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Plant-Based Food Innovation Trends: What’s Fueling Today’s Plant-Based Buzz?

November 30, 2020

As plant-based consumption accelerates from food trend to food revolution status, global consumer interest in plant-based ingredients is also intensifying. According to global consumer research conducted by Innova Market Insights, right now, 3 out of every 5 shoppers are looking to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diet. This means having a comfortable understanding of the different plant-based food ingredient profiles is more important than ever. While there is ample evidence that the pandemic has intensified the focus on the potential health benefits of plant-based foods and that it is subsequently driving plant-based innovation trends, there is also reason to believe that the sector’s growth trajectory will continue upward from it for many years to come.

The continued growth of the space has led to many different ways of approaching plant-based food innovation with the potential health benefits of a plant-based diet remaining the biggest driver for buying alternatives and taste remaining the biggest opportunity for forward-thinking brands, which we will touch on here shortly.

The mainstream opportunities for plant-based reveals itself in the claim-preference reported by consumers, with 3 out of 5 preferring the term “Plant-based” over “Vegan” or “Vegetarian,” and is reflected in the 57% average annual growth in plant-based claims in food and beverage launches, compared to 23% for Vegan claims, and only 8% for Vegetarian claims.

Even still, the term “Plant-based” has come to mean different things to different people; 1 in 3 global consumers consider a plant-based diet to be “meat and dairy reduced,” while 1 in 4 consider a plant-based diet to be “strictly vegetarian,” and only 1 in 5 “mostly vegetarian.”

plant-based food innovation trends

Top Plant-Based Food Innovation Trends

So how are plant-based food and beverage brands approaching plant-based innovation? The marketplace is seeing four general product trends:

  1. Inherently plant-based. Made with intact plant ingredients, with little or no modification needed.

2. Easily adaptable. Simple ingredient switches that make the product plant-based, such as using plant ingredients in a snack.

3. New category. Plant ingredients are called out in trendy categories, such as soft drinks, coffees, and teas.

4. Alternative to animal or dairy-based. Formulated to replicate an animal-based product using plant ingredients.

What’s the biggest consumer driver for buying plant-based alternatives? One word: Health. When asked the reasons that they would consider plant-based alternatives, over 50% of global consumers responded, “it is healthier.” Also noteworthy is that approximately one-third of global consumers cite “seeking variety in my diet” or “environmental benefits” as a primary purchase driver.

plant-based food innovation trends

Tackling Taste As Plant-Based Conumption Accelerates

Perhaps the biggest current and future opportunity in the plant-based space is what consumers do not currently see as a category benefit. Specifically, right now less than 1 in 5 global consumers seek plant-based alternatives because they perceive the taste as being better. This presents an enormous opportunity for brands that choose to partner with ingredient companies who offer flavor solutions that are specifically formulated for use in plant-based applications.

“At Edlong, our expertise is the creation and application of authentic dairy flavors, and our customers have been particularly impressed with our solutions for their plant-based products,” said Lisa Drawer, Director of Marketing for the 100+ year old dairy flavor company. “Our plant-based dairy flavors are unique in that not only do they impart the authentic taste of dairy to food and beverages, but also provide unique functionality such as mouthfeel and masking, which are particularly useful in plant-based applications.”

Added Drawer, “with 65% of consumers eating more plant-based foods, these functional benefits are more important now than ever.”

Consumers’ appetite for plant-based benefits also reveals itself in the global challenge to deliver “clean label” solutions for meat and dairy alternatives. Consumers taste for simple ingredients that are easy to pronounce is more pronounced than ever, with 2 in every 3 global consumers specifically wanting to avoid products with ingredients that are difficult to understand. When it comes to plant-based, all signs point the same direction: demand shows no sign of slowing down, and there is reason to believe that with continued advancement in the taste, mouthfeel and masking capabilities of forward-focused ingredient companies, consumer demand will continue to increase as well.

Looking to create crave-worthy products (or enhance existing ones) to meet these plant-based food innovation trends? Contact our experts at Edlong to harness over 100 years of dairy expertise and over 250 non-dairy flavors. Partner with us to increase the crave-ability of and drive demand for your plant-based products.