The onrush of plant-based food

Plant-based food is no longer a niche product. Instead, it is becoming mainstream as more and more people becoming flexitarians. There are now incentives for food producers to invest in plant-based foods.

27 October 2020 •

Recently, we hear more and more of ingre­di­ents, dish­es and foods that are plant-based. But what does that mean and why is this hap­pen­ing now? And what does the future hold for plant-based food – is this just the beginning?

What is plant-based?

When refer­ring to plant-based food, one can mean dif­fer­ent things. On the one hand, it can be a diet that main­ly con­sists of non-ani­mal food that instead of meat con­sists of plants of dif­fer­ent sorts. These can be, for exam­ple, veg­eta­bles, fruits, legumes, groats, nuts and seeds.

But more and more have come to be about new types of prod­ucts that are plant-based. Milk made from oats or dif­fer­ent kinds of nuts has been around for a num­ber of years, as well as soy-based yoghurt and cream.

Gröna ärtor

Why is it happening now?

Fair enough, there have been veg­e­tar­i­an and veg­an alter­na­tives for a long time now. For exam­ple, tofu which is a prod­uct made from soy­beans or Quorn which is a pro­tein pro­duced via fermentation.

But these have been niche prod­ucts, specif­i­cal­ly tar­get­ed at veg­e­tar­i­ans and veg­ans. These con­sumers have more or less had to accept a mediocre taste and mouth­feel. There has sim­ply not been enough invest­ment in research and devel­op­ment as the seg­ment has been too small to be profitable.

But that is changing.


More and more peo­ple turn to plant-based foods, which should not be inter­pret­ed as every­one sud­den­ly becom­ing a veg­e­tar­i­an or veg­an. Instead, more and more peo­ple choose to eat more plant-based and reduce their meat con­sump­tion with­out entire­ly quit­ting eat­ing meat. They sim­ply eat a lit­tle of each. These con­sumers are known as flex­i­tar­i­ans. This is a large and rapid­ly grow­ing group of con­sumers. This grow­ing seg­ment is close­ly linked to more peo­ple want­i­ng to make a con­tri­bu­tion to the cli­mate and the envi­ron­ment; it affects what you put on the plate. Health is how­ev­er also an impor­tant factor.

Creating incentives

The grow­ing group of flex­i­tar­i­ans is also cre­at­ing finan­cial incen­tives for food pro­duc­ers to invest in research and devel­op­ment of plant-based foods. The chal­lenge is to improve taste and mouth­feel, but it’s also about break­ing new ground and com­ing up with new prod­ucts. Therefore, we now see a lot of star­tups both in Europe and in oth­er parts of the world who want to enter this market.

Plant-based innovation

Perhaps the best-known exam­ple of plant-based inno­va­tion is plant-based meat. With the use of peas and mung beans, among oth­er ingre­di­ents, the American food pro­duc­er Beyond Meat has cre­at­ed plant-based burg­ers, sausages and meat­balls. To pro­vide the right colour, beets are used and the juici­ness comes from coconut oil and pota­to starch.

But it’s not only on the meat front that we see this type of inno­va­tion. The lat­est thing is the quest for high-qual­i­ty plant-based fish.

Plant-based fish

The Swiss com­pa­ny Givaudan, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the University of California, has inves­ti­gat­ed the mar­ket and pos­si­bil­i­ties for plant-based fish.

According to Givaudan, the fish­ing indus­try is affect­ed by the same macro trends as the meat indus­try. These trends are, not sur­pris­ing­ly, about cli­mate change and care and con­cern about the earth’s resources. But there are also spe­cif­ic fac­tors that are typ­i­cal of the fish­ing indus­try in par­tic­u­lar, such as over­fish­ing and high lev­els of mer­cury. This has cre­at­ed a demand for plant-based fish.

Common pro­tein sources for mak­ing plant-based fish are soy, but also peas and pro­tein from wheat. Chickpeas, lentils and flax seeds can also be used.

What does the future hold?

The mar­ket for plant-based food looks bright. In an arti­cle by Food News International, the mar­ket analy­sis com­pa­ny BIS Research pre­dicts that the sec­tor will have a turnover of 480 bil­lion dol­lars in 2024 with an aver­age annu­al growth of almost 14 per cent between 2019 and 2024.

The ingre­di­ent com­pa­ny DuPont has con­duct­ed a sur­vey of more than a thou­sand American con­sumers. Just over half of the respon­dents said they con­sume more plant-based foods. Almost 60 per cent of the respon­dents said that their new­found plant-based diet was per­ma­nent or that they hoped it would be.

This video clip from DuPont explains why herbal foods are not just about meat and burgers.

YouTube video

A seismic shift

Greg Paul, Marketing Manager at DuPont Nutrition & Health, claims that we are fac­ing a seis­mic shift when it comes to eat­ing habits glob­al­ly. The plant-based food is no longer an ‘exper­i­ment’ but a per­ma­nent change that comes from changes in health, lifestyle and social fac­tors, says Greg Paul.

At the time of writ­ing, the European Parliament vot­ed in favour of con­tin­u­ing to call plant-based burg­ers and minced meat veggie/​vegan burg­ers, respec­tive­ly veg­an minced meat; a mile­stone in the progress of plant-based foods.

The plant Chicory with its beau­ti­ful blue flow­ers. Chicory grows wild through­out Europe and from its roots, you can extract the dietary fibre inulin.

Plant-based sugar reduction

What about plant-based sug­ar reduc­tion, then? Does it exist?

Yes, for exam­ple, our own sweet­ened fibres which is a 1: 1 solu­tion for sug­ar reduc­tion. All ingre­di­ents in sweet­ened fibres orig­i­nate from the plant kingdom.

The fibres are extract­ed from plants (for exam­ple inulin) or pro­duced from starch (for exam­ple dex­trin, iso­ma­l­tooligosac­cha­rides and poly­dex­trose), which in turn come from pota­toes, wheat, corn, cas­sa­va and oth­er starch-rich crops.

Starch also pro­duces sug­ar alco­hols, which are anoth­er key ingre­di­ent in sweet­ened fibres. Here we find, for exam­ple, malti­tol, sor­bitol and ery­thri­tol.

To get prop­er sweet­ness, we use ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides that are extract­ed from the ste­via plant.

Read more!

If you want to know more about sug­ar reduc­tion, dif­fer­ent ingre­di­ents, pros and cons, inter­est­ing curiosi­ties and much more, we can rec­om­mend these arti­cle series:

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