Florian Herkner, Global Growth Platform Head, Plant Based, began by noting a clear trend towards naturalness and sustainability. This trend was confirmed in two recent Symrise studies, the first of which looked at social media networks and online communities, to better understand consumer needs and wishes (with particular emphasis on plant-based).
A second study took this a step further, attempting to quantify the opportunities that this presented. Key consumer segments were identified as follows: 31 % were evaluated as ‘average consumers’; 10 % as ‘health-conscious flexitarians’; 24 % as ‘unconcerned’; 14 % as ‘health-conscious meat-lovers’; 8 % as ‘go green (vegan or vegetarian)’; and 12 % as ‘go alternative’.
In terms of driving plant-based product purchasing decisions, the Symrise team found that taste / flavour and price were the most important factors. The most important statements for driving plant-based purchases were ‘has only natural ingredients’ and ‘has all nutritional ingredients I need’.
“We next looked at front of pack claims,” said Herkner. “What we found was a clear link between plant-based and being sustainable and environmentally-friendly. Our research really showed the connection between plant-based foods, sustainability, and natural ingredients. A healthy diet is also really important to consumers.”
In terms of what’s next for alternative protein, Herkner noted that one size does not fit all.
“Soy will remain one of the most important plant-based proteins,” he said. “But we see other proteins such as pea, mycoprotein, chickpea and algae really growing. This will help to foster biodiversity and flavour diversity.”
Cleaner label and shorter ingredient lists are also coming into focus, while improved extrusion processes will lead to fewer off-notes and better texture.
“Our aim is bringing these innovations onto people’s radars, to show the complexity of the market,” said Herkner.
Cutting edge science
Lars Grohmann, Master Technologist, Flavour Division, next provided an overview of innovative new approaches that can help tap the potential of alternative proteins. These include ProtiScan, an analytical approach for understanding and assessing alternative proteins and applications. Sensory and consumer-driven data helps to develop predictive models, resulting in efficient product development. A key enabling technology here is Ion Mobility Spectrometry.
“We can use this tool for off-note management,” explains Grohmann. “ProtiScan enables us to identify and assess key off-notes in applications and see how we can address this and develop new solutions.”
Another example is flavour release. ProtiScan can assess both single flavour molecules and complex mixtures for flavour release behaviour.
More challenging still, ProtiScan can be used to develop predictive models for the non-targeted assessment of alternative protein products.
“The idea behind this is to carry out a rapid analytical investigation, in order to deliver a predictive summary for efficient product development without the need for extensive sensory tests,” says Grohmann.
Delivering what consumers want
Using the example of a vegan burger application, Pierre Osche, R&D Vegetable Leader, Diana Food, (part of Symrise Nutrition), outlined how Symrise know-how in masking, enrichment, typification and colour & appearance can help manufacturers deliver products that are fully in line with consumer expectations. In practice, this know-how encompasses expert input, flavour composition, sensory profiling, consumer testing and cutting-edge predictive modelling.
“What we are talking about here is delivering a clean label portfolio with masking solutions, encompassing sapids, alliaceous and culinary categories that will help to mask, enrich and typify this application,” said Osche. “Our sapid solutions for example bring a masking effect of pea notes and round the taste profile of the vegan burger. Tested alliaceous solutions bring both culinary and masking effects. And on top of the masking, we also have the full natural colour range, from pink to a more brown coloration.”
It is this combination of extensive understanding of both the market and consumers, together with strong science expertise, that Osche believes sets Symrise apart.
“Through delivering combinations of natural flavour and food stuff solutions, we are the top provider of solutions for masking, typification, enrichment and colour,” he said.