This week, Plant Based Word Expo Europe returned to the UK, hosted at a new venue space for the very first time – from its previous location at London Olympia, it moved to the larger Excel Centre in East London, taking place from 15-16 November.
As always, the event allowed professionals spanning foodservice, retail and distribution to meet and network, encouraging collaboration and new business opportunities for plant-based brands and suppliers. The 100% plant-based event brought together companies from the ingredients and technology space with innovative start-ups and those looking to bring something fresh to one of the most dynamic and rapidly evolving sectors within the food and beverage industry.
Throughout the exhibition, The Plant Base team spoke to many companies for whom there was a clear passion and optimistic buzz about the sector’s development, both over the past few years and in the years to come.
While talk of the sector’s ‘decline’ has hit the headlines this year, the clear message that we took on board was one of hope and positivity: that plant-based is not going anywhere, and while the sharp growth experienced pre-pandemic has not maintained the same unprecedented rates, this natural easing of acceleration was to be expected and is not bad news for the category, which had seen extremely high growth projections.
In fact, there are still vast opportunities on the horizon. As technology advances, opening more doors for improving plant-based products, the industry can equip itself with the necessary tools to navigate challenges such as upgrading taste and texture, accelerating time to market and bringing down cost.
Innovations on display from ingredients specialists highlighted just how much this technological advancement can give manufacturers in the space a welcome boost when trying to bring creative new offerings to market.
The importance of efficiency within this process was a key takeaway. One such company showcasing how it can support businesses in this area was Givaudan. The Swiss flavours and fragrance specialist proudly showcased its innovative new AromaSniff technology, currently being trialled with clients in the co-creation of new flavour formulations.
Givaudan’s team demonstrated how the technology could be used to make subtle alterations to the aroma of a desired strawberry flavour – for example, tweaking its properties to give it more of a sweet, cooked ‘jammy’ strawberry scent, or infusing the aroma of fresh strawberry with the subtle addition of other berries like raspberry. The handheld tech then generates this specific, customised aroma that the user can immediately smell as it is emitted from the device. Givaudan offered an example of how this can be used for flavour creation by providing several variations on a strawberry sauce, created using AromaSniff, that attendees could enjoy on a plant-based soft serve ice cream that was also demonstrated at the event to showcase its innovation in dairy alternative development.
Igor Parshin, global marketing manager, Plant Attitude & Beyond Experience at Givaudan, told The Plant Base: “AromaSniff is a co-creation tool that is really helping to create moments together with customers, something that is almost immediately ready to go to market, because you can reduce the potential risk of doing something wrong – something not quite right in the flavour profile, flavour is always important”.
“AromaSniff helps you to easily navigate the hundreds of flavour profiles that we have, something that used to take weeks can be done in a matter of minutes, and that is a huge game changer because all industries are currently pressured and the risk of failing with your innovation is as high as ever. You need to make sure that every choice you make is good, and we are helping to do that.”
Beyond Givaudan, there was plenty more innovation in ice cream at the event – Upfield was also dishing out its own plant-based soft serve, and Italian gelato specialist Valsoia presented its Triple Pistachio Mini Sticks, launched earlier this year and created with a creamy cashew-based pistachio gelato coated in indulgent vegan chocolate.
The delicious innovation was a hit with attendees at the conference, demonstrating the vast improvements made in plant-based ice cream in recent years. It also took home a Plant-based Taste Award – FoodBev Media’s very own recognition of the highest-quality, best-tasting plant-based products launched this year, the results of which were announced in a special ceremony on the first day of the expo.
The Plant Base spoke with Andrea Panzani, Valsoia’s CEO, during the event, who told us that the company attributes its successful gelato to a combination of high-quality, clean label ingredients, expertise and Italian origin.
“Our track record comes from expertise, ability to produce gelato … gelato in Italy is iconic,” Panzani said. “In Italy we have 75% of the market share [for plant-based gelato]. We are the iconic country and producer of gelato, and this is important because the expertise is in our DNA. Joining food ingredients, clean label and expertise is a win – this is the secret mix.”
Other award-winning companies to be celebrated by our Plant-based Taste Awards included plant-based cheese producer Honestly Tasty, taking home the prize for best cheese thanks to its tasty garlic and herb-flavoured product; confectionery winner Dandies for its maple-flavoured marshmallows; and alt-meat manufacturer Umiami for its whole-cut chicken-style fillet.
Dan Bunt, FoodBev Media’s marketing manager, commented: “This year’s Plant Based World Expo Europe offered international plant-based companies the opportunity to showcase with more expertise, a larger audience and more incredible tasting products! The Plant-based Taste Awards provided the event the extra dimension as companies can now showcase their products to potential buyers and suppliers as the best-tasting products the industry has to offer.”
Innovation in cheese was an area seen to have matured vastly at the event, with some impressive offerings on display. As well as Honestly Tasty, innovations from the likes of Dreamfarm and Purezza were garnering praise at the event.
Vegan pizza chain company Purezza, which was also shortlisted for an award in the cheese category for its Stracciazza, presented itself alongside artisan cheese producer La Fauxmagerie for the first time since the companies announced their merger earlier this week. And Dreamfarm, which raised €5 million in funding earlier this month to expand production and R&D, showcased its authentically textured plant-based burrata and mozzarella products – claimed to be the world’s first plant-based cheese alternative with government-certified liquid status and a Nutriscore A rating.
In plant-based meat, there were an array of hyper-realistic products demonstrating just how many different flavours and textures can be achieved, imitating a wider range of meat formats than ever before. Highlights included Redefine Meat’s juicy, authentic steak, La Vie’s new plant-based ham (showcased with the brand’s ham slicer, showing attendees as the product was cut up on the spot!), Mock’s succulent roast lamb alternative served up in mini Yorkshire puddings, and Hempeat’s juicy hemp-based patties brought some ingredient innovation to the dynamic alt-meat space.
With conference sessions sharing insights from how brands can achieve success in foodservice – which has been widely recognised as a huge opportunity for plant-based this year – through to clean label ingredient development, collaborating with the cell-based sector and drivers for demand in the alternative meat market, there was something on the agenda for everyone to enjoy, from retailers to restaurants, brands and manufacturers alike.
As the event closed up for another year, The Plant Base team felt positive about what’s to come for the exciting and resilient plant-based market: watch this space, and see you next year for Plant Based World 2024!
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2023
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