The European plant-based market is expected to reach a value of €18.3bn by 2023. Demand for plant-based products continues to rise, with 42% of people choosing to go meat- and dairy-free on a ‘more regular basis’ today than this time last year, proprietary research from Kerry Taste and Nutrition revealed.
However, taste and texture appear to be limiting the consumer appeal of some plant-based products on the market.
Over one-third of consumers are looking for ‘better tasting products’ in the plant-based category, the research showed. Kerry’s research flagged texture as a big stumbling block, with 28% of people reporting that they want to see meat alternatives with a ‘better texture’.
“Taste and texture are consistently called out by consumers as areas where plant-based products are falling short. Plant proteins don’t have the inherent succulence and flavour that is naturally present in meat or that are brought about through different cooking methods,” Karen Emerson, Plant-based Business Development Lead North and South Europe, told FoodNavigator.
Experts at ingredient supplier Kerry suggested that the demand for improved products – coupled with significant market growth – means that there is a big innovation opportunity for companies who want to capitalise on the plant-based boom.
Moreover, 26% of consumers also want access to a ‘better range’ of plant-based alternatives, the company noted.
“Manufacturers need to deliver innovative and creative solutions to meet consumer needs and win in this space. We are seeing the emergence of the flexitarian consumers who are unwilling to accept anything less than a delicious product. This means that products really need to taste great order to succeed,” Darren O’Sullivan, Director of Plant-Protein at Kerry, said.
“In order to stand out in the marketplace, [brands] need to make sure that plant-based foods provide nutrition, functionality and great taste, and are sustainably produced.”
Emerson suggested that a number of approaches can be taken to address these challenges, “from masking technology that can cover the beany or bitter notes to fermented solutions that add a roundness and depth of flavour to a plant-based product".
Health in the spotlight
Sustainability, animal welfare and health were flagged as important motivators, with half of people suggesting that plant-based products are healthier. Half of all consumers view plant-based products as healthier or better for you.
This places pressure on manufacturers to deliver nutritionally balanced plant-based options. “We know consumers are becoming increasingly nutritionally astute. People are looking to their diet to support their physical and mental wellbeing. Legacy plant-based meat alternatives often did not hit the mark when it came to salt and fat content,” warned Emerson.
“Reducing salt content is not always simple as salt has a number of functionalities in products from preservation, to water-binding and taste. Therefore, a number of approaches needs to be taken to reduce the sodium content while maintaining the integrity of the product.”
High fat levels – often used to provide the desired mouthfeel – are another issue plant-based brands must address. Emerson again suggested a number of options that can be leveraged to reduce fat content, such as fermented taste solutions or functional binders with can ‘deliver succulence and the desired texture’ without the high fat content.