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PLANT FORWARD: Pushing the boundaries of plant-based innovation


Consumers have grown to accept plant-based ground meats, and now they are looking for products that are clean label and carry nutritional value.

DONNA BERRY: New brands and styles of meat and dairy alternatives continue to steal retail space from the animal-based products they try to simulate. This is due to advancements in ingredient technology to deliver cleaner, simpler and more authentic analogs.

“Consumers are attracted to many of the attributes associated with products made with plant proteins, but taste still drives repeat purchase,” said Melissa Machen, senior technical services specialist – plant protein, Cargill, Minneapolis. “Emerging plant proteins can bring along flavor issues, including astringency and bitterness. Even within the same protein source, there can be significant differences in flavor profiles.

“Pea protein can serve as the foundation for both dairy and meat alternatives. With functional attributes similar to soy, it’s a good choice for brands aiming to keep major allergens off product labels. Plus, there’s the added attraction of a more neutral flavor profile than many botanical proteins, including soy.”

In vegan cheese applications, plant proteins with mild flavors and white color more easily mimic traditional dairy cheeses. Some specialty pea proteins even have a milky flavor that contributes a pleasant taste, while the water-binding and emulsification properties provide critical texture benefits…

Jennifer Williams, marketing director, California Walnut Board and Commission, Folsom, Calif., said, “The simplicity of formulating plant-based proteins with walnuts makes them a viable and usable ingredient in consumer packaged foods, as well as ready-to-eat products for foodservice operators. The main benefit of using walnuts as a plant-based ground meat is the ability to formulate clean label proteins with simple ingredients that consumers are familiar with…

“Consumers have grown to accept plant-based ground meats, and now they are looking for products that are clean label and carry nutritional value. This nutritional value is a main selling point in walnut ground meat, as walnuts are the only nut that is an excellent source of plant-based omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid, with 2.5 grams per oz. The inclusion of omega-3s adds an additional benefit to both walnut protein ingredients.”

Travis Green, vice president of wholesome food ingredients, ADM, Chicago, said, “As flexitarians seek out plant-forward dairy and meat products, many are looking for specific plant protein sources. In fact, our research shows that the type of plant protein is important to 88% of global plant consumers and 92% of US plant consumers. On top of that, consumer perceptions of factors like the taste of plant proteins vary and are often connected to awareness levels of the plant protein type and ingredient label expectation. Nuts and seeds have the most positive plant consumer perceptions, with beans coming in a close second”. SOURCE…