Flexitarian Consumers Driving Innovation in Meat and Dairy Alternatives

Aug 03, 2022 — Innovation across the plant-based field is moving at high speed, with companies experimenting with new ingredients, striving to meet the pillars of consumer demand: nutrition, taste, flavor and texture .

With a growing base of flexitarian consumers, the food crisis and demands for environmental sustainability are shaking up the market. FoodIngredientsFirst talk to industry players from Kerry, ADM, Corbion, GNT, Synergy and Univar Solutions about what these changes are and how they’re shaping the space.

“Today’s food landscape is dramatically changing the way consumers view food,” said Mike Haracz, Corporate Chef Development Lead, North America, Food Ingredients for Foodology, Univar Solutions.

“Although traditional meat and dairy products are increasing in cost, the difference between traditional products and their plant-based counterparts is not drastic enough for consumers to completely change their diets.”

Flexitarian Consumers Driving Innovation in Meat and Dairy Alternatives 96b37b6a f2fd 4e30 b35aFlavor, taste and texture are key to meat alternatives.tightening the competition
As inflation continues to drive up prices across the industry, consumers will be looking for food options that offer the best value for money, and manufacturers will need to prove their products are worth the price, Natalie Sheil, Synergy European Category Manager Flavors, light touches.

“Traditionally, plant-based alternatives have been more expensive than their meat or dairy counterparts. But as competition increases and big box retailers like Tesco commit to making plant-based diets more affordable and accessible, the gap is closing. Looking ahead, as prices for meat alternatives continue to fall, we expect to see much closer competition between meat and alternatives.”

According to Haracz, there is a growing number of flexitarian households integrating plant-based products into their diets while still using traditional animal-based sources of protein. “(Environmental) sustainability is also a driver for the increased use of plant-based protein, as the environmental impact of the foods, beverages and household items consumers use is changing the landscape of what people buy.”

Megan Passman, global information manager for Corbion, stresses that prices for meat alternatives are rising, along with traditional meat products. “Inflation is affecting everyone, regardless of whether you are a meat eater, a vegetarian or a flexitarian.”

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taste is king
One of the main factors driving interest in meat and dairy alternatives lies in their health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure, adds Passman. Animal and environmental welfare and securing food supplies in an unstable and unpredictable world are also key, he says.

Jacquelyn Schuh, Global Marketing Director, Protein Nutrition Solutions at ADM, highlights that consumers are interested in ingredient diversity, with a focus on nutritional impact, as well as protein diversity and quality.

“While nutrition can drive consumers toward alternative meat and dairy products, taste and texture should not be overlooked.” When formulating plant-based meat and dairy alternatives, it is important to refine and replicate the “bite and chew” or “sip and feel” that consumers have come to expect in traditional meat or dairy experiences to lower the barrier to entry and encourage return purchases, he explains.

“Taste is king. This is not just about flavor. It is a complete taste experience that delights consumers. Plant-based meat alternatives should be savory and meat-like in texture, and plant-based ice cream should be sweet and creamy. With innovations, the bar has been raised for consumer expectations of plant-based products,” explains Nicola Weldon, Kerry Europe Plant-Based Strategy Director.

Plus, color in particular is seen as “vital” to making a positive first impression on consumers, says Steven Taylor, key account manager at GNT Group. “If a plant-based burger looks like a beef burger, it helps build consumer acceptance and expectations of product quality. It even influences enjoyment: the hue and intensity of food colors affect the perception of taste and aroma.”Flexitarian Consumers Driving Innovation in Meat and Dairy Alternatives 7794f710 8368 484d accaWhen it comes to cheese, consumers are in high demand for its dairy alternative options.

sea-ing forward
Plant-based seafood is a category that is growing strongly from a relatively small base, Weldon adds.

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“Consumer drivers are slightly different here versus meat alternatives: consumers are looking to reduce their meat consumption for health reasons, but fish and shellfish are generally perceived as healthy. The opportunity is more driven by consumer needs around the environment/sustainability.”

According to Sheil, the alternative fish market is seeing a growing attraction to products such as salmon, tuna and even plant-based shellfish, such as squid and shrimp, to expand plant-based offerings.

“This increase in product development is due to the growing understanding of plant-based proteins and how they behave, coupled with continued innovation in flavor technology, allowing manufacturers to break the boundaries of what was previously possible in this space.

Within the sphere, Taylor explains that the company has been able to develop effective, clean-label coloring solutions for a wide range of seafood alternatives, including plant-based salmon and tuna steaks, smoked salmon, prawns, canned tuna and even caviar.

market gaps
According to Schuh, there is a clear blank space in the alternative meat industry for true whole muscle. “Whole muscle-like alternatives are currently underrepresented in family meals compared to their traditional meat counterparts. Positively, there is an opportunity for growth as global consumers are willing to replace meat with plant-based meat products.”

Weldon points out that dairy cheese is another space where industry innovation still has a long way to go. “Plant-based cheese is another area where there is significant potential. Consumers are looking for an authentic dairy cheese experience, whether enjoyed hot or cold.”

“Dairy cheese is a workhorse that can be sliced, grated and melted for use in everything from sandwiches to sauces. There is a significant gap in the market for a plant-based alternative that has the same versatility as dairy cheese.”

Specifically, consumers miss the range of profiles available with dairy cheese. They expect the same variety of flavors and formats of plant-based alternatives that exist for dairy cheese, Weldon stresses.

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“It’s all about the meltdown. Melting cheese is instinctively satisfying and nostalgic. Triggers a significant emotional response based on the consumer’s positive memories of dairy cheese. A genuine melt encourages indulgence and excites people, while a poor melt is deeply disappointing to consumers.”Flexitarian Consumers Driving Innovation in Meat and Dairy Alternatives e71cc775 a143 48de bfcdAlternatives to seafood are growing in popularity, with industrial opportunities for color and flavor.

Ingredients: key opportunity
Looking ahead, Taylor stresses that health is a big driver for the plant-based category. “With shoppers paying more attention than ever to how their products are made, it’s important to clean up ingredient lists to maximize consumer acceptance.”

Meat and dairy products are naturally full of important vitamins and minerals that are essential for human health, such as iron and vitamin B12, adds Sheil.

“This means there is a key opportunity for manufacturers to ensure that the nutritional value of traditional meat and dairy products is replicated in plant-based alternatives. Until this is achieved, many flexitarian consumers will continue to consume meat and dairy alongside plant-based alternatives, to help ensure they maintain vitamin and mineral intake through their diet.”

According to Haracz, the market has a variety of products derived from soybeans, peas, beans, wheat, nuts, seeds and oats. “New protein sources are still being explored while optimizing the process used to make the current plant-based offerings on the market.”

“As the quality, nutrition, sustainability and awareness of these products continue to meet and exceed standards set by the consumer, it will drive increased sales and continue to influence consumers to incorporate plant-based protein into their diet. diet while introducing new processes such as fermentation. and cellular agriculture for ingredient innovation.”

By Andria Kades

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