5 Opportunities for Innovation in the Plant-Based Food Market
From an increasing number of people claiming to be flexitarian to more alternative product options hitting the shelves, the popularity of plant-based food has been skyrocketing—resulting in a consumer base that is far bigger than just vegetarians and vegans.
What’s more, plant-based meat has been called the “best climate investment” of late. It’s no wonder that the plant-based food market is flourishing—and it’s set to grow $162 billion by 2030.
But to meet high demand, more innovation is needed to scale up and achieve these estimates. This infographic from the Very Good Food Company (VGFC) looks at five opportunities for innovation that could reshape the plant-based food industry.
#1: Protein Sourcing
Do you know where your protein comes from? Among the commercially available plant-based protein ingredients today, a majority are made from just 2% of the 150 plant species that drive the global food supply chain.
Of these, just 12 provide 75% of the world’s plant-based food. These statistics also leave out the 250,000 or more plant species that aren’t utilized in agriculture today—leaving plenty of room for exploration.
Discovering new sources of plant-based proteins could help expand product offerings, potentially boosting taste as well as texture.
#2: Protein Optimization
Before plant-based proteins can be used for mass production, they must be purified and turned into a protein concentrate. This is an important step, as the way they are made significantly impacts the texture and taste of the final product.
Proteins can be broken down biologically (using enzymes), chemically, or physically. Breaking down and separating proteins has a few benefits, from making them more soluble and improving their textures, to being able to retain fat better.
As a wide variety of proteins are being utilized for plant-based meats, more research is needed to make sure they’re processed optimally and efficiently.
For consumers looking to make the switch to plant-based food, how closely plant-based products resemble conventional meat can be a big draw.
Protein content typically dominates the conversation of plant-based products, but it is only one component. Fat, carbohydrates, and water equally play a role in the comparison of nutritional value and taste appeal.
For example, plant-based oils or nuts can offer substitutes for natural animal fat, while plant-based carbohydrates can come from legumes, whole grains, or starchy vegetables. Thus, the right formulation of these elements is key to creating a desirable plant-based product.
A deeper understanding of the molecular structure of conventional meat can help improve the taste, texture, and structure of plant-based alternatives.
During the process of turning a plant-based product from bean to burger, these products have to be “shaped” into the appropriate forms using methods such as stretching, kneading, shear-cell processing, press forming, or extrusion.
These different methods produce unique textures and influence the nutritional value of plant-based products. But as the sources of plant-based proteins diversify, each type brings with it unique properties. This means the end result can turn out very different.
Streamlined manufacturing systems can be used to control and evaluate the production of plant-based products. Real-time monitoring and diagnostic tools help ensure that consistent and high quality textures and tastes are maintained throughout the manufacturing process of plant-based alternatives.
Compared to conventional meat, plant-based food has the opportunity to be more agile and reactive to market demands.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a clear indicator of this—as supply chain disruptions occurred across the conventional meat industry, it opened up doors for plant-based distribution to soar.
As the plant-based food market matures, consumers are seeking healthy options, more choice, and improved flavors.
Click here to learn more about how the Very Good Food Company is leading the plant-based boom with an array of great tasting products resulting from innovative research and technology.