What are the challenges in creating nutritious and delicious plant-based alternatives?
With plant-based alternatives becoming a mainstay of supermarket shelves, restaurant menus and celebrity diets, plant power shows no sign of losing momentum. In fact, the value of the meat alternatives retail market alone is expected to double this decade to nearly €9 billion.2
For consumers looking to reduce meat intake, innovations in meat alternatives – plant-based products that mimic the taste and structure of meat – provide an attractive and familiar solution. However, meat's fibrous texture, umami flavor and nutritional profile is difficult to (re-)create in plant-based alternatives or meat analogues. This can be an obstacle when trying to appeal to former meat eaters or flexitarians, who will always have a comparison point and therefore higher standards for mouthfeel and taste.
In comparison to meat analogues, dairy alternatives enjoy a much longer history and a wider appreciation by consumers. Soy, rice, nut, and coconut milks have been used in some cultures for centuries as a beverage or to flavor foods. However, this category still faces similar challenges when it comes to mirroring the nutritional, taste and texture properties of traditional dairy products. In fact, nearly 43% of dairy reducers who do not consume dairy alternatives say they don’t like the taste or texture of these products.3
But with one in three meat reducers willing to pay more for meat analogues that have a similar nutritional profile and taste to meat, and 43% of those who consume dairy alternatives saying the taste is just ‘ok’, these challenges present an exciting opportunity for manufacturers seeking to capture the attention and loyalty of health conscious consumers who don’t want to compromise on nutrition, texture or taste.4
Standing out on the shelves with plant-based nutrition
As certain nutrients are widely distributed in animal-products, plant-based products typically contain lower native levels of macronutrients, micronutrients, and minerals such as protein, B vitamins, and zinc.
Indeed, 85% of consumers are aware they are missing out on vitamins & minerals with ‘elimination diets’.5 As meat and dairy alternatives reach an ever-broader demographic, the need to deliver a similar or better nutritional profile compared with competing options is greater than ever before.
The plant-based ‘halo’ is coming under increased scrutiny with 71% of consumers saying they will check the ingredients label more often.6 This means that back-of-pack numbers need to stack up both by reducing the ‘unwanted’ ingredients and boosting the nutritional ‘heroes’ to appeal to the 60% of consumers who are seeking added vitamins and minerals in future food choices.7 This highlights the opportunity for manufacturers to enhance the nutritional profile of plant-based products through fortification to fill the nutritional gap and stand out on the shelves.
DSM’s portfolio of Quali® vitamins, minerals, algal nutritional lipids such as life’s™DHA and life’s™OMEGA, as well as customized premix solutions, are designed to support manufacturers in providing a more complete nutritional profile for plant-based products. Solutions for salt, fat, sugar, gluten reduction as well as coloration and preservation systems are also available to support the latest consumer demands for clean-label and nutritious ingredients.
Turning up the taste and texture
62% of consumers choose taste over everything else when it comes to food products,8 so putting taste on top is key to building meat analogue authenticity. And if manufacturers fail to deliver, consumers aren’t afraid to seek other solutions, with 28% expecting to reduce meat alternative consumption because of taste & sensory dissatisfaction.9
As plant proteins have none of the tensile strength of their meat counterparts, it can be difficult to nail down a satisfying texture in plant-based alternatives. Whether gums, plant extractions or specialty blends tailor-made by DSM’s team of experts, natural hydrocolloids enable broad texture possibilities for a diverse range of mouthfeel.
Harness plant power with DSM
Whether you’re looking for nutritional benefits, taste and texture to help build the perfect plant-based meat or dairy alternative, DSM’s portfolio can help you meet consumer demand for this growing category. Our R&D and application experts have developed thousands of innovations and reformulations for plant-based alternatives – both meat and dairy – that are not only nutritious and delicious but are also sustainably produced.
From concept to consumption, DSM’s broad offering of products, customized solutions and expert services can support you in creating products that provide plant-based options to meet the needs of growing consumer trends, while protecting against nutrient shortfalls.
At DSM, we harness our natural curiosity and innovation expertise to deliver proven nutritional solutions that lead to better, healthier lives. This takes more than ingredients. It takes a partner. With our broad portfolio of science-backed products, customized solutions, and expert services aimed at reliably supporting your entire product life cycle, from concept to consumer, contact us to learn how we can help your plant-based offering flourish.
Get in touch to discover how we can help your plant-based offering flourish