Experts weigh up the needs of plant-based consumers

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NEW YORK – This year’s Plant Based World Expo, held September 8-9 in New York, showcased the challenges facing manufacturers. Much of the conversation during several presentations focused on the simple fact that taste reigns when it comes to plant-based meat and dairy alternatives and that over-processing, complicated labels, a lack of proper nutrition – particularly in terms of quality protein content – and not enough variety are all common deterrent to purchase.

“Vegetable” in the sense of the market research company SPINS, Chicago, describes vegan alternatives to products of animal origin. And while there were many such concepts on the show floor at this year’s show, numerous naturally plant-based products have also benefited from the movement, from nut butters to vegetable oils to grain-based snacks.

It was missing many of the big-name plant-based meat and dairy companies, as well as the more than a dozen processors showcasing plant-based versions of chicken nuggets at the 2021 show. This observation was noted by speakers like Meghan Barton, director of Frozen for Kroger, Cincinnati, who said, “Duplication between brands is something to look out for.”

Instead of duplicates, the plant-based consumer, who currently consists mostly of flexitarians who also consume animal products, is looking for variety.

Kate Holmstrom, director-business acceleration consulting for 84.51, Kroger’s research business unit, said consumers don’t want to be bored with more plant-based options of the same product. She also said Kroger’s research showed that shoppers who increased their purchases of plant-based foods did not eliminate animal products. It’s mostly incremental growth for the business.

Ms Barton explained that plant-based milk is here to stay. They are part of every retailer’s assortment and “are an entry point for consumers into plant-based eating”. She also said that over time, with improvements in plant-based meat, she expects sales growth to mirror that of plant-based milk.

Plant-based meats are expected to be sold in the form of ready meals, which will use a plant-based protein substitute for the ground beef in lasagna, the chicken strips in alfredo and the diced pork in teriyaki. In addition, the prepared products must not be vegan. For example, real milk cheese can be part of the formulation.

Rodd Willis, director of natural and specialty at Dot Foods, Mount Sterling, Illinois, said if he were an innovator looking to break into the plant-based space, he would do it in frozen ready meals.

Ms. Barton agreed, adding that she’d like to see more veggie-forward options.

“I want to see the vegetables,” she said.

While the show floor may have lacked an abundance of plant-based chicken nuggets, the presence of luncheon-style plant-based meats was evident. Better Foods, of Sacramento, California, introduced its Better Meat brand of plant-based meats, which included a sliced ​​canned version of SPAM. The brand also has a line of plant-based cold cuts formulated to mimic everything from sausage to ham, as well as meatballs and pies. Like SPAM, the canned meat product is fully cooked and shelf stable.

New York-based Mighty Yum made its debut at the show. Mighty Yum was created and inspired by two health and fitness entrepreneurs to transform the way families eat on the go. Mighty Yum is the vegan form of packed lunches for kids. Varieties include plant-based versions of turkey and cheese, ham and cheese, and pepperoni pizza.

Crepini, Brooklyn, NY introduced its new zero carb eggless packaging. Crepini has teamed up with JUST Egg, a plant-based egg alternative that’s cholesterol-free and 5 grams of plant-based protein per serving, to create an egg-free wrap that’s vegan, low-calorie and high-protein, and sustainably sourced.

“Since our inception here at Crepini, we’ve looked for ways to break the carb-free category with keto-friendly options that are not only easy to eat anywhere, but delicious and versatile for any meal,” said Paula Rimer. Founder. “With the launch of our first egg-free wrap, we’ve developed an innovative way to make healthy eating easier for people with diverse dietary preferences, from gluten-free to keto to vegan.”

Numerous processors from abroad, especially from Great Britain, where vegan lifestyles are much more widespread than in the USA, traveled across the pond to the trade fair. One of these companies, Planet Organic Ltd., London, tried its Fable brand of meat substitutes. The product is made primarily from shiitake mushrooms and has a slow-cooked, beef-like, meaty texture and umami flavor. It’s available in patty and pulled formats with a simple ingredient list that includes coconut oil, soy protein isolate, and tapioca flour.

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