Does This Briny Bacon Alternative Satisfy Vegans' Cravings?

Visit any grocery store and it's easy to see that meat substitutes have flooded the market. Consumers have become increasingly conscious about their meat consumption as it relates to climate change, with more and more people turning to vegan or plant-based diets. Today, the typical U.S. supermarket is teeming with vegan-friendly faux meats, and 5% of the country's population identifies as some form of vegetarian. But even omnivores are becoming fans of a plant-based diet — a 2021 survey from the International Food Information Council showed that two-thirds of Americans ate plant-based meat at some point that year, with 20% of Americans saying that they ate meat substitutes on a weekly basis.  

While people are looking to eat better overall, it hasn't squelched their meat cravings entirely. Common complaints about meat substitutes revolve around texture and flavor. Plus, it seems like there are certain meat products that have been hard for food scientists to formulate plant-based versions of. Bacon has always been one of those divisive faux meats, but a recent reimagining of Americans' favorite breakfast meat by Umaro Foods might be changing that. To take its bacon to the next level, the company is using a surprising ingredient found not on land, but in the ocean.

Seaweed that sizzles

Umaro Foods makes its bacon primarily out of red seaweed protein, a vital ingredient the brand's website says gives the product a great taste, texture, and umami flavor. It turns out that red seaweed is known to taste like bacon, too, so on top of seaweed being a climate-conscious food, it was also the logical choice in making a faux bacon that even meat eaters would enjoy. Umaro's bacon is more complex than just frying up some seaweed, though. Its recipe also incorporates chickpeas, coconut oil, sunflower oil, sea salt, plus other natural flavors and colorants to get this plant-based bacon as close to the real thing as possible. 

You won't find a seaweed, lettuce, and tomato sandwich on most restaurant menus, but Umaro thinks you should. And if you are one of the seaweed curious out there, a little patience is needed. Umaro's seaweed bacon just launched, but only at a few highly-rated restaurants in San Francisco, New York City, and Nashville. And while this product may not be in your city just yet, keep your eyes peeled. As VegNews reports, Umaro received a notable $1 million in funding from the show "Shark Tank" and has long-term goals to expand its offerings beyond these few initial cities.