Plant-based foods and drinks spur new ingredient development

21 Oct 2019

The growing popularity of plant-based foods and beverages has boosted innovation among ingredient suppliers to meet diverse manufacturer demands, from dairy-free cultures for flavour and food safety, to flavours and emulsifiers for improved taste and texture.

Most recently, DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences introduced a dairy-free protective culture for fermented plant-based foods and beverages, which it claims prevents yeast and mould spoilage. The culture allows for longer shelf life, but also taps into broader industry trends, such as sustainability issues and food waste reduction, as well as demand for allergen-free foods, clean label ingredients, and of course, the rising trend toward plant-based eating.

Plant-based foods and drinks spur new ingredient development
New plant-based ingredients help bring success in new categories

DuPont’s figures suggest switching 5% of global dairy yoghurt consumption to plant-based alternatives could save 1.8 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year. And whether consumers make that switch due to concern about environmental impacts or for their own health, there is no doubt that it is a booming market. According to DuPont, global sales of fermented plant-based products grew an average of 43% a year from 2011 to 2018, with annual revenues from plant-based yoghurts now reaching €138 million in France, €75 million in the UK and €74 million in Germany.

Innovation in the plant-based ingredients sector is wide-ranging. Among the many companies to have introduced new ingredients to cater to the category, Chr Hansen has also developed cultures for fermented plant-based products, such as yoghurts and fermented drinks, while Palsgaard has developed emulsifiers specifically for use in dairy alternatives. Roquette offers a range of ingredients based on pea fibre and pea protein for plant-based foods, from dairy-free ice cream to meat alternatives; Avebe supplies potato-derived ingredients for dairy-free foods and gelatine-free confectionery; and Jungbunzlauer has introduced a range of minerals specifically for fortifying plant-based dairy alternatives.

Apart from its latest protective culture, DuPont also offers other cultures for fermented plant-based foods, such as yoghurts and fermented milk drinks, under its Danisco brand.

For the plant-based food and beverage market, the rapid building of this broad range of plant-based ingredients looks set to ensure the sector has a bright future, as product innovation is freed from concerns about the availability and functionality of plant-derived ingredients. Much attention currently is focused on meat and dairy equivalents, but as ingredient companies continue to develop solutions that straddle several industry mega-trends – from sustainability issues to clean label demands – it seems possible, and perhaps even probable, that new product developers one day could transcend current food categories, taking plant-based foods and beverages into entirely novel areas.

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