HIGH-PROTEIN DIETS mean different things to different people. So stated Kasey Farrell, Data Product Manager, Product Intelligence Team SPINS, while setting the stage for her talk “The Age of Protein: Emerging Opportunity for Plant-Based Alternatives.”
Historically, vegan products have been favored for animal welfare and environmental concerns but are often associated with poor taste qualities. The term “plant-based” is more about good health and flexible, customized approaches to eating.
Sales of plant-based meat alternatives are growing with plant-based burgers seeing the most accelerated growth. Sugar-free, low-carb, gluten-free and keto-friendly products using plant-based protein sources are trending.
Farrell noted data from a 2018 International Food Information Council Foundation report that shows over 70% of people view protein from plant sources as healthy, whereas less than 40% view animal protein as healthy. In the retail sector, animal-based proteins—with the exception of egg and collagen—declined. Meanwhile, plant protein sales are still increasing, with pea protein showing the greatest growth.
Farrell presented data showing that plant-based alternatives to burgers and other meats, protein supplements and milks all saw impressive growth in the past year. Milks have the highest dollar sales, but burgers have seen the greatest percent growth. “Euromonitor International data noted that the meat substitute market was valued $1.44 billion and, by 2023, is expected to grow 74% to $2.5 billion,” Farrell stated.
Taste is still the primary determinant for consumers, and restaurants and chefs are formulating new recipes and menu items to broaden plant-based options. Farrell provided examples including Burger King’s “Impossible Whopper,” Carl’s Jr’s “Beyond Famous Star burger” and Silver Diner’s “Just Egg Benedict.” Additionally, Dunkin Donuts has announced the introduction of plant-based breakfast meats.
Farrell noted that, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), environmental sustainability may be another driving force behind plant-based eating, with livestock farming leading to soil erosion, deforestation and destruction of natural habitats. Furthermore, FAO reports that 1-2,000 liters of water are needed to produce 1kg of wheat, whereas 13-15,000 liters is required to produce 1kg of grain-fed beef. The livestock sector contributes about 9% CO2, 65% nitrous oxide and 37% methane.
Traditionally, vegans and vegetarians are known to avoid meat for animal welfare concerns. According to GlobalData, the number of people in the U.S. who followed a vegan diet grew 600% between 2014-2017.
Non-GMO (or not genetically modified) is another claim or certification consumers may be looking for in their products. Many consumers shun GMO ingredients or products, believing these have not been studied enough to understand safety and long-term effects. Farrell explained that the USDA will require bioengineered foods to be labeled by 2022, with the exception of ingredients with undetectable levels of the ingredient, such as high-fructose corn syrup. Consumer demand for Non-GMO Project Verified items grew exponentially since 2011, across all retail channels.
Brands and manufacturers across all categories are looking for new and innovative ways to increase their products’ protein content. Products featuring pea protein grew more than other plant-based protein sources in the natural segment in 2018.
Plant-based options are expanding into new product categories and traditionally meat-based areas, like jerky and meat snacks. Farrell concluded by stating that protein sources are being combined to provide complete nutritional profiles as well as texture and taste properties. New categories of products are getting an added boost of protein, including items that inherently contain protein, like nut butters. Indulgent treats are following suit and appealing to the protein-conscience consumer.
“The Age of Protein: Emerging Opportunity for Plant-Based Alternatives,” Kasey Farrell, Data Product Manager, Product Intelligence Team SPINS
This presentation was given at the 2019 Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar. To download free presentations and the Post-conference summary of this event, go to https://globalfoodforums.com/store/protein-seminars/
See past and future Protein Trends & Technologies Seminars at https://globalfoodforums.com/store/protein-seminars/