Plant-based trends 2022: Cleaning up the label, snacking innovation, egg replacements and alternative proteins

The plant-based space will continue its dynamic growth and diversification in 2022.

03 Jan 2022 — In a highly competitive space such as plant-based NPD, it can be difficult for brands and businesses to keep up with dynamic consumer needs. Being one step ahead and providing products that answer demands before competitors will help producers stay at the forefront of innovation. With this in mind, FoodIngredientsFirst takes a deep dive into the plant-based trends for the next 12 months.

Experts from CP KelcoADMAlmond Board of California, Puratos, Kalsec and GNT discuss the plant-based trends shaping 2022. 

Flexitarians forward
Flexitarians are the new drivers of the plant-based revolution, underscores Adeline Saadi, senior manager, business development at CP Kelco. 

“Their interest stems from a focus on their health as well as the health of the planet. Plant-based foods and beverages have a reputation of being ‘good for you.’ That’s why innovation with the simplest, nature-based ingredient list is imperative.” 

According to Wendy van Buren, global commercial growth leader for alternative proteins at ADM, the plant-based market is booming as consumer demand has skyrocketed for alternatives to traditional protein offerings. 

“Many shoppers are taking on a flexitarian approach to plant-based consumption, which means they’re trying to eat more plant-based foods and beverages versus removing animal-based proteins from their diets.” She explains that these consumers are interested in ingredient diversity and improved nutrient density in products. 

“In the US, 68% of flexitarians prefer a blend of two or more plant proteins in meat alternatives, and 52% prefer a blend in dairy alternatives. Brands should look to leverage these desires by developing new products with blends of multiple plant proteins that bring nutrition into the spotlight.”

While nutrition is essential to most global consumers who identify as flexitarians, vegetarians or vegans, they also believe that taste is equally crucial in plant-based products, details Van Buren.

“That underscores the need for brands to deliver on both attributes to drive repeat purchases. One solution is to incorporate carefully selected plant protein blends in plant-forward formulations. Not only do blends satisfy nutritional desires, but they can also provide functionality and a positive sensory experience.”

Egg replacements are also expected to gain traction this year.Next level alternatives
Moreover, Van Buren says the increased demand for plant-based offerings has spurred innovation in fermented, cell-based and 3D printed proteins. 

“However, there is a gap in consumer acceptance, especially by those scrutinizing processed ingredients and product labels. New technology, processing and formulation advancements that help satisfy consumers’ clean label requirements, including shorter lists with recognizable ingredients, will be paramount in advancing alternative proteins this year.” 

Ingredient innovation takes the plant-based category to the next level, flags Saadi at CP Kelco. 

“Mouthfeel is a critical part of the food and beverage experience, and plant proteins require texture finesse. Sensory aspects can be the last hurdle for getting consumers to try a new product. Our nature-based ingredients were developed to solve difficult formulation challenges like stabilizing protein, and help products look and taste their best, with a consistency that will encourage repeat purchases,” she explains.

We’re excited to be part of improved innovation in the hot bite and cold bite sectors of plant-based meat alternatives with options to formulate using nature-based ingredients that help product developers whittle down and clean up their ingredient deck, notes Saadi.

Keeping up appearances 
Gareth Jones, protein sector specialist at Kalsec Europe, says that natural plant-based spices and extracts are essential in delivering the flavor and color of the food consumers are looking for, to substitute the animal protein products they would typically eat.  

“The innovations in plant-based alternatives are reliant on these types of products to allow manufacturers to deliver products to customers in as “clean label” a way as possible.”

For Jones, the key long-term challenge for plant-based products will be the drive to reduce the complexity of product formulations and labeling.  

Currently, consumers can accept that to deliver the products they want, that ingredient formulations are complex. However, the long-term aim of kitchen cupboard-based products is still very much present, and this effect will be felt in the plant-based space, he outlines. 

“The brand which can deliver great-tasting products with the cleanest label will have a distinct advantage in the market.”

Meanwhile, Maartje Hendrickx, market development manager at GNT, shares how color can play a crucial role in plant-based NPD.

“It’s widely used to mimic the appearance of animal products, but it can add benefits in a variety of ways. For example, it can help to showcase vegetable ingredients to emphasize products’ health benefits. It could also be used to create something new and unexpected, appealing to shoppers who are looking for more variation and excitement in their diets.”

“GNT is helping brands create a vast array of spectacular plant-based products, from uber-realistic burgers, sausages and mincemeat to milk drinks, yogurt and ice cream, notes Hendrickx. “More recently, we’ve focused on plant-based fish, with products ranging from salmon steaks to tuna carpaccio.”

Brands are leveraging new products with blends of multiple plant proteins.Nuts for snacking
In snacking innovation, Dariela Roffe-Rackind, director of Europe and global public relations at the Almond Board of California, believes 2022 will bring a wealth of opportunity.

“The snacks category has continued to grow, with 56% of consumers snacking more since the start of the pandemic, combined with a 4.3% growth for new product introductions in the category globally in 2020 vs. 2019.”

Yet, consumers are struggling to find convenient options when it comes to plant-based, with more than one in four (26%) flexitarians agreeing that inconvenience is a barrier for choosing plant-based products, according to ProVeg International, she underscores.  

Further, snacks are a great “canvas for innovation” regarding plant-based territories, she says. “Consumers look to snacks to fulfill a multitude of needs including wellness and convenience – all at varying times of day, Roffe-Rackind continues. “With their strong nutrition profile and 14 different forms to suit any snacking occasion, almonds are perfect for helping developers meet the snacking needs of consumers.”

Meanwhile, Guillaume Bourneau, business unit director of plant-based solutions at Puratos, says the “conscious consumerism” movement has prompted increased demand for more sustainable, ethically sourced and environmentally-friendly food choices, resulting in a need for greater transparency and visibility of value and supply chains. 

“Plant-based launches are constantly advancing, with nutritious and sustainable products at the core of innovations in the bakery sector. For context, plant-based bakery product launches have increased 29% year-on-year over the last decade, while plant-based patisserie introductions grew 28%,” he notes.

Egg replacements trending
Bourneau also anticipates innovation around replacing specific ingredients, such as eggs.

“A recent survey of 6,000 consumers in Europe noted strong potential demand for egg replacements, particularly in Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands. The global egg replacers market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 6.2% from 2017 to 2022, to exceed US$1.28 billion by 2022.”

Puratos’ Intens Egg Replacement is a modular clean label enzyme-based solution that replaces eggs in bread or pastry without impacting dough rheology, appearance, texture or taste. This module can be added to any recipe, on top of existing bread improvers,” notes Bourneau.

Meanwhile, Saadi at CP Kelco says with much encouragement from consumers, the plant-based category is expanding into a broader range of product offerings to match every snacking and dining occasion – as well as a more sophisticated, gourmet palate. 

“This includes cleaner label meat alternatives and egg alternatives that can provide protein and help home chefs transform other recipes as well. Our goal should be to ensure consumers have abundant, affordable choices with no compromises in taste and texture,” she concludes. 

By Elizabeth Green 

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