How has the market for plant-based meat alternatives evolved in recent years?
“Plant-based meat alternatives have become more mainstream in recent years. This was particularly evident during the pandemic, when sales of plant-based products increased exponentially. We still see that taste and texture are the major drivers for repurchase. However, consumer expectations are becoming more sophisticated, and consumers are looking for products that are healthier, have a cleaner label, and offer more tasty variety. New formats, such as alternatives for fish or pulled pork, are also in demand.”
What have been some of the persistent manufacturing challenges to successfully targeting health-conscious flexitarians?
“It is a very complex task to develop a product that ticks all the boxes—something that offers something for taste, texture, and health. The fact that flexitarians are often driven to do something good for their health when they add plant proteins to their diet means they are scrutinising the label. Does the product have enough high-quality protein? Does it avoid major allergens, such as soy or gluten? Does it contain reasonable levels of salt and fat? The product characteristics are driven by that first, and important choice, of plant protein for the product recipe.”
What is DSM and Vestkorn offering in the way of textured vegetable proteins?
“Vestkorn, part of DSM, is a leading provider of plant proteins that come from peas, fava beans, and chickpeas. Our textured vegetable proteins are based on whole legumes, which are dry processed at our facility in Norway, meaning no chemicals are used in the process. The resulting protein concentrate is then dry extruded to produce the textured vegetable protein. Our plant is powered by renewable energy, and we are proud of our process which has a small environmental footprint.”
How can these ingredients help manufacturers to innovate and keep pace with trends?
“Our textured vegetable proteins provide structure and texture for plant-based meat alternative applications. Peas and fava beans are inherently nutritious and also increasingly popular with consumers as alternatives to soy. This satisfies the trend for high-quality products that are free from the major allergens. Our dry processing also means products are low in salt, making it easier for producers to reduce sodium levels. Added to that, DSM’s premix solutions allow producers to top up nutrition levels in plant-based alternatives, filling in any remaining nutritional gaps in plant-based products.”
Could you give a couple of successful product examples?
“Taste and texture are important for successful meat and fish alternatives, but so are shape and form. Products should have an appealing appearance in order for consumers to choose these as part of their daily meals. That’s why we have developed textured vegetable proteins (TVP) in a range of formats, including mince, chunks, and the new long chunk format. The long chunk format is particularly good for reproducing the texture of chicken pieces – think of the grilled chicken you might add to a salad, for example – or of pulled pork. Our TVP formats allow producers to develop recipes that are in line with the consumer demand for new tastes and culinary experiences.”
Where do you see untapped potential for textured vegetable proteins?
“If you look to the trends in dairy alternatives, you can see there has been an explosion of interest in different plant protein sources, whether that’s from nuts, seeds, legumes, or grains. Likewise, for us in the meat and fish alternatives segment, we’ve experienced the growing demand for plant protein products made from peas and fava beans. We believe this interest in a broader range of plant proteins will continue to grow. Protein diversity is as good for products as it is for our food system. We foresee that this will be a growing trend for consumers who want to eat both healthily and sustainably.”