Are you interested in the plant-based food and beverage market? Do you want to know what are the most important plant-based trends? Would you like to discover what products are being launched in this industry? 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.


In particular, and based on various studies and reports from recent years, we share interesting facts and figures about the plant based industry. 



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.


Keep learning: Dairy alternative products, a growing category in search of the best nuts  



Plant-based innovation


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.



You might be interested in: The importance of knowing your supplier’s food traceability process 



Where is plant-based food and beverage innovation headed? What are the emerging plant-based trends? Keep reading this article.



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.



5. New technologies for the creation of alternative ingredients 


Technological advances, such as precision fermentation, are enabling the development of alternatives to dairy or meat derivatives. The world’s growing population and increased adherence to plant-based diets are driving innovation in this area. 


Fermentation is a technology based on chemical reactions produced by bacteria, yeasts and fungi that allow the transformation of sugars into acids or proteins and alcohols. 


What is the benefit of this technology? It helps solve huge challenges in the plant-based foodstuffs industry, such as the generation of new proteins and fats. In addition, it allows certain functional and sensory limitations of current meat alternatives and their derivatives to be overcome.


Nuts fermentation is part of the production of cashew-nuts-based vegan cheese, which undergoes a fermentation process similar to that of milk in the production of a conventional cheese. The vegan yoghurt segment similarly makes use of fermented nuts. 


Plant-based 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. 


Have you heard about these plant-based trends and product launches? 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.



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State of Snacking: Future Trends. 25 Powerful Trends Shaping the Future of Food and Snacking within the Next Decade. 2024. Mondelez in partnership with The Food Institute

Fermentation revolutionizes the food industry. Tecnifood.

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’


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