Carrot dog, anyone? Bolthouse Farms enters the meat-substitute game

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A significant and growing trend in the food industry is the development of plant-based meat substitutes.

Leading the way is the bay area creator of the Impossible Burger, which is branching out this year into plant-based substitutes for things like bacon and lamb.

And now a Bakersfield-based company is taking the imitation-meat challenge.

Bolthouse Farms, the Kern County carrot mega-grower, is poised to start asking consumers this startling question: Would you eat a carrot hot dog?

There are a couple of reasons to consider doing so.

Carrots are better for you than meat, especially the parts of the cow or pig that go into the typical sausage or hot dog. Sausage making — that’s a process we don’t want to see, right?

But the carrot dog has virtually no fat, very little cholesterol and one-sixth the calories of a hot dog.

Then there’s climate change. Livestock is responsible for 62 percent of the world’s agricultural carbon emissions. The less meat we eat, the less impact on the environment.

So consider Bolthouse’s carrot dog, 30 calories, one gram of fat, developed by Kourtney Kobdish of Bakersfield and coming to a supermarket near you this spring — package of six dogs, suggested retail price $4.99.

Add two other products from the Bolthouse Farms Innovation Center on East Brundage Lane in Bakersfield — carrot fettuccine and riced carrot — and we’ve got three new products all bearing the name of a Bolthouse brand the company is calling Wunderoots.

But carrot dogs are especially noteworthy and here’s why. They represent Bolthouse’s entry into the plant-based meat substitute market, which was worth $12 billion last year and is estimated to hit $28 billion by 2025. Bolthouse wants a piece of that.

The time is right, says Phil Kooy of Bolthouse Farms.

“Consumers are gravitating and looking for more plants in their diets, and produce has long been, obviously, an option,” Kooy said. ” … There’s a rising trend of consumers out there we call flexitarians. They’re not necessarily vegan or vegetarian but they’re just looking for ways to incorporate more fun, easy, nutritious vegetable based options into their diets. So that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

So a lot is riding on these carrot dogs: chorizo style, sweet Italian style and classic American style.

I fired up the old backyard hibachi and cooked up some Bolthouse carrot dogs — and on the grill next to it fired up some Ballpark brand all-beef franks. Yep, the old taste test.

Now, personally, I can’t eat a hot dog, any kind of hot dog, without fried onions, or sauerkraut, or both, and lots of mustard. But for the sake of science I sampled a plain, unadorned frank.

Verdict: Not bad. Still tastes like a carrot. But not bad.

Does the Bolthouse carrot dog stand up next to the Ballpark all-beef frank? Let’s just say it depends on your mood.

But this much is certain. Bolthouse has another unique product in its wide-ranging lineup, which includes carrot juices, carrot dressings, carrot fettuccine, riced carrots and carrot dogs, in addition to two dozen ways to slice, dice, shave and package regular old carrots.

The market for plant-based meat substitutes is already hot and getting hotter. And now we have a new player — Bakersfield’s Bolthouse Farms. Game on.

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