Creating Plant-based Products for Choosy Flexitarians

plant-based ingredients on pizza

Flexitarian consumers are clear about the characteristics they find lacking in traditional plant-based products

KerryDigest Fast Facts:

  • The plant-based market is steadily growing, especially among flexitarian consumers.
  • However, this growing base is beginning to expect more from plant-based foods.
  • The biggest areas of opportunity for brands in this space include improving plant-based product taste, texture and nutrition.
  • Because many consumers like the sustainability appeal of plant-based foods, its important to accentuate those claims, too.

KerryDigest Full Scoop:

The plant-based market is undergoing a transformation. From its niche origins, the category has entered the mainstream as the appetite for meat alternatives accelerates due to concerns around health, sustainability and animal welfare. Flexitarian diets are now commonplace, with growing expectations around the quality and scope of products available.

The plant-based food market, which includes dairy and meat alternatives and prepared meals, is expected to reach a value of EU€18.3b by the year 2023, representing an exciting opportunity for brands that want to capitalise on the plant-based boom.

A recent survey carried out by Kerry in August of 2020 among regular consumers of plant-based food highlighted the following:

  • 37% of plant-based protein consumers in Europe want better tasting products
  • 42% are choosing meat alternatives more frequently now than 12 months ago
  • 26% want a better range of products to choose from
  • 28% are looking for meat alternatives with better texture

This research indicates the focus for manufacturers must be on making improvements in nutrition, taste and texture while reminding consumers of the health and ethical reasons they made the shift. Here are some innovative and creative solutions that align with these areas of improvement and can help plant-based brands win in this space.

Delight with exceptional plant-based taste

Taste comes out on top, especially among flexitarian consumers who are unwilling to accept anything less than a delicious product. With our research showing that approximately one in three consumers of plant-based foods want better tasting products, a focus on taste is a must for manufacturers.

Taste is a common challenge in plant-based products. Plant proteins and plant-based ingredients can have off-notes—from the protein source and/or processing method—which would benefit from a taste masking taste modulator.

To ensure a product is full of succulence and savouriness, umami solutions and culinary flavours associated with cooking methods such as slow-roasting in the oven or searing in the grill can be used. Finally, natural flavour tonalities that taste of fresh vegetables, herbs and meat add to the authenticity of the product. To retain a product’s meat- and dairy-free labelling, plant-based taste ingredients are essential.

In tandem with taste, product performance is key to an optimised eating experience for plant-based products. Coatings and functional binders improve texture and maintain succulence, bite and mouthfeel.

Highlight plant-based health and well-being advantages

Health is important to many consumers of plant-based products. Around 85% of those surveyed by Kerry claim to walk, jog or run on a weekly basis and 57% carry out more vigorous exercise. Around seven in 10 of the regular plant-based consumers surveyed by Kerry believe consuming plant-based foods contributes to a longer life.

Many ingredients commonly found in plant-based foods are missing amino acids essential to human health and some plant-based are difficult for the body to digest and absorb.taco with plant-based ingredients

However, it can be difficult to create nutritious plant-protein products. Many ingredients commonly found in plant-based foods, with the exception of soy and potato, are missing amino acids essential to human health. It can also be a challenge to ensure plant-based products provide proteins that are digestible and available for absorption in the body.

To make up for amino acid deficiencies, combining different, complementary sources of plant proteins can help. For example, adding cereal protein, which is low in lysine but contains methionine, to legume protein, which is low in methionine but contains lysine, will result in a more balanced and nutritious product.

For foods with a higher protein quality, protein complementation and fortification can be used during product development. To improve the digestibility of plant proteins, processing via soaking, cooking, concentration or isolation can help.

Tell your meat-free sustainability story

Consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious and are seeking to reduce their meat consumption in the fight against climate change.

The production of plant-based food generally uses fewer natural resources than animal products and plant-based options are perceived to be more environmentally friendly. In an attempt to ensure items are ethically sourced and have limited environmental impact, consumers are generally curious about the ingredients in plant-based products, including provenance.

To effectively communicate the sustainability benefits of their products, brands are turning to storytelling and marketing to help share such information as well as on-pack callouts and messaging. Brands can convey information about farms and facilities along the supply chain as well as statistics around food waste and carbon footprint.

Because animal welfare is a significant consideration for those who consume plant-based foods—it was cited as an influence by almost three in four of those we surveyed—there’s still plenty of appeal in highlighting the animal-free nature of a product, even for flexitarians seeking products that mimic the taste of meat. By creating meat alternatives that help consumers satisfy their ethical concerns, and their appetites, brands can grow a loyal follow.

To learn more about creating winning plant-based food products, download our new eBook, “Create Winning Plant-based Solutions”. To find out more about our plant-based products, or discuss partnering with Kerry, contact us.

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