Vegan “Waygu”—a plant-based version of luxury Japanese beef cut wagyu—is set to debut at select locations in the United States. Top Tier Foods (TTF), a Canadian manufacturer that specializes in plant-based options for the sushi industry, recently partnered with North America’s largest sushi giant Advanced Fresh Concepts (AFC) to roll out its innovative vegan wagyu at trial locations operated by AFC, including inside grocery chain Rouses Supermarkets in Louisiana. AFC has more than 4,000 sushi locations in North America and is owned by Zensho Holdings, one of Japan’s largest food service companies.

“This trial will hopefully be the beginning of a long and successful partnership between AFC, Zensho Holdings and Top Tier Foods,” TTF President Blair Bullus said. “With an ever-increasing demand for plant-based alternatives we believe Top Tier Foods can help fill that demand with unique products that offer both quality and sustainability for Zensho’s global clientele.”

Vegan wagyu beef

TTF worked with Japanese manufacturers to create soy-based Waygu Plant-Based Teriyaki Strips using traditional Japanese cooking methods and spices such as soy sauce, rice wine, garlic paste, and ginger. The result is a vegan meat that can be used in a variety of dishes in place of sliced beef. “With Waygu we wanted to create the world’s best tasting beef alternative and to do so we decided to replicate Japanese wagyu, the world’s best beef. Our team in Japan worked tirelessly to create the textures and flavours that mimic this exceptional beef by using traditional ingredients and cooking methods,” Bullus said. “With centuries of culinary experience working with soybeans in dishes such as tofu, soy sauce, bean curds, and miso, we know that applying these methods could result in a wonderful meat alternative produced in Japan. We are so excited to share our results.”

In July 2019, TTF showcased its innovative Waygu beef—which was then distributed to select restaurants in Japan—at a tasting attended by Toronto-based Chef Hidekazu Tojo, a Japanese Cultural Ambassador who invented the California roll in the 1970s and has cooked for Hollywood celebrities and British royalty. “I thought I was eating real wagyu beef, I didn’t believe it was made from plants,” Chef Tojo, who was formerly skeptical of meatless meats, said. “My first impression was this was real wagyu beef. It was incredibly tender, similar to wagyu beef, and seasoned very well. I am very impressed. It’s very close, it’s very difficult to tell the difference.”

TTF is also known for its other innovative vegan products, including Tosago (a seaweed-based alternative to masago fish roe); Cavi-art (an alternative to caviar); and Sushi Quinoa (a sticky quinoa that can be used in place of rice in sushi rolls).

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