The plant-based revolution shows no signs of stopping, as industry grapples to find delicious, yet clean label, protein-rich alternatives to meat and dairy. While soy and wheat are still hugely popular with a legacy in the industry, pulses, nuts and legumes are gaining traction. On the show floor of Fi Europe & Ni 2019 (FiE) in Paris, France, FoodIngredientsFirst spoke with significant suppliers on how they are approaching the race to plant-based.
In a bid to show its uniqueness for innovation, Brenntag showcased vegetarian rillettes, based on the fatty French dish made from pork. “Everyone has a vegan burger, but what’s next?” questions Pernille Strand, Business Manager, Sweet & Nutrition EMEA, Brenntag. “We want to inspire our customers to think outside of the box.” The “rillettes” are made from soy and touted as unmatched to the texture of the original pâté.
New proteins on the horizon
“In terms of plant proteins, we are big players in soy as well as wheat. These are still the main one. These are still the ones that are the most used by far in volume. They are well known for their functionality and nutritional value,” says Frédéric Monachon, Business Manager, Savoury & Beverages EMEA, at Brenntag.
“We are also now looking at newer sources like pea protein. The world is crying out for pea protein because it’s non-allergen and non-GMO. Now we have the modern processes to eliminate any bitter taste or off-taste, which was the main problem with pea protein for years and years.”
On the showfloor, Herba Ingredients launched its own texturized pea protein on the market, which comes from a pea concentrate, rather than from an isolate. The product launch comes after the company consolidated into the Ebro Group, putting the entire production chain under one parent company. The new collaboration facilitates ease-of-use for customers moving into the plant-based space, according to Arjan Geerlings, New Business Development Manager at Herba Ingredients. Additionally, Ojah launched vegan ribs made with Heppi at the tradeshow, a texture made with yellow peas.
According to Innova Market Insights data, the standouts of the fast-growing plant proteins in new food & beverage launches with protein ingredients as percentages of average annual growth (CAGR, 2015-2017) include rice protein (65 percent), soy protein concentrate (60 percent), pea protein (48 percent), soy protein (19 percent) and potato protein (16 percent).
Challenges to sourcing
Pea protein has become the focus of Brenntag’s plant-based R&D given its availability and sustainability. “Pea protein is cultivated in large quantities in many parts of the world and there have also been some massive investments for pea protein and its processing,” notes Monachon.
“Other proteins are interesting, but anytime you get proteins, you also get a side stream. You have to find an outlet for the side stream, otherwise it is not economically viable. There are many new types of proteins: fava beans, water lentils, hemp and rapeseed and we are looking at all of them. However, we believe only a few will survive the economic barrier because you need to have a product that’s sustainable,” he adds.
Beyond yellow peas
While the yellow pea has gone completely mainstream, chickpeas are among some of the easier proteins to work with, notes René Krebs, Head of Business Unit, Cereal & Dairy at Döhler. Döhler was shortlisted as a finalist for the plant-based innovation award for a non-dairy, creamy spread made with chickpeas, almonds and coconut.
Krebs notes that 10-15 percent of the milk market in Spain has already moved to plant-based. Moreover, double-digit growth is expected across the board in meat and dairy analogs worldwide. Recognizing the massive market growth potential, Döhler will remain focused on providing proteins that bring nutritional value to the consumer, looking not only to sustainability and taste to drive its formulation decisions.
Nuts and legumes are also showing potential in the plant-based space, particularly almonds in dairy applications. However, peanuts in paste or flour form are also showing promise. “By weight, peanuts contain more plant-based protein than any other nut variety. Peanuts are also the only nut that has resveratrol, one of the healthy compounds also found in red wine,” according to Patrick Archer, President of the American Peanut Council.
As companies continue to perfect plant-based protein formulations, engagement with chefs and customers is driving innovation. ADM recently established an innovation center in Berlin, which is a new step for the business. “The center allows our customers to work with us in a technical lab space to develop formulations and develop recipes with our chefs to make the perfect-tasting dish. We’re really happy to be working with our customers directly,” says Bastian Hörmann, Senior Product Manager at ADM.
As the race for perfected plant-based proteins continues, there is some diversification appearing in the industry with sustainability, taste and nutrition being the most important factors to consider. While the market for plant-based is only expected to rise, consumer demand provides much opportunity in the market.
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