The plant-based market is not shy of meat-, fish- and dairy alternatives. But a category that was once developed for vegans and vegetarians has now evolved into something much more inclusive of all diets and lifestyle choices, says Samah Garringer, Business Unit Director, Proteins of the Future at DSM.
Taking plant proteins to the next level
By Samah Garringer
Welcome to the era of the flexitarian, where consumers regularly supplement their diet with plant-based protein alternatives. Recent research shows that approximately 25% of all age groups globally are starting to follow a more flexitarian diet – and this number is showing no signs of slowing down. As consumers become more aware of the benefits of plant-based proteins, they are on the lookout for even healthier options that meet – and exceed – their expectations. Plant-based manufacturers are therefore diversifying their portfolio with the latest new product developments that tick all the right boxes and help their offering stand out.
The plant-based category as we know it
Plant proteins have been synonymous with healthy eating in recent years, with many turning to these options to support specific health areas, such as immune function or digestive health.[i] However, as health-conscious consumers become more informed, they are scrutinizing on-pack ingredient lists. With plant-based alternatives, flexitarians are conscious they may be missing out on the typical nutrients associated with meat, fish and dairy, and are taking steps to avoid this. Consumers want a high-level of good quality protein, for example, as well as vitamin B12, vitamin D and iron. In fact, ‘good source of protein’ is the number one attribute consumers in the US look for when buying plant-based products.[ii] It is also increasingly important that plant-based alternatives are free from allergens, such as gluten and soy, and have low levels of salt, sugar and saturated fat. According to recent research, four in 10 people in the US purchased a food with an allergen or intolerance label last year.[iii]
In addition to a good nutritional profile, today’s consumers expect an authentic and appealing taste, texture and mouthfeel from start to finish. In plant-based meat alternatives, for example, they want their food to have the distinctive ‘umami’ and Maillard flavors often associated with grilled or fried products, as well as a juicy and succulent mouthfeel.
Discerning consumers are also seeking out fish alternatives with a pronounced ‘fishy’ flavor and a texture that emulates either flaky, light white fish or dark, oily fish like salmon. Taste and texture remain strong priorities for consumers in the dairy alternatives category, too. Manufacturers must create high quality dairy alternative drinks with the sweetness that consumers expect, without adding sugar. And plant-based cheese alternatives should taste like the ‘real-deal’ and also melt, stretch and shred like traditional cheeses.
With the global population growing, there is also a significant need for protein alternatives to help support people’s healthy lifestyles. As a result, consumers are making small changes such as adopting a flexitarian diet to diversify their protein intake – and seeking out brands that can accommodate this.
Paving the way with proteins
Responding to rising consumer demands, DSM is leading the way in this space with the development of two next generation plant proteins that focus on taste, texture and health.
Vertis™ CanolaPRO® is a high-quality canola protein that contains the necessary levels of all nine essential amino acids to be considered a complete protein. It also has a protein digestibility corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) of 1, making it similar to whey and soy but naturally free from soy, gluten, dairy and the rest of the ‘big 8’ food allergens. A plant protein isolate with more than 90% protein, Vertis™ CanolaPRO® can be used to increase the quantity and quality of protein in plant-based meat and dairy alternatives.
Following Vertis™ CanolaPRO®, DSM launched a world first for the textured vegetable protein market. Vertis™ Textured Pea Canola Protein, a blend of pea protein and Vertis™ CanolaPRO® protein isolate, is the only textured vegetable protein that is a complete protein while also being free from major allergens, making it a pioneering new option for food manufacturers looking to support a diverse range of dietary requirements.