What does plant-based actually mean?
Plant-based is the latest dietary trend to dominate the shelves and it shows no sign of slowing down. At DSM we define ‘plant-based’ ingredients as those derived only from a land or marine-based plant, or fermented ingredients suitable for plant-based eating. The ‘functional compound’ found within the original plant must also be retained in a meaningful amount after processing. Plant-based sources include vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, nuts, seeds and legumes, along with trending ingredients like tree bark, mushrooms and algae.
Here, we’ll explore 10 plant-based facts and what they could mean for your food and beverage offering.
1. VEGAN & PLANT-BASED AREN’T THE SAME THING TO TODAY’S CONSUMERS
Vegans fully abstain from eating any animal-derived products (and in many cases wearing them too). Plant-based eaters are less restrictive and focus on incorporating as many whole fruits and vegetables as possible into their diet, along with wholegrains and legumes. They may choose to minimize their intake of animal products and processed foods – mainly for health reasons rather than their beliefs. There’s an opportunity to position plant-based products as an attractive option for those looking to achieve more variety with their eating habits, rather than only targeting those following a stricter vegan diet.
2. PLANT-BASED IS NUTRITIONALLY SUITABLE FOR EVERYONE
When planned well, a plant-based diet is a healthy and nutritional option for people of all ages, according to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics1. Some added supplementation may be necessary for essential nutrients such as natural vitamin A, D and plant-based omega-3s eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) but generally, eating a large number of fruits, vegetables and wholegrains is a nutritionally beneficial option. From snack bars for energy-on-the-go to plant-based meals for the whole family, brands looking to break through into this fast-moving market have a wealth of opportunity to develop highly targeted products.
3. WHAT YOU CAN AND CAN’T GET FROM PLANTS
Vital nutrients such as vitamin B12, D, iron and omega-3 fatty acids are more difficult to find in plant-based sources, compared to their animal counterparts. This is especially true with B12, which is vital for energy production, the circulatory and nervous systems. Fortifying products such as plant-based milk, dairy products and meat alternatives with these nutrients is an opportunity for brand owners to support consumers in achieving a more nutritionally balanced diet.
4. YOU CAN FIND PROTEIN IN PLANT-BASED SOURCES
There is a common misconception that animal-derived products are the only good source of essential proteins. In fact, by incorporating plant-based proteins such as legumes, nuts and seeds, the body receives enough vital amino acids to support its build-and-repair functions. Fortifying products with plant-based proteins gives consumers access to the essential building blocks for growth and energy, without having to eat animal-derived products.
5. AN ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY CHOICE
With an increasing focus on the environmental impact of food production, environmental scientists are recommending a shift to diets with larger proportions of plant-based foods, particularly proteins.
Based on our expertise in human nutrition and environmental science, DSM is committed to enabling and producing sustainable plant-based ingredients. We also work to combat key global environmental challenges such as reducing the greenhouse gas emissions, limiting nitrogen and phosphorous emissions, while keeping the highest nutritious standards. Ultimately, consumers care about where their food comes from, so it’s beneficial to be transparent about the content of your products and the production processes they’ve been through.
6. GOOD FOR THE GUT
Animal products contain little to no fiber, whereas plant-based sources have it in abundance, perfect for feeding the good bacteria in the gut. Fortifying your plant-based products’ natural fiber with probiotics or fermented ingredients can help you substantiate the ‘good for gut’ claim, as these beneficial bacteria enhance the health of the gut microbiome and in turn the overall digestive system, along with helping the body to process and utilize essential nutrients like calcium. With the gut friendly foods becoming increasingly popular with consumers, this is one way to increase the consumer appeal of your plant-based products further.
7. PLANT-BASED DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN HEALTHY
There are high fat, high salt and high sugar products in the market that — while made of plant-based ingredients — are still highly processed and of little nutritional value. Consumers are increasingly looking for plant-based alternatives that have been through minimal processing, are made of health-promoting food types and fortified with essential vitamins and nutrients. The demand is out there for healthier and ‘better for you’ products and trending ingredients like ashwagandha and spirulina are becoming increasingly popular on the plant-based – as well as mainstream – supermarket shelves.
8. HELPING TO PREVENT CHRONIC DISEASES
According to the World Health Organization, poor diet is a leading factor in many chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and type 2 diabetes2. In parts of the world where a predominantly plant-based diet is eaten, these types of diseases are noticeably lower. Rich in antioxidants and bioactive compounds, plant-based foods help control factors that contribute to the development of such diseases and help to create an appealing health benefit for consumers.
9. A FLEXIBLE DIET CHOICE
Unlike veganism, many consumers view plant-based as a more flexible dietary option. Along with this, whether it be environmental, social or for health concerns, there are a number of reasons people choose to incorporate plant-based in their diet. This adaptable approach opens up more opportunities for brands and manufacturers and offers increased freedom when choosing which element of plant-based to focus on for each product.
10. EASIER TO ACHIEVE THAN YOU THINK
As we’ve explored, a plant-based diet is achievable for everyone. With support from DSM and our extensive portfolio of vitamins, lipids, micronutrients and botanicals, your plant-based products will contain the nutrients essential for your consumers to adopt a healthy plant-based lifestyle. We can also can help you develop the language you use around plant-based and help you promote your product ingredients without making any unsubstantiated claims.
As a leading provider of vitamins, lipids and micronutrients, including tailored premixes and expert services, DSM is the ideal partner to help you take advantage of the plant-based trend. We know it takes more than ingredients to stand out on store shelves which is why our innovative portfolio of over 70 plant-based ingredients is backed by regulatory, marketing and technical expertise to provide you with everything you need to take your next plant-based product from idea to market-ready.