"I think there’s kind of an untapped market there," said Austin Lowder, applications scientist at DuPont Nutrition & Health. "Meat and plant protein blends would be a good way to increase the sustainability of meat-eating."
“Taking all the burger meat in the US, which equals about 10 billion pounds or so, and replacing 10% of it with a hydrated soy protein would reduce the CO2 emission equivalence by about 16 million metric tons – equal to taking about three and a half million cars off the road in the US.
What’s more, sensory analysis tests carried out by DuPont suggest that partially replacing 10 to 20% meat with a textured plant protein actually increases liking by improving juiciness and form retention, Lowder added.
Mintel: Clarify what the benefit is
Food and drink analyst at Mintel Jenny Zegler said that such products must be carefully positioned so consumers feel they are getting an added value with a plant and meat-blended product.
“A good parallel […] are sausages blended with fruit and vegetables for the flavour aspect. Consumers are excited about the new flavours and if they also get those plants, that’s nutritious as well.
“You have to clarify to consumers what the benefit is,” she said.
'This is beyond a rejection of meat. It's about a positive eating experience.'
According to Steve Walton, president of Health Focus International, it’s not surprising to see plant-meat blends gain popularity. The plant-based food phenomenon is not being driven by the small number of vegetarians who completely reject meat but by broader swathes of the population simply looking for a more positive eating experience, be it for health or environmental reasons.
He believes the interest in plant-based proteins is being fuelled by a long-established interest in eating more fruit and vegetables as well as the bigger macro trends of protein and clean eating.
“The macro trends around plant based eating are beyond vegan, beyond vegetarian and beyond a rejection of meat. They are moving towards a positive eating experience.”
'People are hungry for new sources of protein and DuPont isn’t going to ignore that.'
And so what categories is an ingredient giant like DuPont investing in? Pretty much all of them, says Lowder.
"DuPont is investing in plant proteins to fit into a number of applications, meat ingredients among them. Pretty much every sector that deals with protein, animal and plant. […] They are hungry for new sources of protein and DuPont isn’t going to ignore that.
"In ten years – probably even in five – the landscape of plant protein ingredients is going to look very different, and that’s going to benefit everyone."
“Consumers have more choice, processors and packaged goods companies fit into new markets, ingredient companies have all this new knowledge around protein sources that they can help translate to new protein sources, the farmers open their products to higher value markets and get paid more and maybe we’ll even see some research dollars going into research on specialty crops and improving them."