Are you interested in the plant-based food and beverage market? Do you want to know where innovation is headed in this important food industry segment? We invite you to keep reading this article where we also delve deeper into the way in which nuts are influencing many of the new plant-based food launches.
The growing plant-based market
The European plant-based food market has experienced a significant growth during the last few years. According to a study by Nielsen MarketTrack for Smart Protein Project—a project related to European Union’s Horizon 2020—, in Europe this market grew by 2.4 billion euros in 2018 and up to 3.6 billion euros in 2020, influenced by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, since consumers are more aware of their diet and its effects on their health.
Studying more in-depth the way in which the market has been growing in different countries of the European Union, based on data provided by the aforementioned study, the main plant-based food and beverage markets are the United Kingdom and Germany, with a 76% and 36% growth, respectively, just in the past year.
Within the plant-based products, the fastest-growing market is the plant-based meat market, which grew up to 60% in the last two years with the United Kingdom at the lead. This is followed in second place by the plant-based milk market, which continues to see growth in the double digits in Europe, with a 23% increase just last year. Germany and Spain are the main drivers in the growth of this important category.
Other important segments that are experiencing a significant growth within plant-based developments are plant-based cheese, yoghurts, fish and 100% plant-based ice cream. All of these have seen significant rise, as is the case of lactose-free cheese—a market that has grown 112% in just two years.
Plant-based drink and food innovations
According to the recent Plant-Based Foods Poised for Explosive Growth study by Bloomberg Intelligence, the main drivers that will propel plant-based food across the world will be global restaurant chains, leading plant-based food manufacturers, and consumer perception of the health and sustainability benefits of adopting alternative food options.
What challenges is the food industry expected to face? Nowadays, consumers look for brands that are authentic and capable of aligning with their beliefs. Sustainable supply and ecological practices must be integrated into the entire supply chain. In addition, brands need to be aware that, even if buyers turn to plant-based solutions for being healthier and more sustainable, if the flavour and consumption experience are not up to par with traditional animal-based alternatives, they will not seek their products.
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Where is plant-based food and beverage innovation headed? We can highlight the following lines of action:
1.The endless search for new, alternative ingredients
Food companies are going above and beyond to find and include the most diverse vegetable ingredients that are free from allergens, sustainable and free from processed products. Soybean and gluten used to be the most common ingredients in plant-based products, which are now being replaced by products such as algae, mycelia, legumes, cereals and nuts and its processed forms, such as pastes and flours.
2. Increased product offering
Being capable of offering consumers a greater variety of vegetable sourced alternatives is another food industry workhorse. All you need to do is take a look at how the offer of plant-based beverages has grown in the aisles of supermarkets during the last few years. Manufacturers are hard at work seeking ingredients that not only offer a more nutritious profile, but that also offer a flavour and texture that is as close as possible to the traditional alternative.
3. Hybrid creation
New formulations based on animal-vegetable hybrid products are still of particular interest. There are many brands and new start-ups that are diving deeper into this trend. Mixing animal proteins with vegetable ingredients helps manufacturers improve the sensory profile of foods while still connecting with consumer profiles who look for more sustainable products.
4. Improving the flavour, texture and appearance
Today we are seeing the emergence of technologies that aim to imitate animal fats, or technologies that try to leverage the vegetable proteins of certain products. One example is the prolamin technology, which leverages the natural protein of maize to bestow vegetable cheese with qualities such as melting and stretching. We can also associate innovation when attempting to add creaminess to cheeses, ice creams and vegan yoghurts with processed nuts. Nut-based creams and sauces are helping a number of manufacturers imitate the creaminess of dairy products.
Plant-based trends and new launches
Below we share with you a few innovative examples of new plant-based foods and beverages:
1. Pistachio milk
Dairy alternative manufacturers are expanding their product offering with sights on finding more nutritious and delicious solutions. The plant-based beverage segment is seeing a rise in launches based on pistachio, which has a lower calorie profile than other nut-based milks.
2. Almond powder drink
Nut powder is experiencing a significant growth. By applying a drying process, almond paste is turned into a powder that can be easily dissolved in water to instantly create almond milk. These products are reinventing the dairy beverage market, considerably expanding it toward plant-based options.
3. Mixing real milk with plants
Some manufacturers are trying their hand at hybrid products in the dairy segment, offering milks that combine cow milk with nut milk.
4. Plant-based liquid egg substitute
An ideal product for vegan bakery made out of beans.
5. Plant waters: cactus and coconuts
A segment with greatly varied offers, such as tree waters (maple and birch), beverages based on aloe vera, coconut water, and artichoke water.
6. New fermented proteins
In the search for alternative proteins, the use of fungus-based fermented proteins is gaining momentum. In some cases, they can already imitate dairy substances such as dairy serum or casein, used in the manufacture of vegan ice creams, milks and yoghurts.
7. Defatted peanut powder
There is an increasing variety of alternative flours, with nut flours being of particular interest since they are a source of energy, protein, minerals and good fats. This is a highly versatile vegan product that can be combined with yoghurts, shakes, plant-based drinks and others, allowing for a myriad of product options such as bars, sponge cakes, pancakes, sauces and cookies.
Nuts: the common denominator in plant-based drinks and food trends
Nuts are having an increasingly important role in plant-based foods and beverages due to their versatility, nutritional value and attractiveness in the eye of consumers. The addition of these ingredients improves the protein content of products of a myriad of industries, such as chocolate, baked goods and plant-based drinks. In addition, they are a viable alternative to traditional grain-based flours, with their use being a plus in all kinds of gluten-free products.
Do you work in the food industry? Are you looking for a nut supplier for a new plant-based product? At Itac Professional, B2B brand of Importaco Group, we have a track record of over 75 years as nut manufacturers for the food industry, offering custom-tailored solutions in a multitude of industry segments. Contact us for more information about our products and company.
DISCOVER THE LATEST INNOVATIONS WITH ALMONDS AND PEANUTS IN NEW PRODUCT DEVELOPMENTS
Smart Protein Project. Smart Protein Plant-Based Food Sector Report.
European Vegetarian Union. V-label. Europe goes plant-based: Insights and how-to’s for small medium brands
Forbes. How Product Innovation Is Driving The Plant-Based Food Sector Forward
Food & Beverage Insider. Plant-based ingredient innovation.
Food Navigator. Does the blended plant-based x meat protein category have legs? ‘The biggest challenge is brand positioning’