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Ingredion Presents Top 5 Solutions to the Innovation Challenges Facing The Plant-based Sector

  • Ingredion presents the top 5 solutions for brands to overcome critical industry-wide challenges and take advantage of the rapid growth and expansion in the plant-based category.

The demand for plant-based protein is increasing exponentially, growing 43% over the last two years – two and a half times faster than total food sales, according to The Plant Based Foods Association.  However, there are major innovation challenges to the future growth in the industry.   New and varied ingredients, along with formulation breakthroughs and increased manufacturing channels, are all needed to meet consumer demand.

So, how do you innovate, grow and scale to keep pace with the increasing demand of buyers? At the upcoming Plant Based World Expo, Ingredion’s Maria Tolchinsky, Senior Global Strategic Marketing Manager, Plant Based Proteins and Karen Constanza, Marketing Manager, Meat and Meat Alternatives will share insights on the fast evolving meat and dairy alternatives markets and how companies can grow market share in the Alternative Universe of plant-based foods. Additionally, below is our Top Five list of what brands need to overcome critical industry-wide challenges and take advantage of the rapid growth and expansion for the plant-based category.

© Ingredion

Here Maria discusses five solutions to common challenges within the plant-based industry.

1. Tried and True Trifecta: Price, Taste and Convenience

Consumers, specifically flexitarians, looking for a more varied and healthier diet, want to eat alternative sources of protein and buy products that are better for them and better for the planet. Indeed, studies show that a meat-eater’s diet can produce almost double the CO2 emissions of a vegan diet,1 and there is growing awareness that plant-based diets can support a more sustainable lifestyle.

However, consumers will only purchase these products if they taste great, are readily available and are affordable. Currently, plant-based products cost more, and while they are positioned increasingly on shelves in the main aisles alongside their animal-based alternatives, the availability and accessibility of plant-based products still need to increase significantly. In fact, according to the Good Food Institute, U.S. plant-based meats represent only around 1 to 1.5% of the global meat market2.

At Ingredion, we are constantly innovating to make plant-based products consumers crave by combining our best tasting plant protein ingredients with our proven texture, and sensory expertise to deliver solutions that consumers will buy again and again. We partner with explorers in the Alternative Universe, whether alternative meat, dairy, snacks, and even pet food, leveraging our ingredients, formulations, and expertise to help you launch and grow. Pea protein isolate with superior taste, structured vegetable proteins to mimic the bite and chewiness of meat (wheat and soy-free), plant proteins from fava and chickpea, and food systems solutions – all to help you get to market faster.

Plant-Based-Seafood-Patty Ingredion
© Ingredion

2. Innovation, Technology and Scalability: Yes, Please

To make high-quality plant-based food more widely available and more affordable, the development of new tools and game-changing technology is critical. In our ingredient innovation, this could mean developing cleaner taste and colorless pulse proteins that are easier to formulate and appeal to consumers. For manufacturing, this could mean investment in capacity-building food processing equipment that adds scalability to meet growing demand.

Ingredient innovation and supply, coupled with technology and processing innovation can drive acceleration toward affordable and accessible plant protein for all, and enable more rapid growth of the plant-based industry.

This is why Ingredion takes a systems approach to innovation. We start with proprietary insights and resources to help brands understand the trends and then work with their development teams to navigate the complexities of the formulation and market challenges.  By co-creating, we can accelerate the innovation for a faster go-to-market strategy execution.

© Ingredion

3. Prioritizing Nutrition: COVID Showed Us The Way

Health is the number one reason consumers consider buying plant-based alternatives.3   Balancing affordability and nutrition in plant-based new product development is now sharply in focus. Products such as vegan cheese with zero protein content are no longer acceptable. Consumer expectations have changed. The challenge is to formulate nutritious products, which deliver the right sensory appeals, and reflect consumer demands for low fat, sugar and salt, but also offer a positive health benefit by including macronutrients such as protein, fiber and carbohydrates.

With Ingredion’s rich heritage in understanding consumer perceptions of claims, labels and ingredients, we know that consumer scrutiny into the nutritional properties of plant-based foods will only grow. Our team is excited to deliver innovative solutions that reinforce healthier diets and lifestyles, rising to the challenge of the discerning consumer.

Cheese-Texture-solutions Ingredion
© Ingredion

4. Breakthrough Ingredients Boosting Formulation Possibilities For Impact

More varied and functional ingredients are critical for scale and innovation.  When selecting a source of plant protein, it’s important to access up-to-date insights into changing consumer preferences and ingredient acceptability. Soy is now perceived as a less sustainable protein source, whereas whole pea protein is increasingly accepted in a wide range of applications – even plant-based milk.

Breakthroughs in pea protein mean it now offers high functionality, cleaner taste as well as appealing consumer attributes, such as ‘source of protein,’ ‘gluten-free’ and ‘soy-free.’ Supply matters, and in addition to nutritional benefits, pea protein is now sustainably grown and manufactured in North America.

At Ingredion, we research, seek out and invest in ingredients that can add functionality, sustainability, and differentiate a product, especially as the consumer becomes more sophisticated at reading labels. Quinoa, for example, is familiar to consumers, and as a flour it can now be used by food manufacturers in a wide range of applications to add protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber. However, uninterrupted supply is a consideration when selecting ingredients to formulate with. With that in mind, Ingredion’s HOMECRAFT® Quinoa flour is grown, harvested and milled in a completely vertically integrated operation in Canada.

CleanLabelSolutions Ingredion
© Ingredion

5. Next-Generation technology in The Alternative Universe

Technology plays a critical role in Ingredion’s ingredient innovation in the alternative protein sector. Case in point, fermentation, perceived as a natural process can solve challenges and ethical considerations for both businesses and consumers. Formerly Clara Foods, The Every Company’s fermentation-derived pepsin (FDP) is the only animal-free pepsin enzyme that is bioidentical to porcine pepsin and supports non-animal, cruelty-free, kosher and vegan claims among others. We were proud to be The Every Company’s go-to-market partner.

Further, Ingredients such as ultra-performance pulse concentrates and flours are now possible because of recent advances in deflavoring technology. This removes the bitterness associated with pulses for a cleaner taste that creates new application possibilities where the inherent flavor may previously have been an issue, such as dairy and alternative dairy.

The EVERY Company
©The EVERY Company

To request Ingredion samples so that you can experience the possibilities, contact us here.

Bonus: New Application Opportunities For All

Continuous innovation will enable brands to explore new categories and applications in the plant-based universe. From emerging markets in whole muscle chicken, fish and marbled steak to grain-free pet foods and adding pulse flours to breakfast cereals – the opportunities are wide-ranging, surprising and exciting.

At Ingredion we explore with our partners the possibilities for innovation and novelty. With the majority of the plant-based sector still mostly burgers, the opportunities for meaningful growth and category penetration abound.

The Future of Plant-based Foods

The alternative universe, born out of the growth of the plant-based sector, will be one that is more sustainable, and one that delivers higher quality plant-based products that are more accessible and affordable. Meeting consumer demands and expectations for plant-based products and overcoming critical production and innovation challenges, however, are paramount. There are plenty of formulation challenges to overcome, but the use of the right ingredients, including proteins, is key. Let’s go to the future together.

To learn more, click here, and we will see you at Plant Based World Expo.

  1. Euromonitor International, Food and Beverage Key Trends and Growth Frontiers, 2020
  2. Ingredion: The Dawn of a New Era panel discussion
  3. Innova Trends Survey 2020
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