In 2018, Kerry Group announced its ambition to become a plant-based leader. True to its word, the taste and nutrition company has since innovated extensively in the plant-based sector, from vegan cheese to meat alternatives.
In the past year, Kerry has extended its alt protein capabilities with the strategic acquisition of two biotech companies — German precision fermentation company c-LEctra and Mexican enzyme manufacturer Enmex. The company has also continued to innovate by launching its own range of vegan cheeses under the Pure brand.
We spoke to Ian Carroll, Strategy Director at Kerry, to find out more about the company’s progress in 2022 and plans for the new year.
What plant-based innovations did you introduce in 2022?
In 2022, we have worked with our customers to innovate in plant-based meat and dairy alternatives. Through collaboration with customers, our taste, protein, and functional technologies have been included in new product launches across Europe. As an example, our newly launched plant-based cream cheese taste solution is natural and vegan-suitable. It delivers the taste attributes associated with dairy-based cream cheese.
What were the biggest challenges?
We know from the research Kerry commissioned in 2022, Understanding the European Plant-Based Consumer, that plant-based consumers want more and better. They would like to see improvements in taste, clean-label ingredients, quality, texture, and price, to name a few areas.
The challenge within plant-based foods is to help make both meat and dairy alternatives more affordable, healthy, nutritious, sustainable, tasty, and with a cleaner back of pack. We continue to work hard in the growing plant food and beverage category to improve and deliver on customer and consumer expectations.
What were the highlights?
Kerry uncovered actionable insights and opportunities to address consumers’ expectations of plant-based burgers and plant-based cheese slices through our global research. In 2022, we studied over 1,500 consumers across four countries — the US, the UK, Australia, and Brazil — to get a deep understanding of consumers’ desired taste experience from plant-based burgers and plant-based cheese. This included:
- Consumers’ sensory perceptions
- Their delighters, existing pain points, and unmet expectations
- A rulebook for delighting consumers’ overall plant-based taste experience.
Armed with these new consumer insights, we can help our customers and innovation partners produce winning products and thrive in a dynamic and fast-growing market.
What are the company’s plans for 2023?
We at Kerry are continuing to deliver against customer and consumer demands. As a leader in both taste and nutrition, we are working with our global, regional and local customers, using our culinary & insights, development & application, and product process technologies to bring new and innovative plant-based solutions to the marketplace.
Following our newly launched plant-based cream cheese taste solution, we will soon launch a new taste and succulence technology for plant-based meat. This is designed to deliver the taste, mouthfeel, and melting attributes of the fat found in meat, whilst enabling a total fat, saturated fat, and calorie reduction in plant-based meat.
2023 will continue to see work to improve taste, texture, and nutrition, as well as looking for ways to better optimise and reduce costs.