Why are plants a decisive factor in the 2019 food trend?
Consumer demand for plant-based foods is increasing, prompting manufacturers to develop high-protein, delicious meat substitutes with varying results.
The emergence of plants as an alternative source of protein will be one of the decisive food trends in 2019. From Impossible Burger to Tesco's Wicked Kitchen range of ready-to-eat foods, plant-based foods are eroding the traditional position of meat in the center of the plate.
Affected by lifestyle and environmental factors, the global plant protein market is growing rapidly. According to market research firm Mordor Intelligence, the compound annual growth rate of the plant protein market is expected to exceed 7% between 2019 and 2023, and has now reached $6 billion (£4.6 billion).
Foods that extract protein from soy, wheat and other vegetables are not only popular among vegans and vegetarians, they have also won the favor of meat consumers.
About 80,000 people in the UK joined the list of vegetarians this year. They are called omnivores, or “elastic vegetarians”, while less than 30,000 people say they are vegan.
The reason behind the shift from animal proteins to plant proteins is that there is sufficient evidence, but plant proteins themselves are also attractive.
Thomas Ullram, Food and Plant Category Manager at Givaudan, said: "In our European Plant Attitude Consumer Study, we found that the main motivations for choosing meat substitutes include health (41%), animal welfare (36%) and Environmental issues (32%)."
“But even more surprising is that nearly one-fifth of market consumers simply eat these products because they like the taste of these products or because of the trend, which is a good indication that plant protein foods have become mainstream.”
Food companies are responding to this trend with a lot of innovation. Tesco recently launched new cakes, pies and desserts, expanding its range of vegetarian Wicked Kitchen to 44. Quorn, a leader in the meat substitute market, launched nine new products this fall as part of its largest new product development initiative in history.
At the same time, the challenger brand Oumph! has been approved by Tesco's soy protein line.
Plant protein has also become a different point for marketers. According to research by Innova Market Insight, global plant products have grown by 62% in the four years to 2017.
Ullram said: "Health is undoubtedly a key driver for consumers to turn to the source of vegetable protein. The use of vegetable protein has solved people's concerns about saturated fat and cholesterol, as well as the use of antibiotics and hormones related to meat."
According to Rebecca Fitzgerald, marketing manager at Kerry, the nutritional benefits of protein include helping to control weight, building and maintaining weight loss, and supporting muscle health, appetite and hunger control.
“Non-meat protein can provide these nutritional benefits while giving consumers more choices, but still offering taste,” she said.
The challenge for manufacturers is how to integrate the vegetable protein into the food that consumers want to eat while providing the nutrients the consumer needs.
According to Fitzgerald, Kerry's latest plant protein ingredient, ProDiem, provides dairy-free, soy-free and vegan-free protein that enhances the nutritional content of nutritious drinks, ready-to-eat beverages and nutritional bars without affecting flavor or Texture.
Chris Whiting, director of food products at Synergy Flavours, also believes that the boundaries between everyday foods and dietary supplements are blurring, providing opportunities for manufacturers.
Whiting said: "They are innovating with new proteins such as soy, hemp, peas, pumpkin seeds and brown rice, which have their own flavor characteristics that can affect the final product."
He added that ensuring that these products provide nutrition and flavor can be a technical challenge, which is why manufacturers and flavor experts such as Synergy collaborate on new innovations.
Givaudan is also looking for ways to crack the taste. While consumers are actively seeking to reduce meat consumption, Ullram says they still want the meat flavor and taste they are used to, which poses structural and taste challenges.
The company has recently developed a range of patent-pending ingredients to improve the taste and taste of meat substitutes. Givaudan's goal is to bring plant proteins closer to meat proteins, giving them a truly delicious, identifiable meat flavor.
Ullram said: "We add cooking notes, such as smoke or barbecue, to common cooking techniques to enhance the authenticity and appeal of the ingredients."
Soy and wheat
Traditionally, soybeans and wheat have been the most popular sources of plant protein.
Kerry's Fitzgerald stated that “in the field of meat substitutes, wheat protein has been used in meat analogs for many years and has many attractive properties such as high fiber and protein content.”
“Similarly, soy has the same characteristics, but it is gluten-free, which is a trend in most Western European countries. Both proteins need to provide a delicious taste experience, so know which market you want to expand to and What local consumers prefer is very important."
Fitzgerald says peas are another common source of vegetable protein. She added that Kerry is developing a pea-based product that is suitable for the meat replacement category and has the same distinctive characteristics as soybean and wheat protein, but without allergens.
In the meat substitute market, products rarely contain a single source of protein. Most are composed of a mixture of proteins, usually containing peas, wheat and soy, and different sources of protein provide different nutrients, textures and tastes.
However, many non-meat protein consumers are looking for an allergen-free option that may limit the attractiveness of some of the underlying proteins.
For consumers who want a natural source of more non-meat protein in their diet, ingredients such as beans, lentils and nuts contain high levels of protein, as do dairy products such as eggs and yogurt.
Colin Campbell, director of product development at Wessanen UK, said that Wessanen's Whole Earth peanut butter brand contains more than 25 grams of protein per 100 grams, giving people the opportunity to add protein to their diets through natural sources.
He said that those who want to increase their protein intake often choose foods rich in other nutrients. In addition to protein, Campbell also pointed out that peanuts are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, and contain a lot of unsaturated fat.
As for the next major source of non-meat protein - protein-rich edible seaweed, such as seaweed, is usually used to wrap sushi or rice balls, while red algae can be used as snacks or fish dishes, soups, desserts, breads and salads. One of the ingredients is a food worthy of attention.
According to Whiting, Synergy is expected to innovate in the future with algae, fish and insect proteins, as well as meat substitute proteins such as wheat bran and Indonesian soybean meal.