Covid19 has undoubtedly put a strain on the plant-based and vegan food ecosystem. Anne Marie Butler, EU R&D Applications Manager at Edlong, says the number of new product lines is at a standstill as the pandemic has shifted focus onto more well-known products. She told FoodIngredientsFirst that protein remains one of the most important ingredients in the plant-based space, as well as sustainability, health and indulgence.
Butler reported that as consumers return to staple products and favorite comfort foods, perhaps to help deal with the stresses of lockdown, they also enjoy cooking from scratch. For many its the economic pressures that have led them to cook at home more and unfortunately plant-based products are more expensive and therefore haven´t made their way onto peoples shopping lists.
So what does this mean for plant-based startups going forward? Its time to get creative and boost innovation in product lines to survive the full effects of the pandemic.
Jennifer Nystrom, Sales Account Manager at Edlong believes the pandemic has been “a double-edged sword for plant-based,” as people look for stress release in comfort foods but also want to try and stay healthy. “Grocery store shelves reflect this current trend, meat and comfort foods often sold-out, while some plant-based foods remain,” she commented.
Plant-based options can often be healthier than meaty foodstuffs and therefore have seen a rise of people trying out flexitarianism and working in plant-based foods into their diets. As well as the added benefit of sustainability and helping the planet, plant-based meat often offers less saturated fat and calories.
“We are in a unique time in the world – environmental concerns, health and wellness, and increasing consumer curiosity are huge drivers impacting purchasing decisions when it comes to food,” says Butler.
This causes a huge demand for a better variety of plant-based products on shelves.
Nutrition and price are the two biggest challenges that the plant-based food industry currently faces, according to Butler. “P lant-based products typically require fortification to achieve the levels of protein, vitamins, minerals, and the like, which today’s health-conscious consumers want.”
Edlong has been doing a lot of work on protein fortification and looking for flavors that help mask off-notes that can often be found in fortified products and help plant-based alternatives offer the same taste and flavor of the dairy they are substituting.
Protein is one of the main ingredients in plant-based foods and its important producers ensure food products have enough nutritional benefits for consumers. This is across the plant-based spectrum, including meats and cheeses.
Image courtesy of Oatly
Plant-based milks have enjoyed a spike in demand amid the corona virus as consumers look for more better for you products. They are now launching with more innovative and indulgent flavors. Oat-milk brand Oatlys sales skyrocketed by 90% in over a year.
The key to offering successful plant-based cheese is more to do with authentic flavors. The biggest challenge in the plant-based cheese space however are the price gaps. The vegan alternatives are typically more expensive which can put consumers off trying them.
Want to know more?
In our next webinar “Riding the Plant Based Wave: Leading the Food Revolution”, which will take place on Thursday, June 4 at 5:00 p.m., we will be joined by Nir Goldstein, Managing Director at The Good Food Institute Israel and Elizabeth Gutschenritter, Managing Director Alternative Protein at Cargill who will offer their insights into the world of plant-based and the companies leading this new food revolution. Secure your place and sign up here!