for a few years now and then before that I was actually in software.
You're a former GFI GoodFoot Institute guy, you were saying.
That's right, yeah.
Which is a major think tank for where the plant-base revolution's going.
How much did that inform as you moved into this?
a tremendous amount.
So I was there helping run an incubator for the plant based space, basically looking at what are the opportunities within the plant based market to really change our food system and the platform for a dairy product that is indistinguishable from conventional dairy and therefore actually appeals the mainstream consumers.
Was just a big hole in the market.
And that's what we're doing at Eclipse.
And you said it's corn, oat potato, cassava, is that right?
So when we went to formulate our milk, we knew that if we want milk that actually function like conventional dairy milk, we would have to do something that was molecular Lee identical.
And so that can happen with just an oat milk or soy milk or an almond milk We actually had to take a blend of plants that would come together interact with each other with the oils, the sugars with the nutrients to create a milk that is actually functional.
You were so not getting out of this building in one piece.
This is so good.
You're gonna get mobbed for this.
Let's go back to Alexandra.
Let's get back to you.
Now what do you think about this We have two flavors here, we got the vanilla and chocolate.
Okay, what do you think?
Well, they're both really good.
Which do you like best?
Okay, I like the chocolate the best, it's kind of a dark chocolate.
But we also agreed it's kind of like gelato, like it's very thick.
It's very luxurious, right?
It's really fancy, but it's definatelly really good.
[LAUGH] And then I also think it like you don't notice that it's not dairy it's it's like still like melts in your mouth it still tastes like ice cream and still like satisfies like ice cream.
Lauren let's get your take on it now we went to you at the beginning now you're going to come back around the horn What do you think?
Okay, so why am if you didn't tell me that this was what it is I would think it was regular ice cream like no lie And I might have broken a rule, but I added the fried chicken in there.
And it was fire.
Soul food hacker.
I'm from Miami, so fried chicken is, so.
But yeah, so it's good.
You're looking for a job in product innovation, maybe?
Do you need an evangelist by any chance?
I was thinking product development,
Yeah, yeah, yeah, so, yeah.
And, by the way, we're not here blowing smoke.
I mean, I brought these guys on from the team to say, just tell us what you think, we're not here promoting anything.
So, the stuff really is good.
We're being honest about it.
Any questions we do have about it.
So now, what was the motivation?
I think you mentioned me that it's a sustainability story here, especially with your background coming out of gfsi.
But also how did your technology work in the past inform your interest in innovation?
So I come from like software tech My co founder was actually the head of product development at Hampton Creek just.
So he created just Mayo, the cookie egg [UNKNOWN]
He oversaw the team that did the egg.
And so when we came together, we said, we have to use technology to actually give consumers exactly what they want.
Which is a product that has a taste texture functionality of the product that they're looking to replace.
So for us it was how do we use technology to create products that meet consumers where they are and that's really how we're going to change the food system, is by offering products that require no sacrifice.
So you mentioned it tastes just like dairy satisfies like dairy, that's exact point is zero sacrifice.
Okay, so the thing I think is interesting is you come from a tech background you're talking the tech walk, and then we've got Deborah here who you developed it in your kitchen.
Is that right?
We're all imagining some big sterile white lab for all of this Kitchen created, I find that so interesting that it is accessible as an industry to actually do this at a relatively modest scale as you're developing it, to use your own instincts and skills with food ingredients that are not some high-tech scientific thing, right?
Mm-hm, exactly, yeah.
That's really, I think, surprising to a lot of people.
We think everything comes out of a semiconductor factory, right, with conveyors and all that.
When Van Cleve started working up your brand of Wild Skinny Clean, did you farm any of it out?
Did you guys do it all in-house?
Did you have partners?
We didn't have partners.
I have an amazing product development manager who happens to be my mom.
[LAUGH] Probably there's another home Story, okay.
Yeah, and she is just an absolute genius in the kitchen.
And so it was created a kitchen and not a lab.
I run across this as I cover these plant based stories, it's like there's more often than not, developed in the kitchen It's such an interesting angle.
You don't find smartphones developed in someone's kitchen.
There's no TV developed in someone's garage.
I mean, there are garage doors, but this is a whole different thing.
All right, lightning round final round here as we come down and start with you again a lot and come my way.
I'm looking forward to what you guys are doing in 2020 goals, aspirations or any announcements.
I'm gonna start with you over there at Eclipse.
So we're taking a food service strategy very similar to how impossible foods went to market with the tastemakers in food.
So we have launched already with Oddfellows in New York Humphries local In San Francisco, we're actually launching with michals and milk bomb this Saturday.
And that is what 2020 is going to look like, tremendous amount of new accounts coming on, big names that you know, and really the vision for our ice cream, right.
Because this is a dairy platform where we can create any dairy product but we're starting with ice cream and the vision for that Is that if every Burger King has an Impossible Whopper and every Carl's Jr has a Beyond Star, they should certainly have a dairy-free option.
And if they're going to have a dairy-free option, they should have one that actually tastes like dairy, functions like dairy.
Has no common allergens and the price is right on it.
So Deborah, what's coming up in the year ahead for you guys?
