The plant-based food sector is a fast-growing industry around the world. You may have seen the different varieties of plant-based alternative food products in supermarkets. The most popular are plant-based meat, seafood, and dairy, covering a wide range of downstream market products.
Foodnavigator-usa.com, a leading online news source for the food and beverage industry, published a report stating that, according to US retail data from the Good Food Institute and the Plant Based Foods Association, the sales of plant-based meat alternatives surged by 45 percent in 2020 pushing the category past the billion-dollar mark.
However, the industry has had its share of ups and downs. The same report declared that according to Deloitte, the positive perception of plant-based meat alternatives was slightly declining. In 2022 only 46 percent of consumers surveyed said they were willing to pay a premium for plant-based meat, down nine percent from 2021.
While plant-based drinks are doing exceedingly well all over the world, plant-based meat saw a considerable slowdown in 2022. First-time consumers of plant-based foods may have doubts and concerns about the ingredients used in such products.
Three important measures for a successful plant-based product are its texture, taste, and appearance. Believe it or not, these aspects are considered by consumers before they even look at the nutritional value of the product. Price positioning then becomes fundamental for consistent subsequent consumption.
Often, it is a challenge to create plant-based food products to match the expected characteristics of meat and dairy-based food products. Smooth mouthfeel, great taste, and high nutritional value are some of the benefits of plant-based foods expected by consumers. Consumers also prefer specific profiles such as juiciness and firmness for plant-based meats and seafood, as well as creaminess for plant-based milk.
The plant-based alternative industry has tremendous potential for growth, despite various challenges in the current market. According to the same report from foodnavigator-usa.com, Deloitte suggests that the most obvious route forward for the plant-based meat category is to bring down costs and reformulate products to offer additional health benefits while maintaining taste.
Future Market Insights, the leading provider of market research reports, suggests that the growing trend of veganism and flexitarians coupled with the rising consumption of dairy and meat substitutes are key factors driving the global plant-based food market. The report predicts that the plant-based food market size could expand by three fold, witnessing an increase from USD 11.3 billion in 2023 to USD 35.9 billion by 2033. Overall, plant-based food sales are poised to accelerate at a CARG of 12.2 percent between 2023 and 2033.
Let us look at the key ingredients that could contribute to the success of plant-based foods.
Plant-based products should have excellent sources of proteins and nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Nowadays, there are many sources of plant-based proteins available to consumers, such as legumes (chickpeas, fava beans), nuts and seeds (soybeans, almonds), vegetables (peas, mushrooms), grains (oats, amaranth), and even some fruits (dried goji berries, coconut).
However, plant-based proteins generally have different profiles of amino acids when compared to animal-based proteins. It is therefore important for food producers to understand the plant-based protein profile and consider the required fortification and other complementary ingredients.
The following is an essential checklist to consider when selecting plant-based protein profiles:
In addition to nutritional value, proteins play an essential role in the physicochemical and sensory properties of food products that contribute to the product’s overall technological functionality. Due to differences in molecular structure between the various sources of plant-based proteins, technological functionality can also differ. It is important to understand how each of these sources can be combined to create the intended application.
At DKSH, we provide a wide range of plant-based proteins from various approved sources and provide technical support to companies using proteins in their plant-based food products. Contact us to find out more.
Puay Hua Loh is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She is currently Senior Manager Business Development, Food and Beverage Ingredients Asia Pacific, DKSH Performance Materials.