Home Q&A from the Webinar – Plant Proteins: What’s Next?

Here are the responses to the questions asked during the webinar “Plant Proteins: What’s Next?” by the participants from leading F&N companies. 

Q 1. Consumer interest in plant-based proteins continues to rise across the EU. However, while this shift in preferences is evident in the evolution of retail assortments and restaurant menus, it is not reflected at the farm level in quite the same way.

A. FutureBridge F&N Consultant’s response:

More than ever, consumers are demanding alternative proteins that are as delicious, affordable, and accessible as conventional products.  A gradual shift has been seen from traditionally used ingredients such as soy, chickpea, pea, and beans to disruptive ones such as jackfruit, nuts, and seeds. Other countries such as the US, the UK, The Netherlands, Australia, and Singapore are also very active in plant-based protein eatables and drinkables, adhering to the regulatory regulations prevalent in these countries.

Q 2. What are consumers’ views on this emerging plant-based food trend?

A. FutureBridge F&N Consultant’s response:

Health-conscious and vegan consumers are actively moving toward plant-based foods with the particular influence of alternative meat, dairy, and seafood.

The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation 2020 Food and Health Report found significant changes in food and nutrition trends. Key findings included:

  • Approximately 70% of consumers consider protein from plant sources healthiest;
  • 28% of consumers are eating more protein from plant sources, 24% are eating more plant-based dairy, and 17% are eating more plant-based meat alternatives; and
  • More than four in 10 consumers assume that a product described as “plant-based” would be healthier than one that is not.

Q 3. What about consumer acceptance of Plant Based products with their complex ingredient lists vs their benchmark products?

A. FutureBridge F&N Consultant’s response:

A study funded by the Good Food Institute surveyed around 3000 participants across the USA, China, and India to evaluate consumer acceptance of plant-based meat.

In the USA, it was found that more politically liberal people and those more familiar with the product were more likely to buy it. Attitudinal predictors of purchase intent included appeal and excitement.

In China, it was found that women are more likely than men to buy plant-based meat. Meat eaters are significantly more likely than vegetarians and vegans to buy plant-based meat, and higher meat attachment predicts a higher purchase likelihood. The vital attitudinal predictors of purchase intent were perceived healthiness, appeal, tastiness, and sustainability as a long-term food source.

In India, it was found that omnivores and those who eat more meat are again more likely to eat plant-based meat. Higher-income groups in India expressed more interest in plant-based meat, as did more educated and more politically liberal consumers. In terms of attitudes, perceived sustainability, excitement, necessity, and goodness were predictors of plant-based meat purchase intent in India.

Recommendations to increase plant-based product acceptance: 

The core motivation for customers in food choices are taste, cost, and convenience. Most plant-based products focus on an appealing sensory profile that is similar to conventional meat.

Naming strategies for specific ingredients can be used to convey a product’s appropriateness within a meal context. Describing a product as specifically as possible (e.g., instead of “spaghetti with plant-based meat,” the product label should read “spaghetti with plant-based ground beef”.

Consumers perceive plant-based meat to be high in protein, excellent for weight control, and low in saturated fat. Plant-based meat should retain these qualities

More care should be taken to improve the products along with other components of health. For example, a plant-based beef patty could be fortified with vitamin B12 and zinc (nutrients found in conventional beef). Addressing these health concerns will help reduce one of the key barriers to consumption.

Creating plant-based meats that are the same price or less expensive than their conventional counterparts is likely to be an effective strategy to accelerate adoption for all consumer groups.

Because different groups of consumers are at different places in the plant-based meat adoption process, consumer segmentation is an important practice when promoting adoption of plant-based meat. The most practical segmentation strategy is to separate populations by their current rates of meat consumption. Targeting the meat reducer segment (i.e., flexitarians) will be the most effective use of resources because this group is already open to changing its behavior. Flexitarians’ adoption of plant-based meat will lead the way for greater societal adoption.

Reference:

Frontiers

GFI

Q 4. Protein crops currently being planted are insufficient to keep pace with growing demand, and we need to understand why that is and what can be done to mitigate this.

A. FutureBridge F&N Consultant’s response:

The EIP-AGRI Focus Group on Protein crops addressed the challenge of improving the profitability of protein crops in Europe in order to make it an attractive crop for farmers while satisfying the requests of the animal feed industry (and to some extent the food industry) and promoting more technically, economically and environmentally sustainable European agricultural production systems. With this as objective, a group of 20 experts from across Europe assessed the challenge and identified possible solutions.

Tasks for the focus group:

  1. Analyzing the demand for protein crops in Europe:
  • What are the requirements for the feed sector (quality, price)?
  • What are the key findings (e.g. comparative analysis of cost/benefit of protein crops in Europe)?
  • What strategies can be developed to increase the competitiveness of protein cultivation in Europe?
  1. Assessing the potential of relevant crops and forage which are rich in protein.
  2. Looking into the value of protein crops in the crop rotation (e.g. effects on soil fertility, reduced nutrient use, reduced weed infestation, micronutrients, reduced compaction, etc.).
  3. Suggesting how to increase productivity and protein content of soybean in the EU, pulses (vicia, beans, and peas), alfalfa and clover, and oil seeds (rapeseed, sunflower).

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Q 5. Are consumers aware of this ‘engineered’ nature of plant-based food? It’s full of texture replacement, flavorings, and colorings – some natural and some not…

A. FutureBridge F&N Consultant’s response:

In the United States, 63% of adults say the ingredients in a food or beverage have at least a moderate influence on what they buy, and 64% say they try to choose foods made with clean ingredients, according to the International Food Information Council’s (IFIC) 

Therefore, consumers are aware of the ingredients that go into creating plant-based food. The industry as well is trying to cater to this demand by choosing lesser synthetic ingredients and utilizing more natural claims products. For eg. Fiberstar has launched its clean label citrus fiber ingredient, which can be used as a substitute for methylcellulose in plant-based meat.

Q 6. How about vegetables as a raw material for more plant-based food?

A. FutureBridge F&N Consultant’s response:

Yes, we are observing the growing use of vegetables in plant-based food as a hero ingredient rather than the traditionally used blend. For eg. The Simple Root will introduce a vegetable-forward range of dips, cream cheese-style spreads, and artisan cheese-style spreads in the US. 2foods is using vegetables and a semi-ripening technology to create plant-based eggs.

 

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