Plant-based has been the big buzz-term in food and beverage for well over a year now. With meat and poultry analogs leading the way, we split the topic into two features.

As a former vegetarian and someone involved professionally in food for 47 years (Question: do I get a gold watch or something in 2023?) I always have paid special attention to the meat analog side of trends. And I have tried nearly every one that has come off the production lines.

Recently, I sampled one that was absolutely terrible, and it came from one of the leading meat analog companies. It brought back memories from when, in the late 1980s or early 1990s, one of the biggest food makers launched a fake sausage patty to compete with Morningstar Farms in what was then a narrow but rapidly exploding field. Their product was so irredeemably awful that even my dachshund wouldn’t touch it. (Anyone with a dachshund will recognize how unprecedented it is for a member of that breed to reject anything holding still long enough to be hoovered.) At the time — and this was 30 years ago — I thought, so much progress has been made in analogs that for a company that big to let something that horrible onto the market is just plain inexcusable. (It was off the market within months.) So imagine my thoughts when a leading analog company in the 2020s put out such a sub-par product.

I know we’re not supposed to play favorites, but let’s face it, Morningstar Farms has been knocking meat analogs — especially sausages and hot dogs — out of the park for 40+ years. They are the gold standard. Gardein, under the guidance of the very godfather of meat, poultry, and seafood fake-outs, Yves Potvin (yes, I am a total fan boy), was able to meet and share that gold standard status. Neither company has succeeded with every single endeavor, but if this were baseball, they’d each have a batting average of about .900.

So, as the field only continues to grow upward and outward, I feel compelled to advise any company wishing to compete with these two to strap on your “WWMSFD” and “WWYPD” bracelets and test every one of your products against theirs. This is America: Competition is great, healthy, and expected. But you’d better be able to meet or beat your competition if you expect to last.