Dutch nutrition specialist DSM offers a unique and broad range of ingredient solutions for meat and dairy alternatives, helping manufacturers in these sectors to optimally formulate their product innovations.
In this interview, Gilbert Verschelling, Director Business Development & Innovation at DSM, gives us a professional assessment of the global market for meat and dairy alternatives and explains the many challenges that producers face here.
What does the plant-based market landscape look like today?
The plant-based food and beverage market is growing at a rapid pace, with DSM research – which surveyed 5,000 consumers across 10 countries to investigate current and emerging food trends – showing that 53% of people will be looking for more plant-based food and drink options in the coming three to five years. This trend has seen more players enter the market – from well-established meat and dairy alternative brands to disruptive start-ups and traditional animal protein producers who are expanding their portfolios to offer plant-based options. And beyond the retail shelf, more and more restaurants and cafés are also bolstering their menu with plant-based protein meals to appeal to the rising number of consumers following vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian diets.
What challenges do producers in the plant-based meat and dairy alternatives spaces encounter?
As both the dairy and meat alternatives markets continue to expand, consumer expectations for these products are naturally becoming more sophisticated. It is not enough anymore for products to be just plant-based; they need to offer authentic taste, texture and, increasingly, the right nutritional value too.
- Taste and texture
To develop plant-based meat alternative varieties with consistently strong consumer appeal, brands must create the authentic ‘umami’ and maillard flavors that are often associated with grilled or fried meat products, as well as the typically juicy and succulent mouthfeel that animal fat brings. Meeting these consumer demands can, however, be challenging for manufacturers, as plant-based proteins can impart undesirable flavor off-notes, and emulating the desired ‘chewy’ mouthfeel of meat without the oils and fats naturally present in animal products is even more complex. It has long been commonplace to use sodium to overcome these obstacles and create the taste and texture consumers expect from these products, but as concerns are rising worldwide about high salt levels in people’s diets, this is no longer an attractive option for brands.
Meanwhile, dairy alternative drinks do not initially possess consumer-friendly properties and require additional steps in the production process to ensure they offer the right flavor and mouthfeel. For example, starch must be made soluble and the natural sweetness in raw materials like rice and oats has to be unlocked to create the sensory profile consumers expect. Producers also need to consider the regional variations in preferences for the sweetness of plant-based dairy alternatives and tailor their formulations accordingly.
- Nutritional value
The nutrient content of both meat and dairy alternatives also needs to be evaluated by producers. Today’s consumers pay more attention to what is in the food they eat and how certain vitamins, minerals and fatty acids can help them optimize their health. In fact, DSM’s research shows that 60% of respondents will actively seek out food with more added nutrients like vitamins over the next three to five years. For many people across the globe, meat and dairy form part of a healthy, balanced diet, as these products are rich sources of protein, calcium and other nutrients.
Unfortified meat and dairy alternatives, however, often have a lower nutritional value than their traditional counterparts – and consumers are taking note. Appealing plant-based protein products that are also fortified to offer a nutritional profile that matches that of dairy and meat, are therefore increasingly in demand and can be a valuable differentiator in gaining consumer preference.
What solutions does DSM offer to help brands overcome these obstacles?
The latest ingredient innovations in the plant-based alternative market can help producers meet evolving consumer demands. Yeast extracts and hydrocolloids such as DSM’s Maxarome®, Multirome® and GELLANEER™ portfolios, can be used to mask the off-flavor notes that are typically associated with plant-based protein to create the authentic ‘umami’ taste and chewy, juicy mouthfeel that animal fat brings. The pure, concentrated Maxarome® and Multirome® taste solutions can also support producers in managing the sodium levels in plant-based, meat-free varieties by delivering intense umami, meaty flavors, without adding salt.
Meanwhile in dairy alternatives, enzymes like DSM’s Delvo®Plant range can make the starch in plant-based drinks more soluble to create the mouthfeel that consumers expect. These solutions also leverage the glucose (high sweetness) and maltose (low sweetness) inherently present in raw materials like rice and oats to help brands tailor the sweetness of products to their target demographic, without or with limited added sugar. In addition, ingredients like vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids can be added to both dairy and meat alternatives to create nutrient-rich plant-based options with enhanced health appeal.
What is your future outlook on the plant-based market, and how is DSM continuing to innovate in this space?
Demand for plant-based food and drink is anticipated to only increase in the coming years, so there’s no better time to maximize the market opportunities in this space. The meat alternatives industry, for example, is expected to more than double this decade, and as the market expands, we expect to see more innovative brand and product launches. For instance, while plant-based burger patties have long been a consumer favorite, interest in emerging applications like vegan fish products is also rising.
Meanwhile, the dairy alternatives landscape − currently valued at EUR 17.5 billion − is projected to grow at a CAGR of 3.1% between 2018 and 2025. And what is interesting is that rice and oat-based drinks are expected to outpace the rest of the plant-based beverages market, with anticipated growth rates of 4% and 20%, respectively., This suggests that producers have an opportunity to expand their offering and reach the rising number of consumers looking for great-tasting rice- and oat-based dairy alternative drinks with high nutritional value.
By leveraging its scientific and technical expertise, and in-depth understanding of consumer needs, DSM continually evaluates and innovates its integrated product portfolio. Brands can leverage this uniquely broad range of solutions for both dairy and meat alternatives to create premium plant-based food and drink varieties that deliver on market needs and facilitate growth. In terms of new developments in the pipeline, DSM is developing CanolaPRO™, a unique, plant-based protein with functional properties, a complete nutritional profile and balanced taste notes. It also offers versatile texture benefits thanks to its superior solubility, even in combination with other proteins like peas or Fava beans. CanolaPRO™ will be commercialized in 2022, with product samples already available to trial today.
What makes DSM the best partner for brands in the plant-based meat and dairy alternatives industries?
DSM has a long and successful history of serving the meat and dairy sectors across the whole value chain, and the consumer and market insights gained over decades have translated extremely well in helping us navigate the complexities of delivering appealing and nutritionally valuable meat and dairy alternative products. Today, we are a true partner and ‘one-stop-shop’ provider in these markets, offering our customers a wide range of solutions and expert services − including technical, scientific, innovation and regulatory support − for creating high-quality products that are not only plant-based, but tasty and nutritious too. Indeed, DSM leverages its extensive nutrition expertise and market-leading portfolio of science-backed nutritional solutions – including vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids – to enable producers to support front-of-pack label claims and differentiate themselves and their products in today’s competitive market.
 DSM, ‘Future of Food’ survey, 2020.
 World Health Organization, salt reduction , https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/salt-reduction, accessed on 07.05.2020.
 DSM, Immunity panel, September 2020.
 DSM, ‘Future of Food’ survey, 2020.
 DSM, 2019 Global Health Concerns study.
 Euromonitor, CAGR 2018-2025, accessed Feb 2020.
 Euromonitor, 2020.
 Mintel GNPD, 2020.