by Glanbia Nutrionals
As consumers’ desire for plant-based protein soars, food and beverage manufacturers have to stay one step ahead of their demands. Explore the fastest-growing plant-based food categories, what’s driving consumer purchases, and the biggest trends in plant-based protein trends this year.
Soaring Growth in Plant-Based Foods
U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods reached a record $4.5 billion last year, up 11 percent from the prior year, according to the Plant Based Foods Association.1Dairy alternatives make up the largest share at 68 percent, while meat alternatives make up 20 percent. Categories exhibiting the highest growth are plant-based spreads/dips/sour creams/sauces (up 52 percent from 2018), creamers (up 40 percent), yogurts (39 percent), and eggs (38 percent).
Why More Consumers are Turning to Plant-Based Foods
Many consumers are introducing more plant-based proteins into their diets because they believe it’s a healthier choice than traditional dairy, eggs, and meat. Thanks to a stream of innovation in flavors, formats, ingredients, and nutrition, there’s never been a more exciting time to buy plant-based.
Top Trends in Plant-Based Protein
Here’s a look at the top trends in plant-based proteins for this year:
1. PLANT-BASED MILK WITH EXTRA PROTEIN
While almond milk and coconut milk remain popular, their low protein contents prevent them from being a true nutritional match to dairy milk. Since protein has been trending as an in-demand nutrient among consumers, plant-based milk brands that fortify with protein have a competitive advantage.
A top strategy for formulating dairy alternatives with extra protein is to add a pulse-based protein (such as pea protein) or to simply increase the amount already in use—especially to 10 or 20 percent DV for a “good source” or “excellent source” claim. Higher protein plant-based yogurts that can match the nutrition and thick, decadent texture of Greek yogurt are also on the radar this year.
2. CLEAN LABEL PLANT-BASED MEAT
Just as plant-based milk manufacturers responded to the clean label call, plant-based meat manufacturers are now rising to the occasion. Creating the right texture in a plant-based meat can be challenging, and ingredients like methylcellulose, carrageenan, and xanthan gum can work wonders for structure and water binding. Increasingly, consumers are looking for ingredient statements that are as natural, simple, and short as possible.
3. MORE PLANT-BASED FROZEN MEALS
Center-of-the-plate plant-based meat has become easier than ever to find in supermarkets. This includes patties, cutlets, strips, nuggets, and more. However, as the demand for healthy convenience grows, consumers will expect a greater selection of frozen entree options that incorporate plant-based meat—especially frozen burritos, pizzas, and pasta dishes.
4. PLANT-BASED MEAT THAT TASTES LIKE MEAT
According to Mintel,2 54 percent of U.S. consumers think plant-based meat should closely mimic the taste of meat.2 More plant-based meat manufacturers are prioritizing authentic meaty taste in their plant-based meat products. Impossible Foods’ development and use of leghemoglobin (heme derived from soybeans) represents a big step forward in taste matching. High-quality savory flavors and optimized fat levels are also key.
5. NEW PLANT-BASED PROTEINS
As consumers become increasingly nutrition-savvy, their interest in protein diversity is growing. Consumers are deliberately seeking out plant-based proteins from sources other than soy and wheat. In plant-based dairy, for example, the use of soy protein is declining, while pea protein has made considerable gains. Pea, flax, and chia proteins are all increasing in popularity, not just in plant-based meat and dairy, but also in bars and bakery products.