Planet-friendly ingredients: CO2 “foodprints” and product premiumization inspire alt-protein production
10 May 2023 --- Planet-friendly ingredients and foods are winning over consumers who want to make better choices for their health and the health of the planet. With a myriad of meanings, planet-friendly claims cover climate, ethics, environment and resource protection. Responsible packaging and animal welfare are other essential topics that come under the same umbrella.
FoodIngredientsFirst explores the latest developments in environmentally sustainable food ingredients with insights from key suppliers.
According to Dr. Pia Meinlschmidt, team lead product management Planteneers, CO2 “foodprints” will likely be displayed more on future products, even becoming a purchasing argument.
“Another factor is the more sensitive handling of food waste. In this context, the utilization of side streams to reduce food waste is gaining more importance,” she claims.
Notably, reducing CO2 emissions will be central to planet-friendly offerings.
“This is not only about climate-friendly claims. We will also find neutral statements on the products. In addition to climate and resource protection, recyclable packaging will move into the spotlight. There will probably be more claims like ‘100% recyclable packaging’ and so on. The issue of transparency along the entire value chain is also gaining traction.”
Meat alternatives movement
Meanwhile, Planteneers expects animal welfare will also be increasingly scrutinized by consumers.
The Germany-based company, part of the Stern-Wywiol Gruppe, says that beef continues to be used as a negative benchmark in the context of CO2 “foodprints,” water consumption and land use area.
“We continue to see potential for alternatives to beef,” continues Meinlschmidt. “At the same time, however, research into cultured meat, precision and biomass (mycoprotein) fermentation will continue to increase.”
Alternative proteins will remain a driver of innovation and transformation in food systems but they are under much more scrutiny now, according to Albrecht Wolfmeyer, director of ProVeg Incubator.
“Deep tech solutions applying or combining different approaches of fermentation, innovative approaches like molecular farming and cell-cultivated dairy and functional ingredients like fats will receive more attention,” he says.
“In cellular agriculture specifically, we could see some significant leaps forward with further small-scale launches in Singapore or for the first time in the US. But only in the longer run over the next couple of years will it become clear how much impact and traction cultivated meat and seafood can really generate. Scalability is still the main hurdle.”
Heightened market relevance
Given the global market relevance of plant-based food, competition in this area is naturally increasing.
Wolfmeyer believes that within the plant-based space, functional, healthy and clean label solutions will be able to stay more competitive while simple “me-too” products and brands will have a harder time.
“Companies leveraging different types of fermentation at scale to enhance nutritional profiles and bring down the number of ingredients will be the winners. We will see new efforts to leverage the nutritional and functional power of ingredients like macro and micro algae,” he explains.
Planteneers is focused on developing new functional systems for plant-based alternatives to meat, fish, dairy, cheese and fine food.
“However, we have done good groundwork over the past ten years,” comments Meinlschmidt. “One example is our Plantbaser product configurator.”
“Since its market launch, the tool has been continuously expanded. In the meantime, manufacturers can configure plant-based alternatives to fermented milk and meat, fish and cheese products. We currently have around 1,000 recipes online, giving our customers access to the world’s largest selection of plant-based products from all categories.”
Karin Jenniskens, marketing manager for Enrichment at Cargill, agrees that when it comes to cutting-edge food technology, plant-based alternatives inspire innovative solutions to meet new consumer demands.
“Plant popularity shows no signs of ebbing – its popularity is rapidly accelerating globally. No longer confined to vegetarians or vegans, plant-based products are gaining appeal among a broader consumer audience, with many believing they are healthier – both for themselves and the planet,” she says.
“Millennials are willing to pay a premium for products they believe provide health benefits. There is an increased demand for ‘label-friendly’ products where the consumer feels familiar with the ingredients used.
Seventy-two percent of European consumers indicated that they are likely to check the ingredient list of plant-based meat alternative products in Cargill’s 2021 Ingredient Tracker survey.
Keeping the trend alive
Mainstream experimentation, a growing connection to sustainability and the influx of new and improved products will likely keep the plant-based trend alive for years to come, underscores Jenniskens.
“Yet there are still challenges to overcome, with one in three consumers globally saying that they would not consider buying plant-based alternatives due to a perceived poor taste and texture. Other top barriers include price and the perception of plant-based alternatives as being more ‘processed’ and less natural,” she explains.
As consumer demand for plant-based food and beverages remains a driving force in the marketplace, Cargill’s innovation remains focused toward overcoming these barriers.
“We aim to help customers get ever closer to mirroring the taste, texture and nutritional value of protein and dairy-based products, as well as answering the calls for healthier, more sustainable and better-tasting solutions,” notes Jenniskens.
According to the smart protein plant-based food sector report EU (2021), approximately 30% of consumers in Europe now describe their diet as “flexitarian.” However, despite this target group’s growing appeal, some consumer hurdles still prevent full mainstream adoption.
At the same time, high-quality plant-based alternatives to some conventional products like cheese have been available on the market for over a decade.
“But there has been a recent market evolution in why manufacturers are making the plant-based switch,” says Jenniskens.
“While introducing the first wave of products was generally motivated by cost reduction efforts, today plant-based alternatives are all about meeting evolving consumer demand for more variety, texture experiences and nutritional quality in the form of specialist and deli-style cheese alternatives.”
Mimicking functional attributes
Notably, removing milk protein in dairy presents an array of challenges since several functional attributes need to be mimicked.
“After all, dairy proteins play an important role in the creaminess, texture, color and flavor responsible for truly delicious cheese,” states Jenniskens.
“Replacing milk proteins with plant-based proteins means losing some of these critical functionalities. As a result, to successfully reformulate, manufacturers need to combine several ingredients by considering each functionality individually.”
Infuse by Cargill is the company’s service offering model providing tailored solutions to help meet challenging consumer demands, such as plant-based dairy alternatives.
“Here, experts are stepping up to the plate to create plant-based alternatives to cheese that match the characteristics and functionality of animal-based products while still delivering the same texture and eating experience,” continues Jenniskens.
“Furthermore, through process improvements, we increased the protein content substantially and resultantly improved the nutritional profile versus current plant-based alternatives.”
here.The company recently discussed the sensory appeal of meat alternatives with FoodIngredientsFirst. You can read more on this topic
Building blocks for the future
Looking ahead, it is clear that effectively working with the building blocks for plant-based products demands a deep understanding of the formulation and manufacturing complexity linked to the interaction between multiple ingredients rather than just focusing on one specific part of the recipe.
“We’re seeing more start-ups exploring precision fermentation platforms as enablers for creating cultivated meat mediums, and plant cell cultivation as a new way to express complex animal proteins like caseins and myoglobin,” adds Wolfmeyer at ProVeg.
Jenniskens at Cargill adds: “While the building blocks may vary for different plant-based applications, the expertise to get the best from the ingredients is key.”
“Cargill offers a ‘one stop shop’ with a wide range of solutions, taking a holistic approach to help address specific challenges. Our competence goes beyond ingredients alone, as we connect throughout the food value chain.”
“For us, the future of plant-based and planet-friendly foods is a bright one, with a wealth of opportunities to invest, innovate and meet consumer demands in a tasty, sustainable and high-quality way,” she concludes.
By Elizabeth Green
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