When it comes to plant-based ingredients, what is it, do you think, that consumers are increasingly looking for?
“Our research suggests there is a strong interest in plant-based protein sources and products with enhanced functional health benefits. Consumers are increasingly focusing on taking a proactive approach to improving the health of their diets. As evidence, we’ve found that 57% of consumers are proactively looking for healthier and better options in the foods and beverages they purchase. Many perceive plant-based products to be healthier than animal-based proteins.
Today’s health and wellness-motivated consumers also look for close-to-nature ingredients they recognise when evaluating products. By expanding products with mainstream types (like nuts, seeds and beans) to focus more on functional health benefits, brands are more likely to increase consumption among flexitarians or convert more consumers to a flexitarian lifestyle.
The future lies within a combination of protein and other functional health benefits, such as improving heart health, lowering cholesterol and improving digestive regularity. ADM draws on our 75+ years of alternative protein design and technical ingenuity to expand our protein portfolio and deliver consumer-preferred foods and beverages.”
The title of your presentation mentions ‘a food boom’ – could you explain what you mean by this?
“The plant-based movement started to take off in Europe several years ago. Now, research finds that there has been a significant jump in consumption of plant-based protein alternatives among category buyers this year. In fact, our research shows that 80% of consumers in Germany, the U.K. and the Netherlands report they are likely to continue eating plant-based meat alternatives beyond COVID-19. Moreover, there has been a modest uptick in first-time purchases of plant-based proteins.
We anticipate these trends will contribute to more innovation within the category in the coming months. Product developers have an opportunity to further boost category growth by highlighting the features of plant-based protein offerings that motivate purchases, for example the connection to holistic wellness.”
Can you give examples of some perhaps unusual sectors or products, where plant-based ingredients have proliferated in the past five years or so?
“Now that plant-based alternatives to meat have entered the mainstream food industry, a new opportunity is beginning to take hold: plant-based seafood. According to our research, U.S. flexitarian consumers chose a plant-based alternative to fish as a top market innovation growth area.
All of this suggests that the plant-based seafood alternative market is primed for growth. However, for it to achieve its potential, great care must be taken to ensure consumers will bite. With a full pantry of solutions for successful product development in the seafood alternative category, we partner with food manufacturers globally to achieve consumer-preferred products. Protein, taste, texture, nutrition, functionality and colour are all key factors in creating solutions poised for success.”
In which sectors do you see most untapped market opportunities for plant-based ingredients?
“As the plant-based movement spreads into new markets across the globe, we expect demand for new formats and flavours to catalyse plant-based innovation. Consumer interest in the dairy alternatives category is on the rise. Product developers have an opportunity to capture a bigger percentage of market share by introducing plant-based alternatives to cheese, ice cream, butter, spreads, beverages and yogurt with improved flavour and texture – aspects which consumers widely report are in need of improvement.
Manufacturers can further increase the appeal of plant-based dairy alternatives by enhancing the nutrition profile of these products by adding vitamins and minerals, as well as other functional ingredients like prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics.
Our research shows that 51% of flexitarians say the primary barrier to consuming plant-based foods is inferior taste. While plant-based alternatives have come a long way from early iterations, we can do more to improve the overall sensory experience of formulations with a focus on replicating aspects like the juiciness of a burger; or the rich, creamy mouthfeel of traditional dairy. Specifically, plant-based cultured products such as yogurt, sour cream and cheese are ripe for improvements in taste and texture.
Our Sensory & Consumer Insights team works closely with product developers to identify prominent characteristics necessary for the finished product such as flavour, colour, texture, nutrition and aroma.
We’re also exploring new opportunities for plant-protein blends. We find that blending two or more plant proteins can help achieve the desired texture and functionality characteristics that a single protein source cannot deliver. For example, bean powders and ancient grain ingredients blend well with soy and pea proteins to improve texture and add perceived nutritional value to the product.”
What are some of the challenges facing beverage manufacturers (when it comes to plant-based ingredients) in terms of formulation, but also communicating benefits to their target consumer?
“The biggest barriers to consumer acceptance of plant-based proteins are disappointing taste and texture. Consumers widely report that nutrition and wellness benefits motivate purchases of plant-based protein products, but they’re unwilling to settle for offerings that fall short of providing an enjoyable eating experience.
Ultimately, if a product doesn’t taste good and doesn't satisfy their taste requirements, consumers will likely not repurchase it again. This is especially prominent in the U.S., U.K. and Germany, where we’ve found that slightly more than a quarter of flexitarian consumers believe that taste is more important than nutrition.
At ADM, we understand that the key to continued growth in the plant-based space is raising the bar on sensory aspects of finished products. We support our customers by leaning on our sharp market insights and industry-leading technical expertise to fine-tune formulations to create products that are delicious, visually appealing and nutritionally focused.”
What advice / tips would you give to manufacturers to help get their formulation right?
“Listen to what consumers are asking for. Manufacturers must keep up with shifting consumer behaviour to optimise new formulations in response to changing demands. At ADM, we strive to stay one step ahead of food and beverage trends by continuously monitoring and evaluating developments in the plant-based space, and by growing our portfolio of plant-based solutions to ensure we remain the first-call partner for plant-based product developers.”
What would you hope viewers take away from your presentation?
“As consumers become increasingly focused on supporting their health and wellness, there is a huge opportunity for manufacturers to meet the surge in demand for plant-based proteins. But, when it comes to formulating these, taste should always come first.
ADM has enhanced texture solutions on the horizon that will support the call for sensory improvements in plant-based meat alternatives. We offer an expansive and growing portfolio of culinary bases, flavours, colours, functional ingredients, plant protein ingredients and more to enable on-trend products consumers can feel good about without making any sacrifices on sensory qualities.”