By Christian Philippsen, Managing Director, BENEO, Asia Pacific
Keeping a constant finger on the pulse of the food industry will be crucial to ensuring a successful 2023 for manufacturers. As we gear up for the road ahead, one key trend that producers must keep an eye on is the plant-based movement, which is set to dominate the food and beverage sector this year.
Industry statistics fully demonstrate that the plant-based momentum is far from slowing, with a healthy portion of consumers (40%) expressing that they plan to purchase plant-based meat substitutes in 2023[i].
In addition, an increasing number of flexitarians — who have a primarily vegetarian diet but occasionally consume meat or fish — means manufacturers should look to build a range of plant-based products to cater to this growing segment. An FMCG Gurus survey[ii] found Asia to be leading the way in the market, with 28% of consumers already describing their diet as flexitarian.
Understanding what matters to consumers
When it comes to the types of plant-based food consumers want, there are many key factors that come into play. Taste and texture continue to emerge as a key driver for repeat purchases, as consumers remain unwilling to sacrifice on indulgence. Furthermore, it was also found that the top drivers for flexitarians purchasing meat and dairy alternatives boil down to healthiness and helping them take care of their bodies, naturalness, supporting a well-balanced diet and providing more variety[iii].
In recent years, manufacturers have been motivated to pay increasing attention to transparent labels, in response to rising market demand. A recent survey showed that almost 60% of consumers in Asia put great importance on clean label products, saying that it has a “fair” to a “great deal” of influence on their buying decisions[iv]. Also, almost three in four flexitarians look closely at the on-pack information, before buying a product, e.g., checking nutritional values or the ingredient label. And 86% of global flexitarians state that how food is made and what is in it is very important to them.[v]
To cater to the myriad of consumer expectations, manufacturers will need to scale up their current plant-based catalogue across food categories to include a variety of alternatives to meat, fish, dairy, sweets, or baked goods, as well as natural and sustainably sourced ingredients that will appease the environmentally conscious. To do so, they can look to suppliers like BENEO, who offer a wide range of functional plant-based ingredients tailored for consumer satisfaction.
Aside from taste and texture, healthiness is another factor that consumers now consider in plant-based foods. (Photo: Dreamstime.com)
Functional ingredients that satisfy all expectations
With regard to meat alternatives, BENEO’s textured wheat protein, BeneoPro W-Tex, allows for the development of juicy, meat-free products with an authentic meat-like texture and a granular, fibrous structure. The product range contains different particle sizes and varying protein content. This makes it suitable for total and partial meat replacement in a wide range of applications such as plant-based burgers, meatballs, sausages, chicken strips, or even dim sum fillings. The ingredient is very easy to use, freeze/thaw stable and thus optimal for challenging processing conditions, and also suitable for frozen ready meals. Wheat protein is also an excellent source of many essential amino acids, making it an outstanding source of protein in meat alternatives. Moreover, compared with other plant proteins, the taste of textured wheat protein is neutral, so it can be easily flavoured with a variety of tastes, herbs and spices.
In dairy alternatives, BENEO’s specialty rice ingredients are ideal clean label texturisers that help create stable and creamy textures with a soft, smooth mouthfeel. Their neutral taste makes them easy to combine and eliminates the need to balance out off-flavours. A blend of dried rice syrup, rice flour and rice starch, they can also serve as milk powder replacement in plant-based chocolate, providing a nice taste, good snap, and melting behaviour. In fact, BENEO’s research shows that 7 out of 10 flexitarians see rice as an appealing source for both dairy alternatives and bakery and sweets alternatives.[vi]
In products like plant-based chocolate, rice ingredients such as those from BENEO, can add a creamy texture. (Photo: Dreamstime.com)
In further alignment with market trends for natural and sustainable products, BENEO also recently added faba bean ingredients to its product range for the plant-based sector. Pulses like faba bean help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at farm level, capturing nitrogen from the air and providing it for themselves and subsequent plants. Also, BENEO strives to source faba beans at Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) Gold level from German farmers. The crop will also be fully used and completely valorised for functional ingredients during the production process, which has been chosen for its low energy and water consumption in comparison to alternative processes.
The portfolio of faba bean ingredients for the food industry includes protein concentrate with high solubility and very good emulsifying properties, suitable for homogenous vegan drinks for example, and starch-rich flour that can help boost the protein content in various applications, like cereals, snacks or baked goods.
Setting up for success in 2023
With plant-based demand set to constitute a significant share of the market in 2023, tapping into the green food movement must be an indispensable part of any manufacturers’ business strategy for the year. Thanks to continuous investments, such as into a new pulse-processing site in Offstein, Germany, or the acquisition of Meatless B.V., a supplier of texturising solutions for plant-based meat and fish alternatives, BENEO offers a robust and growing portfolio to support the development of delicious plant-based products.
Expanding plant-based catalogues to include a greater variety of choices that not only appeal to the taste buds, but also meet clean(er) label and sustainability expectations will be key to setting up the stage for success in the year ahead.
[i] Dataessential: Food Bytes: 2023 Food Trends, November 2022
[ii] FMCG Gurus: Health and Wellness: Plant for the Planet in 2022, February 2022
[iii] BENEO Global Plant-Based Survey 2021 – Insites Consulting conducted an online quantitative survey in July 2021 in Spain, France, Germany, Poland, UK, US, Brazil, Australia, China and Russia: min. 1000 consumers/ country = 11,990 consumers in total (Filter: Flexitarian)
[iv] Innova Market Insights: Top ten trends for 2023, October 2022
[v] BENEO Global Plant-Based Survey 2021 (Filter: Flexitarian)
[vi] BENEO Global Plant-Based Survey 2021 (Filter: Flexitarian)
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