Ikea Is Finally Putting Plant-Based Meatballs on the Menu
Thanks to the proliferation of brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, simply offering vegetarian options isn't always enough anymore: Many consumers are getting used to meat alternatives that attempt to taste as close to the real thing as possible. With that in mind, last May, Ikea revealed plans to launch a more meat-like plant-based version of their popular meatballs in 2020. These new balls wouldn't necessarily replace the brand's existing "veggie balls," but would instead cater to the flexitarian crowd. The idea proved so popular that, just a couple weeks later, it was revealed Ikea was moving forward with testing faster than planned.
Well, for fake meat lovers who can get enough of the Ikea cafeteria, the wait isn't quite over yet—but they can at least mark their calendar: The Swedish chain has set a firm arrival date for the new so-called "plant balls" in the U.S.… September 28.
"In the development phase of the plant ball, our key objective has been to recreate the meat-like taste and texture, only using plant-based ingredients," Alexander Magnusson, chef and project leader at Ikea food, explained of the forthcoming menu item which is made with yellow pea protein, oats, potatoes, onion, and apple. "We have tried and tested different ingredients and methods and we are very pleased with the final results."
When the plant balls land on your tray, Ikea U.S. says they will be served in the same way as the original meatballs—with mashed potatoes, lingonberries, vegetables, and cream sauce—at the same price: $5.99 for an adult plate, $2.99 for a kid's plate, and $1.25 for a side. Ikea explains that the plant balls themselves are suitable for "flexitarians, vegetarians and vegans;" however, the entire plate is not vegan.
Additionally, frozen plant balls will be sold in the Swedish Food Market at $5.99 for a 500g bag, allowing you to make the plant-based Swedish meatball dish of your dreams at home.
Meanwhile, if the perfect plant-based ball was only about tasting like meat, well, then we'd just eat meat. Instead, these meat-free balls are touted for their environmental benefits, too, something Sharla Halvorson, health & sustainability manager for the Ikea food business globally, hammered home in the announcement. "At Ikea, we sell more than one billion meatballs every year," she stated. "In order to reduce the climate footprint of the Ikea food business, we need to reduce the amount of traditional meatballs that we sell. With the new plant ball, we can now offer meat lovers a more sustainable alternative—without compromising on the IKEA meatball experience that is loved by so many."
Along those lines, Ikea says the new plant balls' climate footprint is just four percent of their standard meatballs' footprint. "Imagine if we could get some of our many meatball lovers to choose the plant ball instead," Halvorson continued. "If we were to convert about 20 percent of our meatball sales to plant balls that would mean around [eight] percent reduction of our climate footprint for the food business at Ikea." Overall, Ikea says they hope to become climate positive as a company by 2030.