Are fava beans the future? Tesco launches meat-free dishes featuring protein from homegrown produce instead of imported soya

  • Fava beans, or broad beans, could become a new, cheaper source of protein
  • Many meat-free dishes use imported protein substitutes such as pea or soya
  • Most of the UK’s current yield of fava beans is exported to the Middle East 

Fava beans are perhaps best known as a favourite of movie cannibal Hannibal Lecter, who enjoyed them with a nice Chianti – and one of his victims.

Now Tesco hopes the nation will learn to love them as a source of healthy protein in their meat-free ranges.

Currently, many plant-based alternatives to burgers, sausages and other meat products use imported pea or soya protein. 

However, British fava beans could offer a home-grown and cheaper replacement. 

Fava beans, or broad beans, are native to the UK and could make for a far cheaper and greener alternative to current pulses used in meat-free meals

Tesco has partnered with food processors AB Mauri and Samworth Brothers to include the beans in its products

They have been grown in this country for thousands of years – where they are better known as broad beans.

Tesco has partnered with food processors AB Mauri and Samworth Brothers to include the beans in its products. 

Phil Bowen, of Samworth Brothers, said: ‘From initial kitchen concept work we are seeing excellent results across the Tesco range.’

The UK harvests some 740,000 tonnes of fava beans each year on 170,000 hectares of land, and it is believed introducing the bean into a traditional five-year crop rotation on farms could deliver a fivefold increase.

Currently, a high proportion of the crop is exported to the Middle East or used as animal feed, however it is hoped the British will now be willing to add them to their diet.

They are considered a healthy and value for money veg because the crop does not require additional chemical-based fertilisers. That helps farmers to save money while it also improves soil fertility and organic content.

Andrew Dinsdale, UK head of sales at AB Mauri, told The Grocer: ‘There is a huge opportunity to add fava beans to a number of products and ingredients – as a plant-based alternative to animal protein, but also in other areas such as bakery or food to go options.

‘Given fava beans enjoy ideal growing conditions here in the UK, the potential for it to form a key part of our diets in the future is really exciting…’ According to Phil Bowen, head of new product development at Samworth Brothers, fava beans offer a ‘locally sourced alternative to the pea and soya that is currently used’ in plant-based copycats of meat products.

Emily Rout, sustainable food and innovation manager at Tesco, said: ‘It really could be a miracle crop in terms of improving sustainability across our food system.’

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