Plant-based meat and seafood alternatives are the hottest thing in the food industry right now. They’re making mainstream news, related both to the rise of plant-based as a trend and the valuations of some of the companies involved.
This is all thanks to the rise of plant-seeking consumers (sometimes called flexitarians). A consumer group with an appetite for something new, something sustainable, something healthy, but most of all something delicious.
They want to reduce the amount of meat or seafood they are eating, and they want the alternatives they’re eating to be healthy and enjoyable. That means a new type of product, a new food category that calls for innovation.
It’s a huge undertaking, but it’s a time of massive opportunity. A time to build brand loyalty in new markets, where new entrants can move fast with fewer barriers to entry.
For the vast majority of the plant-based eaters, meat and seafood are still an option. Alternatives aren’t just competing with each other, they’re competing with the real deal.
This means alternatives need to provide a taste and texture experience that matches (or is more appealing than) eating actual meat and seafood. Only once plant-based food delivers on this consumer expectation will it stand a chance of securing its place in the mainstream.
Success will require the best plant-based ingredients, an understanding of how they interact with each other, and how they react to processing and cooking to create a delicious plant-based product. And it needs to be backed up by robust insights on the attributes of interest to consumers.
Better health is one of the main drivers for consumers choosing a plant-based diet. But there is a question hanging over the industry about how healthful plant-based meat and seafood alternatives actually are.
There is a growing level of scrutiny over the processed nature of plant-based and its nutritional profile, which means the sector needs to deliver on the promise of being healthier, and soon. Plant-based can be healthier, it just isn’t automatically healthier by virtue of being made from plants.
As plant-based options continue to flourish, demand for plant protein will continue to grow. Today, plant proteins vary considerably in their scalability. Some (such as soy, wheat and pea) have very established, robust and reliable supply chains while other more novel sources currently lack in this regard.
For these emerging sources to become viable solutions for a global food industry, supply chain and ingredient technology investment will be required. So, as we work to scale these solutions, we do so in a responsible, sustainable manner.
At the moment, most of the effort in the plant-based meat and seafood market is focused on products that are emulating a meat or seafood product. But as the market matures, there will be growth beyond this and an opportunity to develop new formats, inspired by appearance, taste and texture of plants.
Variety will be necessary in order to provide the diversity needed for adventurous consumers to have food options for every eating occasion from morning to night.
Currently, plant-based meat is tailored to a very western diet (burgers, nuggets, sausages). As countries across Asia, Africa and the Middle East join the plant-based movement, versions of the traditional foods from those markets will be developed.
This will expand the variety of the plant-based diet, allowing consumers to experience the rich variety of tastes and textures of a global plant-based kitchen.
How do you find out what consumers like when most of them don’t even know, or can’t articulate it themselves? This is the challenge manufacturers of plant-based products face. Here, modern sensory analysis technology can give plant-based innovation a helping hand.
By reading brain signals rather than relying on verbal feedback, scientists can identify sensory attributes that we may not be aware of, but which are essential to the appeal of new food products made with alternative ingredients.
To answer to the strong trend and demand for plant-based food, we have created Danisco PlanitTM, our integrated offering of ingredients and services for the plant-based food and beverage segment, providing you with innovative plant-based solutions that keep you ahead of consumer demand.
We have over 30 years’ experience in the industry, with a long history in plant protein, a wide portfolio, and deep expertise across the entire plant-based food category, which means we can help you achieve a real meat taste and texture in a delicious product, fast.
That’s why we invest in teams of specialists from prototyping, sensory validation & formulation development to marketing, supply chain, sustainability and manufacturing.
So you can focus on what matters – creating superior products that build competitive advantage and consumer loyalty.
Learn more about the opportunities in plant-based meat, and see how our products can support you: