Cracking the beverage code: Nut-based alternative dairy holds innovation potential
14 Oct 2022 --- There is an increasing need to improve on nutrition and sustainability credentials in plant-based beverages, with both aspects playing a bigger role in consumers’ purchasing decisions. Nuts, in particular, still hold untapped potential in the alt-milk arena, as producers diversify outside of oat and soy.
“Nuts have ‘game-changer’ potential in the plant-based beverage space,” Myrthe de Beukelaar, senior market analyst at Innova Market Insights, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“We know that consumers in Western Europe are interested in nuts as an alternative protein source, but figuring out how to improve familiarity of different nut ingredients will be key to help consumers navigate choices, addressing the significant concerns they have around taste, texture, clean label, nutrition and sustainability.”
An actionable insight for food business leaders includes cashew and hazelnut ingredients showing opportunity to score higher in perceived healthiness when familiarity increases, she adds.
“While Innova consumer research tells us that consumers in West Europe are most interested in nuts as an alternative protein source, market research reveals that nuts are currently not the most represented product base in plant-based beverage launches; oat is.”
De Beukelaar highlights that this marks “tremendous untapped potential” for nut-based beverages, ranging from coffee mixes, barista blends, chocolate drinks and iced coffee.
Robust North American demand
The North American market for alternative drinks continues to exhibit strong performance, with Innova Market Insights data revealing that dairy alternative drinks NPD holds an average of 9% share of total dairy category NPD across North America (from July 19 to June 22).
Indulgent flavored protein-rich ranges – such as those based on pea and brown rice – are popular, alongside preparations with added calcium.
In flavor trends, hazelnut, dark chocolate, eggnog, cinnamon, coconut, nata de coco and peanut butter are the tastes that saw a surge in popularity across North America, this summer.
Naturally sweetened ranges using oat fermentation are also seeing time in the spotlight, as well as immunity-boosting plant milk selections infused with ginger and antioxidants brought by green tea extracts.
Furthermore, carbon neutral packaging is stoking the NPD growth.
Canada is tipped as the fastest growing market for dairy alternative drinks NPD. Propelling growth here is the buoyant demand for lactose-free milk, soy-free blends, prebiotic formulations combined with oat fibers, healthful preparations infused with biotin (aiding hair and nail growth), premium creamy handcrafted drinks, selections using superfruits, hemp-based editions and nutty flavored offerings.
Evolving next-gen alt-milks
Digestibility and the bioavailability of nutrients are among the key areas of focus in alternative milk formulation, as this is critical to elevating consumer perceptions surrounding these drinks.
Researchers in recent weeks have argued that plant-based milk products often contain less protein and, in some cases, less calcium than their dairy-based counterparts.
According to Safefood, the average milk alternative contains only 1.1 g of protein per 100 ml compared to dairy milk’s 3.4 g.
But it appears ample progress is being made using food technology advancements to close this gap. Strive Nutrition, for instance, is innovating with Perfect Day’s animal-free bioidentical whey to create plant-based dairy drinks that contain 25% more protein and 75% less sugar.
In an upcoming webinar led by de Beukelaar, Innova Market Insights alongside olam food ingredients (ofi) will present new insights for crafting indulgent plant-based milk alternatives, coffee drinks and chocolate drinks. To attend, viewers can register here.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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