15 Sep 2020 — The booming interest in alternative proteins is driven both by shifts in buyers’ lifestyles and a deepening awareness of the importance of health and well-being. Consumer curiosity, along with growing concerns surrounding environmental sustainability, is also undoubtedly propelling the plant-based revolution, and ADM is tapping into the shift in demand from consumers, as the trend moves from niche to mainstream. “Demand for plant-based alternatives is fueled by consumers who value the perceived sustainability and health and nutrition benefits,” George Perujo, director of product management for specialty ingredients (EMEAI), tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“There’s also been a modest uptick in first-time purchases of plant-based proteins with new category buyers motivated by health, safety and ease of preparation. Our OutsideVoice research shows that 80 percent of consumers in Germany, the UK and the Netherlands are likely to continue eating plant-based meat alternatives [post-pandemic].”
While the pandemic’s long-term consequences come into sharpened focus, Perujo anticipates that heightened consumer awareness of personal health will continue to influence decisions.
“Category buyers are motivated by the perceived health and safety attributes of plant-based meat alternatives,” notes Perujo.
The growing acceptance of plant-based
Consumer expectations for plant-based products continue to grow and this presents a host of challenges for food producers. From taste and texture to nutritional profile and visual appeal, plant-based products need to deliver an appealing experience to win favor in an increasingly crowded market.
The increasing popularity of alternatives will drive more innovation within the plant-protein category, Perujo maintains. “Growing acceptance in the category signifies that consumers are open to innovation in other plant-based formats and categories.”
As formulators consider innovation opportunities, they must remember a gap remains between what consumers want – great taste – and what is currently available in the category.
“Consumers widely report that nutrition and wellness benefits motivate purchases of plant protein products,” adds Perujo.
ADM’s OutsideVoice research shows that 31 percent of consumers are already purchasing more items tailored for health and nutrition. “However, consumers are unwilling to settle for offerings that fall short of providing an enjoyable eating experience. The key to continued growth in the plant protein space is raising the bar on finished products’ sensory aspects,” he stresses.
Emerging growth areas
Consumer demand for new formats and flavors are likely to propel innovation. “Emerging growth areas include plant-based seafood, chicken and turkey, as well as new convenience formats of popular plant protein alternatives such as ground or crumbled beef or shredded chicken,” Perujo details.
Moreover, the dairy space is also experiencing tremendous plant-based innovation. “While growth in segments such as plant-based ice cream and milk alternatives is prevalent, product developers have an opportunity to capture a bigger percentage of market share by introducing plant-based cheese, beverages and yogurt with improved flavor, texture and nutrition,” he explains.
“Plant-based beverages often lack the nutrients consumers expect when shopping in the dairy aisle. We anticipate the focus on nutrient-dense F&B to increase as consumers take a more proactive approach to improving their health,” he continues.
“Products that stand out will deliver more protein than traditional dairy, offer a nutritional label fortified with vitamins and minerals, or provide the functional ingredients, like probiotics.”
Innova Market Insights pegged the “Plant-Based Revolution” as one of its Top Ten Trends this year. According to the market researcher’s data, three in five global consumers incorporate more plant-based ingredients into their diets.
When surveyed, six in 10 global respondents chose “plant-based” over vegetarian or vegan, as the most preferable claim when buying meat or dairy alternatives.
Several promising plant protein ingredients are coming to the fore.
According to data from Innova Market Insights, fava bean protein is the fastest-growing plant-based protein tracked in meat and dairy alternative launches from 2017 to 2019.
Other examples include hemp, which growth is propelling in many areas of food and nutrition, as well as rice protein, pea protein and potato protein.
On September 22, ADM will host a webinar discussing some of the most frequently asked questions about plant-based proteins. Perujo will be presenting the webinar and will be highlighting the key themes and demand dominating the sector.
Registration is currently open here.
By Elizabeth Green
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