Research from Innova Market Insights has reaffirmed that plant protein continues to gain traction. It has developed in recent years, following the company’s description of its disruptor status in its top trends for 2017. Plant-based has continue to feature in the company’s market trends since then and now for 2021, the company is predicting the rising appeal of plant-based products in different regions and categories. This comes as consumers demand additional formats, plant proteins and increased sophistication.
The company’s 2020 consumer survey suggested the top four reasons for considering plant-based alternatives were health, variety, sustainability and taste. Health was the clear leader, cited by 53% of respondents globally.
Terminology has also moved on, with plant-based claims increasingly in evidence alongside more established vegetarian and vegan positionings. According to Innova Market Insights data, the use of plant-based claims for global food and beverage launches had a CAGR of 37% over the 2016 to 2020 period. This compares with 10% for vegan positionings and a marginal decline for the more mainstream and established vegetarian category. Research in 2020 also indicated six in ten consumers preferred plant-based claims when buying alternatives to meat and/or dairy.
The use of more specific plant protein claims is also booming, as protein from plants is increasingly and more prominently presented as a key product feature and terms such as ‘plant power’ more commonly used.
The use of a wider range of plant proteins is also growing, with fava bean and hemp emerging as the fastest growing proteins in meat and dairy alternative launches across the 2017 to 2019 period. The more established rice, bean and potato proteins also saw ongoing, if more modest, growth over the period.
The company has suggested there are opportunities for plant + animal protein blends, mixing whey and vegetable protein in sports nutrition products, for example, or dairy and plant milks for beverages, or meat and vegetable components for burgers. Its consumer survey indicates 36% of global consumers would prefer a mix of plant and animal products, while 25% would prefer 100% plant-based options.
Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights, said: “Opportunities and challenges are attracting even more attention in the industry, particularly with regard to regional preferences and sustainability expectations. Key challenges for plant-based tend to be similar to those for the food industry as a whole, including the provision of clean label and sustainable options, targeting ingredients simplicity, the use of minimal processing and optimization of taste and textural experiences”.