Q&A: Uncovering Opportunities for Plant-Based Innovation

November 2020

Plant-based foods appeal to a growing number of flexitarian consumers who are looking to improve their health by reducing their consumption of meat and animal products and increasing their consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Plant-based claims have increased 68% globally over the past five years, according to Innova Market Insights, as brands uncover new and innovative ways to present more convenient and appealing plant-based options.1

We talked with Aurélie Jacquet, Chaucer Foods NPD Manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, about the current state of the plant-based category and future opportunities for innovation.

1. What is driving growth for plant-based foods and beverages?

Consumers are becoming more aware of how their diet can affect their long-term health and wellness, and show a growing concern about how current food production methods affect the environment. Almost half of UK consumers (48%) say that reducing consumption of animal products is a good way to reduce humans’ impact on the environment, and 25% cite sustainability concerns as the main reason they are reducing their meat intake. Health and wellness remains the primary motivator for eating plant-based, however, with nearly a third of British consumers (32%) cutting back on meat to improve their health.2

Looking ahead, we expect health concerns to play an even greater role in driving demand for plant-based options, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates consumer interest in immunity-boosting food and beverage products. Plant-based ingredients offer many essential vitamins and nutrients, and are also aligned with consumer preference for a simpler ingredient label.

2. What new innovations are you seeing in the plant-based space?

Plant-based claims have expanded beyond functional foods and beverages and into snacks, savory meals and even desserts. In addition to innovating new plant-based products, brands are also recognizing the opportunity to elevate existing product lines by adding all-natural flavor, color and nutrition from plant-based ingredients. Examples include vegan cookies and ice creams fortified with plant-based protein, snack mixes and bars including vegetable ingredients for a new savory flavor twist, and functional beverages using fruit powders for natural color and sweetness.

3. Are there any plant-based ingredients that are particularly on-trend right now?

Consumers who are attempting to eat more plant-based foods are desperate for diversity from the standard offering of fruits and vegetables, and this is pushing manufacturers to innovate with new plant-based ingredients. Pulses – including chickpeas, beans, lentils and other legumes – are currently receiving a lot of attention as a versatile plant-based protein source. Chickpeas and black beans work well in meat substitute products, and can also add texture, nutrition and flavor when incorporated as an inclusion or ingredient in snacks and meals. Due to their versatility and their ability to add protein to formulations, we expect to see pulses expand into even more categories in the years ahead. Vegetables like peas, sweet corn and beetroot can also bring a lot of nutrients and protein to plant-based meals and snacks.

4. What are the benefits of using freeze-dried fruits, vegetables and pulses in plant-based snacks and meals?

Freeze-dried fruit, vegetables and pulses help product developers deliver more appealing plant-based products. Unlike other drying methods, the freeze-drying process preserves an ingredient’s natural shape, color, and taste. As an inclusion, freeze-dried products can bring vibrant flavors and crisp texture to formulated snacks or meals. They can also be used as stand-alone snacks. Our freeze-dried strawberry slices or grilled red pepper pieces are often used as an ingredient in healthy snack mixes.

5. What other advantages do freeze-dried ingredients offer?

Freeze-drying preserves nearly all of the nutritional benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables. With no added sugars or artificial preservatives, freeze-dried ingredients also sync with consumers’ desire for clean-label ingredients and healthier formulations.

Our R&D team is constantly developing new application ideas and creating ingredient solutions that add real value for our customers. Learn more about the ingredients that can help with your plant-based product development, or contact us at customer.services@chaucerfoods.com to request a sample or more information.

1. “Plant-based ingredients are here to stay: Overview of integration across food and drink categories,” Food Ingredients Global. 2020.

2. “Plant-Based Push: UK Sales of Meat-Free Foods Shoot Up 40% between 2014-19,” Mintel. January 2020.

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