The plant-based food market was valued at US$29.4 billion in 2020. Bloomberg issued a report projecting that this figure could reach US$162 billion by the end of this decade – more than a five fold growth in just 10 years. In early 2020, at the outbreak of the Covid-19 crisis, sales of plant based meat in the US almost tripled overnight, citing concern of consumers about the link between factory farming and zoonotic disease outbreaks. The reason given for this spectacular growth is that consumers are eager to move towards more healthy and sustainably produced food. People especially want less meat and dairy, which are seen to be linked to cancer, animal cruelty, climate change and a host of other issues.Until recently, the vegan food market tended to be dominated by whole grains, soy products, pulses and other natural protein-rich foods. Then a number of new startup companies jumped in, such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, bringing the world “Impossible burgers” and other plant- or cell-based meat alternatives.But seeing the vast profit potential, deep-pocketed investors, agribusiness and big transnational food companies also entered the scene. With the plant based food market growing twice as fast as overall food sales, nobody wants to be left behind.For example, Unilever launched their “Vegetarian butcher” plant based meat brand. The company aims to increase their sales of plant-based meat substitutes to US$1 billion per year in the next five years or so -- 20 times more than what they sold in 2020. In 2020, Danone announced the creation of a new Plant-Based Acceleration Unit to meet its ambitions to increase plant-based sales globally from US$2.1 billion in 2019 to US$5.4 billion by 2025. Both companies want to go beyond vegan consumers and reach the much bigger market potential of flexitarians -- people who just want to consume less meat and dairy.Other big names are jumping on the bandwagon. Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, launched its first plant-based protein food range under the brand “Pure Farmland”. Tyson Foods -- one of the world’s largest poultry, beef and pork producers -- introduced its plant-based range in 2019 under the “Raised & Rooted” brand. Kellogg, mostly known for breakfast cereals, has a meatless meat brand called ‘Morning Star Farms’ and is now profiling itself as one of the original plant-based food companies. Not to be left behind, Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, revealed that it will be ramping up its plant-based product range, especially in the ready-made meals category.Of course, the Smithfields and Unilevers of the world are not focusing their sales on anything fresh or healthy. They focus on ultra-processed foods. By jumping on the “non-meat” bandwagon, they want to claim to offer healthier options.But can they? A close look at the plant-based “Impossible burger” suggests that it is just another ultra-processed food product. Before that, most vegan burgers were made from black beans, soy, mushrooms or grains. The “Impossible burger” is made from soy protein concentrate, coconut oil, sunflower oil, potato protein, methylcellulose, yeast extract, salt, gums, and water and additives, including vitamin B12, zinc, vitamin B6, thiamin (B1), niacin and soy-based heme (i.e. fake blood). Tyson Foods’ plant-based nuggets contain more than two dozen different ingredients, many of which you probably have never heard of. One video shows a Cargill employee explaining the bewildering amount of ingredients that go into their “meatless meatballs”.Also, the big food companies love to portray their incursion into the plant based food market as moving their business towards a sustainable alternative to meat. Unilever goes as far as calling upon their customers to “Join us in our food revolution to unleash all animals from the food chain!” But clearly, they want to continue making money in both markets. No-one put it as clear as the head of Tyson Food: “For us, this is about ‘and’ – not ‘or.’ We remain firmly committed to our growing traditional meat business and expect to be a market leader in alternative protein, which is experiencing double-digit growth and could someday be a billion-dollar business for our company.” Many of the companies also claim that their plant based food activities are good for the climate, but this difficult to to check as few of them are transparent about their emissions.Will big food companies jumping into alternative meat and dairy manage to turn the health food sector into a junk food paradise? It remains to be seen, but their intentions go certainly into that direction.