Report: walnuts and mushrooms are the latest ingredients to trend in alternative protein

15 Oct 2021

Plant-based alternatives are becoming increasingly normalized, and consumer interest is branching out beyond conventional hamburgers and sausage, and they are seeking alternatives to conventional meat products in more niche categories such as deli meat, roasts, and charcuterie.

As the desire for plant-based offerings continues to expand, U.K. AI startup Tastewise found that walnut chorizo and mushroom jerky are two up-and-coming trends for manufacturers to keep their eyes on.

Report: walnuts and mushrooms are the latest ingredients to trend in alternative protein

In its findings, the startup showed that as the category becomes increasingly crowded, consumers are looking for continued innovation in mainstream meat categories beyond sausage, such as ground meat, patties and chicken.

“Vegetable jerky is showing interesting signals of a trend to watch,” Alon Chen, co-founder and chief executive officer of Tastewise said. “Keep a particular eye on mushroom jerky, which already accounts for 59% of consumer conversations about vegetable jerky on the whole.”

Vegetable jerky is only one option coming to the table that the AI startup identified. Walnuts, mushrooms, seitan, edamame and white bean are all emerging ingredients. What manufacturers are using these ingredients to create is also noteworthy.

In the sausage category, walnuts have become a rising star. Currently, sausage made from soy and pea protein sources currently accounts for 34% of plant-based meat consumption. However, as this niche becomes increasingly inundated with competition, manufacturers that are looking to stand out have found that walnuts make an interesting and pleasing solution.

Tastewise found that this emerging formulation of walnut sausage has seen consumer interest grow 72% in the past three months. Since 82% of walnut sausage being consumed as a chorizo product in tacos, if consumers continue to seek out this alternative ingredient, there is a long runway for innovation and development of future walnut-protein based products.

In addition to sausage, the U.K. AI startup indicated that categories like deli meats, jerkies and roasts are underrepresented markets that are ripe for growth. And the company’s findings reflect that consumers agree. Interest in plant-based salami increased 159%, and interest in plant-based charcuterie grew 148%. In its presentation on the subject, Tastewise noted that ground meat, patties and chicken are additional categories in which opportunities exist for continued innovation that focus on creating applications that are high protein and high fiber as well as low cholesterol and low saturated fat.

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