Well, we really hope to break some more barriers.
I don't know if you know this, but we were the first and only vegan company to be invited to the National Fried Chicken Festival.
Is that so?
And it was at this festival that we were named best fried chicken out of all the real chicken By Time Magazine's extra crispy.
So we hope to really break more barriers this year, be around Shark Tank.
I don't know if you knew that.
But we got slammed once that show aired and we have a lot of distribution coming up.
Right now we have our chicken in some
And certainly broadening that as well.
We'll be going into distribution and grocery stores have a nice year for us.
I noticed that some distribution can be fairly easy.
The big name brands supermarket chains are tough, right?
It's all or it's all or nothing with those guys.
You gotta have the demand and I think that we do.
You've gotta make a lot of it before they're interested, right?
They don't wanna onezie-twozie their way around.
Intersting, okay, now let's look at 2020 with Monica and see what's coming up now with Wild, Skinny, Clean.
I think you've got some things to tell us.
Well, you can expect a lot more retail, and we're also gonna be on a lot more restaurant menus.
And then also we're going to be blowing people's minds with our plant based hickory brown sugar bacon that we're going to be wrapping around or plant based shrimp.
I shouldn't have finished my shrimp.
like I was gonna do a wrap.
But anyway, strip back there.
Bring one up.
Okay, tell me what's in this bacon cuz this is new.
I didn't know about this, okay?
Yes, so not the contract group, but that's more soy based.
And that's what we're wrapping around our plant based shrimp.
We also have plant based scallops.
And there it is cooking if you're watching the stream or watching our screens.
Notice it is-
Fries just like bacon.
What the Brits call a streaky bacon.
Would you a lot of the other plant based vegans are not there are solar a solid texture.
And we're also working on a plant based salmon.
Hopefully we can debue that in 2020.
What will you use to get the pink color and salmon?
We are still working on and I can't talk about it.
That's why I asked.
Let's talk about some bacon.
I want to get a quick reaction right want to start with Nasa.
What do you think?
Well, I've never had bacon before.
So it's pretty good for bacon I've never had it's pretty good and I think what everyone else mentioned is that the the flavor in terms of the hicker Enos and the sugar really just like takes over the piece of bacon.
I don't know if I'm gonna start eating bacon soon, but if-
I did, this might lead the start to that.
What do you think?
Is really good, I eat bacon and I like really crispy bacon and it tastes just like that and it is ->> Okay, I'm holding you for the last.
I gotta go too long
Lauren, what did you think?
Yeah, so you know when your parents cook bacon in the morning, and it sizzles and it has that nice taste from being in the skillet?
That's what this tastes like a little bit, like it just came out the skillet.
But it has this really nice honey kinda glaze to it-
That it kinda tastes like, even though it's not that.
So yeah, it tastes good.
Well normally, this is not a compliment to say to a food, but it's real greasy.
Yeah, that's really, yeah, yeah.
Which is hard to do with a plant-based thing.
What's making these streaks of fat?
What is that, versus the red part?
Is it all the same ingredient?
It's different ingredients.
You're being pretty cagey, aren't you?
I got that, okay.
I can't talk too much about it, but-
Now I'm going to [UNKNOWN] last for a very good reason.
You did a very interesting piece About the positioning of impossible pork for a person who's Muslim.
Yes, I will say that when I wrote that piece I was talking to a lot of my Muslim friends about how like there is a, plant based pork option and they were all like once somebody figures out bacon then it's game over.
This was really good and this was like, so I've never had pork bacon but I've had turkey bacon and so the consistency is pretty similar.
But I love the sweetness of this because I have a massive sweet tooth so this seems like it would be a huge game changer but I will say all my Muslim friends are like [INAUDIBLE], pork, whatever, bacon, that's what we want.
So like, that's pretty cool, this is really good.
Now, you went through and the piece that she wrote was really interesting, a reaction of the possible pork.
It was a very big mental step for you, not just a dietary taste.
Same thing here?
So with the Impossible Pork it was I've never eaten pork before for religious reasons.
So I had to be like okay, I'm eating something labeled as pork and this is really weird.
Maybe because I have crossed that milestone this was a little bit easier.
It's a slippery slope.
You're an old pork veteran now.
Check you out.
I wanna thank our panelists, and make sure you remember these names, obviously, we've got Monica Talbert here with Wild.
Clean, the Van Cleve seafood brand, Deborah Torres from Atlas Monroe, Is the name of that company with their fried chicken award winning apparently fried chicken, that's good to know.
And Along Steinhart down the far in there Eclipse Foods.
What's the brand name of the of the ice cream, Eclipse?
It's all branded as Eclipse.
And I wanna thank my panel, I wanna thank Nasser Alexandra, Aubra and Lawrence, let's give everybody a big hands.
This is really fun.
And by the way, make sure if you haven't, you're getting over to the LBCC go see impossible because that obviously is the big food story here at CES.
They're an official part of the show and they're sampling a lot of impossible.
Pork and they've done amazing work with that product.
I think you'll find that really interesting as well of course, so go there as well and make food tech part of your CES experience from here going forward.
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