25 Jan 2023 — As plant-based transitions from transformative to mainstream food, companies keep innovating and expanding their ranges. To satisfy the growing number of consumers and flexitarians – the most demanding buyer among consumers – companies are bringing to the fore improved ingredients, hybrids and investing in new technologies while perfecting old ones.
FoodIngredientsFirst speaks with key representatives in the plant-based arena who offer insights into what’s coming in the plant-based landscape in 2023, amid a macroeconomically unpredictable market.
Moving to 3-gen
Adeline Saadi, senior manager of business development at CP Kelco explains how the company is working on what it considers the “third generation” of ingredient solutions for plant-based products.
“Alternative proteins, whether plant-based or developed from precision fermentation or blends, will continue to be at the forefront of our R&D work and will likely coexist with animal proteins in the future, even in hybrid formats,” she says.
“All will require stabilizers and texturants using nature-based ingredient solutions that support the image of “good for you” and “good for the planet,” she continues.
The importance of “good for the planet” is also highlighted by Paul Vennik, director of marketing & sales at Sensus. “We have to make sure that plant-based food is truly good for the environment. Hence, for us, 2023 is all about sustainability.”
At the same time, it is important to focus on growth as “a combination of animal-based, plant-based and novel proteins will be required to meet the growing demand of food,” flags Allyson Fish, president of global plant and Alternative Proteins, ADM.
Meanwhile, taste, the largest driver of purchases, still holds the potential for plant-based improvement, according to Greg Erdei, business development manager of plant-based nutrition at Lallemand Bio-Ingredients.
“Although the market struggled in 2022 after years of astonishing growth, especially in the non-dairy arena, there remains a resounding need to improve nutritional and palatability of products like cheese, yogurts and frozen desserts,” he says.
In 2023 companies will expand their range of products and reach more consumers through wider-varieties of foods and ingredients.
“This year, we will continue to evolve our offerings for meat alternatives to include cold cuts and help manufacturers deliver a more meat-like eating experience. We will also focus on the impact of our solution during the process of high-moisture, extruded plant-based products,” explains Saadi.
Texture is key for winning over flexitarians as they use the texture of animal-based products as a reference point, according to Saadi. It is important to fine-tune the texture of meat alternatives so it has a similar hot bite, juiciness and overall meat-like eating experience.
“For cheese alternatives, it means being able to recreate a world of textures based on desired characteristics for the eating occasion: from meltability in a pizza topping to soft and spreadable on a bagel, as well as overall creaminess and mouthfeel. Coming closer to consumer expectations of animal proteins will ensure loyalty and repeat purchases.”
“We also look forward to bringing to market our nature-based ingredients for melting cheese alternatives and liquid egg alternatives,” she continues.
“We see the whole muscle-like meat alternative space as key to what’s next in the alternative protein solution arena,” adds Fish.
ADM reveals that whole muscle meat is the top format across all global meat occasions, encompassing traditional and plant-based offerings. However, the business relates that whole-muscle alternatives to meat are underrepresented in family meal occasions compared to their conventional meat counterparts.
“There is opportunity for growth, with global consumers indicating a willingness to replace meat with plant-based meat products during 48% of meat consumption occasions,” Fish highlights.
“To succeed in this whole muscle-like space, alternative products’ visual, flavor and texture experience must meet the gold standard of traditional offerings,” she explains.
Furthermore, ADM is pursuing “niche” sources and technologies like mycoprotein, cultured meat and precision fermentation.
“As technology advances, we expect to see more blends and hybrids on the market, such as animal and plant proteins or plant-based and fermented proteins. Coupling unfamiliar sources with familiar ones helps accelerate consumer acceptance, which is necessary to continue expanding the alternative protein segment,” Fish highlights.
Opportunities for new ingredients
ADM is also working on expanding its plant-based list of ingredients to include more ancient grains, beans and pulses.
“Many people associate ancient grains with the appealing attributes of clean-label food products, including natural, recognizable ingredients, minimal processing and non-GMO. Plus, consumers recognize ancient grains, beans and pulses as a source of fiber, protein and other nutrients,” Fish notes.
Another highlight is that some ancient grains are inherently gluten-free, which expands optionality for shoppers with specialized nutrition needs.
“With a significant proportion of the global population currently trying to consume more plant-based foods, we are helping to expand consumers’ protein choices and options at all eating occasions. Emerging plant protein sources like sunflower, lupine, chickpea and ancient grains, such as amaranth and sorghum, are increasingly incorporated into various plant-forward formulations,” Fish explains.
“Although they don’t yet have mainstream awareness, we anticipate these plant proteins will soon have general consumer recognition similar to higher affinity sources like soy, wheat and pea,” she highlights.
Sensus will continue to showcase its ISO-verified natural chicory inulin as its focus product.
“In 2023, we will further demonstrate with authorized health claims that chicory inulin contributes to a healthier consumer. We will do more clinical trials to support these health claims,” Vennick explains.
“We see a trend that younger generations are looking for a plant-based diet to solve health-related issues that they may have. Too much stress is an issue nowadays for younger people. We know that modulating the microbiome with plant-based ingredients like chicory inulin can positively affect cognitive health. Also here, Sensus will do more research to support the so-called prebiotic effect of the plant-based chicory inulin,” he continues.
Cosun Protein will spotlight its fava protein isolate with neutral taste and high solubility this year.
“Fava is globally cultivated, GMO-free, produced with limited water-use and efficient nitrogen fixation. Fava also has a very low CO2 footprint,” says Michiel Pronk, sales manager at Cosun.
“Our protein is highly suitable as a functional protein ingredient in products like dairy alternatives, functional drinks, vegan ice cream and dressings, with a good nutritional profile,” he continues.
While not an ingredient, Lallemand will continue to work on yeast protein this year – a complete protein that contains all essential amino acids.
Moreover, according to the business, yeast is a versatile food that is gaining cleanlabel popularity for precision fermentation to isolate particular properties or as growth media.
“We will keep investing in developing yeast-based flavors, expanding from the actual range. There are several areas in which yeast derivatives can play a role, depending on the product type. Among yeast and its derivatives attributes, we can highlight water binding, emulsification properties and flavor donation,” details Erdei.
“Yeast extracts and their derived flavors, characterized by specific flavor notes, are suitable for all types of savory preparations. In plant-based meals, their contribution ranges from a pleasant, umami taste foundation to the goal of building a succulent, meaty profile without ingredients of animal origin,” he notes.
Taking advantage of the current market
As inflation and other negative externalities hit some commodities, some products in the plant-based category can become more competitive.
”With supply shortages, value and inflation on everyone’s mind for 2023, our NUTRAVA Citrus Fiber can act as a vegan egg alternative not only for plant-based products but also to combat the rising prices of eggs in baked goods, condiments including an egg-free mayonnaise alternative, and other products,” notes Saadi.
In the US, egg prices have escalated to unheard-of levels. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the combined regional large egg weekly average price reached US$5.4 for a dozen eggs in December, up from US$1.4 in March 2022 and from the three-year average that fluctuated around US$1.
Meanwhile, in the EU, prices for large and medium eggs were up 69.3% across the bloc from November 2021 to November 2022.
CP Kelco upcycles its Citrus Fiber from citrus peels, an abundant byproduct of the juice industry, enabling a stable and sustainable supply.
Moreover, ambient and shelf-stable products offer convenience for consumers and a way for manufacturers to venture into e-commerce or regions without cold channel distribution.
“Producers strongly prefer local sourcing and sustainable production,” adds Pronk.
By Marc Cervera
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