Take a stroll along the refrigerated dairy aisle and you’re bound to notice the nondairy and plant-based milk alternatives claiming more and more shelf space that was once devoted to their dairy counterpart.
This scenario isn’t unique to dairy products. Plant-based foods have been hitting the shelves at a rapid pace over the past several years. Where they were once tucked away in specialty corners of the supermarket, plant-based products have staked a claim in valuable mainstream shelf space.
How did this happen? What’s the future of plant-based products?
Consumer demand for more functional foods and exciting plant-based food products have led to food manufacturers looking for unique ingredients for their applications. The rise of vegan and flexitarian lifestyles has created a tremendous opportunity for food ingredient brands to get innovative and find solutions for manufacturers’ applications.
As part of the desire to eat healthier and because of sustainability awareness, consumers have become more knowledgeable about the ingredients that go into their food. They’re looking for transparency and education about the components that make up the products they purchase. Food ingredient brands should take this into consideration as part of their marketing strategy for manufacturers. Consumers want to know what is in their food and where it comes from.
Let’s look at three categories in which we believe food ingredient companies can have a significant impact.
Recent research in the global market shows that milk alternatives other than soy are the fastest growing category in the dairy products and alternatives industry, with an increase of 16% in 2020-2021. This is a tremendous opportunity for plant-based ingredients to be innovative and hop on board with the milk alternatives trend.
Consider the recent joint venture of Kraft Heinz and TheNotCompany, Inc., who have joined forces to develop co-branded plant-based products across multiple categories. NotCo is a food technology company using artificial intelligence to identify which plant-based foods can be combined to formulate a milk alternative that has similar properties, such as taste and texture, as traditional dairy milk.
This moves beyond the idea of a single-ingredient foundational milk such as almond, coconut and oat. It dives deeper into the science of food and the compositional makeup of ingredients that can be formulated together to get to a product that is familiar to consumers.
This type of technology is bound to lead to similar plant-based alternatives in categories such as cheese and eggs in the coming years.
The frozen food aisle is another category in which there’s been a rise in plant-based products and consumer demand. The convenience factor makes frozen foods an appealing choice for many consumers and an easy way for them to add more plants into their diets.
Frozen, precooked plant-based meals, snacks and desserts are popping up every day. Frozen foods offer consumers a convenient way to try plant-based options beyond meatlike products. Food ingredient brands should understand how their products can help achieve the taste consumers are looking for.
Snack foods are another category in which there’s been growth in plant-based products thanks to the adoption of vegan and vegetarian diets. Additionally, younger generations are preferring to replace at least one meal every day with a snack food, which gives food manufacturers an opportunity to create functional products that satisfy consumers’ nutritional needs and taste preferences.
There’s a variety of categories in which plant-based snacks can have an impact:
- Meat alternative snacks
- Fruit and nut snacks
- Grain-based snacks
- Plant-based snack bars
Wrapping it up
The plant-based food trend is becoming a more permanent part of the American diet. Consumers are seeking convenient yet exciting new plant-based products. Food ingredient companies can get innovative in how their ingredients can help manufacturers create plant-based applications that consumers are craving.
Check out our work for the food ingredient industry and schedule a consult to learn how we can help you create a winning campaign.