After another fast-paced year for the plant-based industry, the team at FoodBev Media reflect on developments and share their predictions for 2023.
The plant-based snacking sector will continue to bring us new surprises in 2023, fuelled by the growing search for products that do more for your body. Many companies are now using simple, clean-label ingredients and innovative cooking techniques to offer a different taste experience, while providing extra nutrition.
Better-for-you snack brand Popadelics has created innovative crunchy shiitake mushroom chips using vacuum frying, which combines hot oil and pressure to allow the snacks to cook at much lower temperatures. This helps food to retain more of its colour, nutrients and flavour, all while absorbing less oil.
Dirt Kitchen, meanwhile, offers air-dried veg crisps. The brand has partnered with Full Harvest to find unwanted vegetables, such as grape tomatoes that are too ripe to sell and surplus courgette that is likely to otherwise rot in a storage facility. By upcycling unwanted produce in this way, the brand is not only creating tasty snacks but preventing food waste into the bargain.
Among the various types of plant-based meat, bacon alternatives have arguably been one of the most contentious. Giving meat-free form to what’s often considered the meat lover’s meat was bound to be divisive; but a raft of oink-free innovation in the past year has helped to fuel a growing appetite for vegan bacon, even, in some cases, among die-hard carnivores.
One of the companies that has seen huge success in this market is La Vie. The French brand has developed a soya-based product, which recently won the accolade of ‘best bacon’ in FoodBev Media’s Plant-Based Taste Awards. Collaborations, such as with Burger King in France, have helped propel La Vie into mainstream consciousness. I believe 2023 will see ‘facon’ increasingly become a staple across many sectors of the food market, with plenty more companies jumping on the plant-based bacon bandwagon.
The changing terminology surrounding plant-based foods can be confusing for consumers. A few years ago, companies were using terms like ‘meat-free,’ but innovative new brands have started to develop their own unique terminology. This increase in creative branding can be seen as one driver of the growing popularity of plant-based products. With the pace of development in the industry showing no signs of slowing down, we are set to see more unique names pop up over the next year.
Many of today’s plant-based brands are deploying creative marketing strategies; although some are more efficacious than others. Amid growing competition, various companies have assumed activist stances in their advertising. 2023 is set to see a sense of balance restored in the extreme marketing tactics that some brands are using. Although creativity is key, strategies may need to be adapted to the increase in vegan food availability and acceptance.
Jesús Luna-Lopez, sales director
The plant-based industry has seen unprecedented innovation over the last year. The challenge now is going to be to develop affordable products for a fast-growing and exacting population that is also conscious about the environment.
Smaller and healthier portions will be on the agenda for plant-based food manufacturers. There will be more diversification into healthy snacks, such as bars produced using extrusion. New technology and know-how will fuel the diversification of the alt-dairy category – for example with the introduction of yogurt drink alternatives with functional ingredients from algae and botanical extracts.
In the meat alternatives sector, snacking will also be a key focus. Products ranging from beef jerky to pork scratchings and bacon strips will all have a plant-based counterpart, featuring dry proteins as well as flavours and fragrances to add distinctive notes to innovation.
Chiara Marangon, account manager
With the curtains barely drawn on Cop27, climate change is again at the centre of public discourse – leading to reflection on the part of individuals and industry alike. The plant-based movement is helping to encourage more eco-friendly consumption habits, but some companies are taking this a step further and bringing carbon-neutral products to market.
Earlier this year, Nestlé’s Gerber introduced a plant-based and carbon-neutral line of toddler food, offering an option that caters for the food and climate values of an increasingly broad sub-section of consumers. Meanwhile, Minor Figures achieved the accolade for its entire product line in 2020, offsetting the carbon emissions it creates by supporting projects that absorb or remove an equivalent amount from the atmosphere.
Finding an effective solution to tackle climate change is not going to be easy, but the plant-based industry is making steps in the right direction, and I expect to see this continue throughout 2023. I look forward to seeing the innovations the coming year will bring.
The plant-based industry is growing at an exponential rate, and this growth comes hand in hand with an increased awareness of the environmental issues surrounding food production. Kelp could be the answer.
The seaweed has been touted as a sustainable food source, with studies suggesting that even large-scale farming has little negative impact on the environment and can increase local biodiversity. In addition, kelp does not require fresh water, land or fertiliser to grow, preserving precious resources and averting pollution.
And it seems manufacturers are cottoning on to the benefits of the plant, with ‘krab’ cakes, burgers and plant-based mince all among the offerings available to kelp-curious consumers. I’m excited to see how this ingredient will inform the food landscape in 2023.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2022
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