The demand for plant-based products show no signs of slowing down. If anything, people are adding more plants to their meals – whether it’s for health purposes, personal beliefs or simply out of curiosity. Does this Beyond or Impossible burger really taste like my favorite Big Mac?

Market researcher NPD Group reports that 18% of adults are trying to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diets, and 60% of U.S. adults want more protein in their diets. A 2018 report by food consultants Baum and Whiteman also showed that more than 30% of Americans have meat-free days, more than 50% of adults drink nondairy milk and 83% are adding more plant-based foods to their diets.

So what does this mean for food manufacturers? Clearly, plant-based foods are here to stay – and there are many opportunities to create new options for consumers.

Exploring (Mostly) Meat-free Diets

Vegetarian, pescatarian, flexitarian, vegan and beegan – all are no- or limited-meat diets — so what’s the difference? Here’s how the diets vary:

• Lacto-ovo vegetarian: No meat, poultry, seafood or meat products (such as gelatin, broths, gravy and lard). These vegetarians will still eat eggs and dairy products.
• Lacto-vegetarian: No meat plus no eggs or products containing eggs. These vegetarians still consume dairy foods.
• Vegan: No meats or eggs plus no milk, dairy foods (such as cheese, yogurt and ice cream), ingredients made from milk (such as whey and casein) or honey.
• Pescatarian: the only meat eaten is fish; they still consume eggs and dairy.
• Beegan: vegan, with honey included in the diet.
• Flexitarian: eat mostly plant foods, but also include small amounts of meat in the diet.

Plant-based meat and dairy alternatives continue to rise in sales, however, companies should now focus on making the items more clean label. Clean label means that a product only features a short, understandable ingredient list.

pea protein materials

Plant-Based Trends for 2020

Foodservice researcher Technomic predicts plant-based ingredients as one of the top seven food trends in 2020. As the plant-forward movement continues, manufacturers will need to look to new natural resources to keep their menus exciting and fresh for customers. Industry researchers believe previously overlooked parts of familiar plants, such as beet greens, sweet potato leaves and avocado blossom, will start to gain attention. Additionally, seaweed will appear not just in snacks but also in desserts and drinks, and food manufacturers may find interesting uses for sea beans.

Nuts and seeds, oat, fruit and vegetable milks are also on the rise. Technomic found that spreads, dips, sour cream and sauces using plant-based dairy grew more than any other category, expanding by 52%. While other plant-based categories experienced similar growth, sales of conventional animal products stagnated or declined. Plant-based yogurt sales grew 39% while conventional yogurt declined 3%. Plant-based cheese grew 19% while conventional cheese was flat. Plant-based ice cream and frozen novelty grew 27% while conventional sales grew 1%.

Meat-Alternative Market Sizzles

The market for plant-based meat is now worth more than $800 million with new players quickly entering the arena. Food giant Kellogg introduced Incogmeato by MorningStar Farms, including the company’s first ready-to-cook plant-based burger sold in the refrigerated meat case, which competes with Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat’s offerings in the grocery store.

In the restaurant space, the Impossible Burger can be found in more than 17,000 locations, including standards such as Burger King, White Castle, Little Caesars, Qdoba, Cheesecake Factory and Red Robin restaurants. The Beyond Burger is available in more than 26,000 food service locations, including Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., Tim Hortons, TGI Friday’s, Dunkin’, Del Taco and as a test product in McDonald’s restaurants in Canada.

Future of Plant-based Foods

The plant-based boom doesn’t seem to be going away – in fact, the investment community has heartily embraced it. Since 2009, plant-based food and beverage start-ups have raised more than $17 billion in funding. While the concept is not new, the progression has gone from being a niche industry targeting mostly vegetarians and vegans to a burgeoning industry targeting all consumers. If you haven’t taken a look at plant-based ingredients, what’s stopping you?

Sweetener Products offers a wide range of plant-based products to meet this growing market need. With Sweetener Products Co., you have peace of mind of working with a company with more than 90 years of experience in the industry. We have the right products to fit your needs – and the needs of your customers. For more information about how we can help you successfully develop plant-based products, contact us.