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Fermentation drives innovation in dairy alternatives [Interview]

Article-Fermentation drives innovation in dairy alternatives [Interview]

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Growing consumer demand for dairy alternative products, is making way for some great opportunities within this market. However, success in this vegan dairy alternative space is marked by a number of hurdles that need to be overcome. In order to satisfy consumers, not only is it important to get the taste and textural profiles right, but also to ensure that the nutritional profiles remain similar to those found in traditional dairy products. To learn a bit more about the formulation of dairy alternatives, we’ve caught up with Carole Bingley, Senior Associate Principal Scientist at RSSL.

What type of dairy alternative products do you work with the most at RSSL?

“Historically, we have carried out most development work in the plant-based milk area; however, we are now moving into other areas such as creams, yogurts and ice creams.”

What are the main challenges your customers are facing when formulating dairy alternative products?

“Taste and texture – delivering the flavour and mouthfeel that consumers associate with traditional dairy is challenging.  This is even more important to get right, as brands look to entice non-vegan consumers who are interested in plant-based alternatives due to health or sustainability issues.”

Have you worked on vegan cheese? Why do you think there is still such limited offer on the market?

“Not yet; although, we do have discussions going on with a potential client at the moment. I will be discussing some of the issues surrounding vegan cheese during my presentation, as I see this as an opportunity for growth.  It is technically more challenging than other proteins: the properties of dairy cheese are due to the formation of the casein network, which has proven to be difficult to replicate.”

Which proteins do you use and are there any new ones that you started working on?

“Protein selection is often down to client preference and functionality.  There has been a lot of interest in pea protein over the past few years, but we have also worked with pumpkin protein, lentil protein and algal protein.”

Can you share with us some examples of the great innovations you’ve seen in the dairy alternative market?

“I think that the production of whey protein and casein through fermentation is really exciting. There are a couple of ice cream products that have been launched in the US, which makes use of this technology.”

What key advice would you give to companies wanting to formulate dairy alternative products?

“Products need to taste great, but the nutritional profile is also really important. Traditional dairy provides around 20% of dietary protein as well as essential micronutrients. It is important that consumers do not have to compromise on these nutrients when switching from dairy to plant-based.”

What are your predictions for the plant-based market over the next 3-5 years?

“I believe that we will start to see cell-cultured and fermented proteins coming to market, providing options to meet the need for healthy, sustainable protein which delivers on taste, texture and nutrition. I also think that we will see a growth in the more indulgent side of dairy alternatives, such as desserts, and really hope that we see a breakthrough in vegan cheese alternatives which provide the organoleptic and nutritional qualities that consumers are looking for.”

What are your predictions for the F&B industry over the next 3-5 years?

“More reliance on cell culture and fermentation techniques to meet the demand of a growing population.  I also think that we will see more emphasis on optimizing health and immunity through foods; for example, fortification and products to influence the microbiota.”

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