Those familiar with Quorn (meatless meat) say that though it shows some of the characteristics of meat in taste, smell, cooking properties, digestibility – it is nothing like meat. Even after gaining some respectability and credibility Quorn is not featured on the menu of reputed restaurants across Europe and America.
Quorn is meatless meat
Newsbee Quorn, a meat substitute, has become big business, registering a growth in sales of 16 per cent globally last year. Though not a plant based alternative, Quorn, launched in 1985 in the United Kingdom as an alternative food and artificial protein source, is part of a booming industry. Its products are now available in 18 countries including UK, USA, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, South Africa, Thailand and Singapore.
The process of quorn making
Quorn has built up a range of more than 100 products, from mince and sausages to goat’s cheese and claims the patronage of the likes of the Olympian Mo Farah, the footballer Jermain Defoe, and most importantly, environmentalist and Guardian columnist, George Monbiot. “It is almost indistinguishable from chicken or mince to me”, Monbiot was quoted as saying.
Many questions are asked about this food as the campaign for a more plant-based diet gains momentum on the assertion that eating meat, fish and eggs is not only perpetuating cruelty against animals but also inviting environmental damage.
Launched over 30 years back, Quorn is a “mycoprotein” fermented in vats from a fungus found in the soil. The food is derived from a strain of the soil Fusarium venenatum fungus by fermenting it using a process that its manufacturer explains as similar to making of beer or yogurt. The additives include glucose, fixed nitrogen, vitamins and minerals. Then it is heat-treated to remove excess levels of ribonucleic acid (RNA).
Quorn has both meatless and meat variants
There are non-vegetarian and vegan variants of Quorn. However, most Quorn products contain egg as the fungus culture formulated in the making of the food is dried and mixed with egg albumin which also acts as a binder. The vegan equivalents use potato protein instead. With artful use of additives such as flavouring agents and colourings, milk proteins, tapioca starch, palm oil, pea fibre and firming agents Quorn is rather a clever substitute which is gaining ground in the food kingdom.
The emergence of Quorn as a meat substitute was the outcome of search for artificial protein sources in the 1960s which, in turn, was prompted by fears of the growing global population making food scarce. Chemical and petroleum companies, including BP and ICI, funded the project. Finally a team from ICI discovered F venenatum. However, till 1985 the product did not get government approval.
The brand Quorn was launched by Marlow Foods as a joint venture with the bakery group Rank Hovis McDougall and chemical corporation ICI. The last year Quorn reported a big leap in business with global sales registering a 16 per cent increase and the US and the Europe sales recording 35 and 27 per cent jump respectively.
The emerging market
It is expected that Quorn would be a billion dollar business by 2027. The company is now owned by Monde Nissin. India is not among the counties where Quorn is available in the market though its products. The products are yet to pick up in the Indian market as an alternative source of food for the meat eaters.