© Foodology by Univar Solutions
As new plant-based options spring to supermarket shelves in celebration of Veganuary, manufacturers must consider the drivers and trends behind vegan diets to ensure they are optimising offerings in line with consumer desires. Danielle Mailey, technical sales manager at Foodology by Univar Solutions, explores the key considerations.
Veganuary is a time when consumers and manufacturers are optimising plant-based recipes. Shoppers are trying plant-based diets, particularly protein alternatives as a key factor, not only because they focus on healthier nutrition to start the new year off fresh, but also because the Veganuary concept supports charity and wellbeing.
Plant proteins are very appealing for several reasons: health, environment, and animal welfare to name a few. However, taste and flavour concerns associated with plant protein formulations continue to hinder mass-market consumer acceptance.
Since plant-based is widely associated with natural and clean, the demand for clean labelling in meat analogues is rising. The global market for plant-based nutrition has surged extraordinarily in recent years. Consumers increasingly prioritise the functionality, freshness and authenticity of their food choices. This shift in dietary preferences has also led to a flourishing market for plant-based alternatives, with a particular focus on addressing sensory characteristics to provide a positive consumer experience.
The dairy alternatives market is expected to be worth $43.6 billion by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 10.1% from 2023 to 2028. The milk alternative category dominates the market and drives this growth.
We are seeing the emergence of new ingredient sources for the future of plant-based milk, ranging from potatoes and peas to an array of tree nuts, providing unique flavours and textures to plant-based products. However, innovation isn’t limited to the milk aisle, and other alternative dairy categories, including cheese, yogurt, ice cream and butter are showing signs of significant growth.
Manufacturers are investing in research and development to replicate the sensory characteristics of traditional meat and dairy products further. This includes advancements in food science and technology to enhance taste, flavour and texture. For example, using plant-based ingredients in combination with fermentation techniques has led to the development of plant-based dairy alternatives with improved sensory attributes.
Plant-based nutrition provides an amazing canvas for innovation. Technological advances have created serious innovation opportunities for the entire food and beverage industry. Consumers are challenging the industry on a very high level of innovation. The nutritional profile, sustainability and supreme sensory characteristics of products all play a more significant role in the next generation of plant-based foods. This includes enzymes that are particularly important in achieving sensorial attributes that consumers actively seek.
Several factors need to be considered when selecting the ideal protein source, and it depends on the application (such as gelling, stability, water holding capacity, solubility, texture and flavour). Textured plant protein is popular in the alternative meat space and can provide characteristics like juiciness and firmness. The plant protein isolates find use in various applications, such as dairy alternatives and ready-to-drink (RTD) and ready-to-mix (RTM) beverages where solubility and stability are required.
There is a huge stride towards more clean label options, improving nutritional properties, and a memorable sensorial experience to be competitive with traditional dairy. As an alternative to dairy, consumers are increasingly seeking plant-based beverages, shakes and desserts that are high in protein, minimally processed, natural and also taste good. Products with multiple benefits are poised to be most successful.
As demand for plant-based grows, there is also increased attention on over-processing and clean labels. There is a constant debate among consumers about whether these plant-based alternatives are better for them. Price used to be one of the most common reasons for consumers not buying into plant-based nutrition, and manufacturers are actively looking at reducing the price tag on these products to make them a viable option for everyone.
The interest in plant-based products goes hand-in-hand with environmental concerns. The disparity in the resource mass balance when comparing animal protein and plant protein is well documented, and plant-based alternatives can have a positive impact on resource use. In addition to their known health and sustainability benefits, plant-based foods are addressing changing tastes worldwide as more cuisines and food innovations make their way into the mainstream. Because of this, rapid innovation is needed to satisfy new diets, trends and concerns.
Brands must continue to cater to the plant-powered buyer and create high-quality substitutes for meat and dairy products to keep pace with vegetarian, vegan and flexitarian consumer demands. Exploring plant-based and clean label formulations is the perfect way to celebrate Veganuary and the new year.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2024
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