Savory

Meat manufacturers bring plant-based protein mainstream

By Roger Lane

Consumer demand for plant-based food continues to increase as large food producers and big-box stores invest more in the sector.

No longer just for the vegan or vegetarian, today’s consumers have a growing appetite for plant-based foods. While taste tops the list of reasons to eat plant-based proteins, perceived health benefits are on consumers’ minds. According to a recent survey from Mintel, 46 percent of Americans agree plant-based proteins are better for you than animal-based options and 76 percent say plant-based foods are healthy.

Industry data backs up this trend. Experts estimate the plant-based meat market is set to reach $5.2 billion by 2020 and it is predicted to make up one third of the meat market by 2050. According to the Plant Based Foods Association, in-home plant-based consumption is on the rise with plant-based milk sales up
9%, plant-based meat up 24%, plant-based creamers up a whopping 131% and plant-based cheeses up 43%. As these plant-based foods have become tastier and more readily available, industry players are taking notice. Tyson recently launched its own plant-based protein brand, Green Street, and also has investments with leading edge start-ups like the plant-based company Beyond Meat and clean meat company Memphis Meat. Nestle USA acquired Sweet Earth in 2017, a California-based maker of vegan meals and snacks made from plant-based proteins. Campbell’s Soup joined the Plant Based Foods association alongside plant-based drivers like Daiya and Follow Your Heart. Even White Castle has teamed up with Impossible Foods to offer a plant-based slider. The new burger was an immediate hit in test stores and made its nationwide debut in September 2018 at all 377 U.S. locations.

Despite the progress in the plant-based sector, some are fighting the trend. In the past few months, cattlemen in Missouri brought a case to court petitioning the USDA to deny the use of words like “meat, sausage or milk” on food labels, concerned that the plant-based meats, sausages, or milks would be too confusing for consumers to decipher.

One thing we know is authenticity matters. Consumers want products that meet clean-label standards, have simple, all-natural ingredients and don’t sacrifice on taste. As the plant-based sector continues to grow, Sensient can help product developers create high-quality vegan flavors in a variety of formats.

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