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Inside the plant-based protein market

The plant-based protein market

Consumer demand for sustainable products and knowledge of the health benefits of protein has driven the need for protein from plants, such as pea, hemp, rice, oats and beyond. A decade ago, soy-based veggie burgers were the primary plant protein-rich food found in a typical grocery store. Fast forward to 2019, and products made with plant proteins have evolved to include a wide variety of flavors, textures and formats for every eating occasion.

Indeed, consumers have a seemingly insatiable appetite for protein. Consumers associate protein with a healthy diet, helping maintain muscle during aging, recovery from exercise and greater feelings of fullness.

The 2014 Food & Health Survey from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) found 58 percent of consumers are influenced to purchase a product based on its protein content. By 2015, interest in protein had grown to the point where IFIC’s online Food & Health Survey found more than half of Americans surveyed were trying to consume acertain amount of protein per day or eat as much protein as they could. Food manufacturers can capitalize on this trend by giving consumers what they want: front-of-pack labeling that calls out “good source of protein” or “high in protein” versus listing the amount of protein in grams per serving on the front of the pack.

Interestingly, consumers are not focusing solely on typical sources of protein such as meat, fish, poultry and dairy. In 2014, research by the NPD Group found almost half of primary grocery shoppers bought protein-enriched foods including cereal, bread, protein bars and pasta. The same survey revealed consumers were clamoring for more options including bagels and frozen foods. The door is wide open for plant proteins as roughly 66 percent of U.S. consumers believe meat alternatives are healthier than meat, according to a 2017while Mintel protein report, while 20 percent of shoppers are willing to pay more for these foods.Need proof? Data by Persistence Market Research reported the plant protein market is rapidly growing and expected to reach roughly US$16.3 billion by 2025.

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Plant-based protein—new innovation

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“Plant Based will be the Hottest Food Trend of 2018,” reported the HuffPost last fall. While they were focused on reviewing foods that serve as replacements for burgers, fish, etc., protein in general has been on trend for several years. When thinking about plant-based protein, it’s important to explore plant-based protein as an ingredient for use in food and beverage products.

Some of the top plant-based proteins are pea, hemp and Sacha inchi (an indigenous Peruvian superfood). Pea protein is the most hypoallergenic of proteins available and delivers 100 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin D. Hemp is rich in protein and fiber. Sacha inchi is an excellent source of vitamins A and E and fiber.

Developing products that include plant-based proteins such as these can meet consumer needs of protein and provide additional benefits, but how are they best incorporated into food and beverage products?

Beverages are a great place to start with plant-based proteins. Leading the initiatives are alternative milks. However, doing innovation with these types of beverages can be challenging. The production of alternative milks is expensive and the lack of capacity in manufacturing remains an issue. However, ingredient innovation is stepping up to provide solutions that allow plant protein to be utilized in finished products with greater success. Kerry’s ProDiem™ portfolio, for example, offers dairy-free, soy-free and vegan proteins, enabling developers to enhance the nutritional profile of their products such as powder nutritional beverages, ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages and nutritional bars without impacting flavor or texture. What’s interesting about this new ingredient developed by Kerry is the ability to develop a high-acid, low-PH product that can be used to manufacture in the hot-fill environment.

Developing a beverage as a hot fill is much more lucrative compared to trying to launch a low-acid beverage with aseptic manufacturing. This ingredient also gives the product innovator a way to launch a more refreshment-like product without earlier issues, such as chalkiness, which can be prevalent with more traditional protein-based beverages. Isopure—protein-fortified beverages presented as a clear, flavored-water product—was one of the original and only protein-based beverages with an ingredient to be able to accomplish this. Though it utilized whey protein, it presented a way to commercialize protein in a beverage as a more palatable option.

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