The future of plant-based food, according to industry leaders

Read Time:   |  20th April 2022

Plant-based food has taken the world by storm in recent years as more people than ever before are moving away from meat and adopting more plant-rich diets. But what does the future hold for plant-based food? We spoke with industry leaders to hear their thoughts about the future of plant-based food...

Ten years ago, vegans were busy draining the ‘milk’ from almonds with their bare hands, because one simply could not purchase almond milk off the shelf.

Fast forward to recent years and you can find virtually any food or beverage in a plant-based version. It is clear that the plant-based industry has come quite a long way.

According to a 2021 Bloomberg report, the plant-based food market is expected to reach $162 billion by 2030, up from $29.4 billion in 2020.

In addition, grocery store sales of plant-based foods that directly replace animal products have increased 54 percent in the past three years1.

Aiming to meet this growing demand, food and beverage makers are jumping on the plant-based wagon. I spoke with industry leaders in the food and beverage space to find out what’s in store for the future of plant-based goods.

Plant-based goes mainstream

Experts believe plant-based is no longer a ‘trend’ but a lifestyle. JC Hanley, Forager Project Co-Founder and President, believes the growth of the plant-based industry is a result of a “generational change and shift towards a more efficient food system” that is kinder to the environment, animals and human health.

Other food and beverage leaders attribute the exponential growth of plant-based goods to flexitarians, those who eat a primarily plant-based diet, but occasionally include animal products.

“Consumers, especially flexitarians, now understand that reducing meat consumption can offer individual health benefits, advocacy for animal welfare, and sustainability for our planet,” said Cindy Wong, VP of Sales at Franklin Farms.

Matt Riley, Senior Vice President of Global Sales at JUST Egg agrees that flexitarians are driving plant-based into becoming mainstream.

He shared that “75 percent of the consumers who buy JUST Egg also have shelled eggs in their basket” and “90 percent of those consumers also buy animal-based protein.”

Sustainability takes the front seat

Research indicates that greenhouse gas emissions from animal-based foods are twice those of plant-based foods2. As consumers become more aware of this fact, they are making a larger effort to reduce their carbon footprint.

“We have a whole generation of consumers who are basically telling their parents they want to eat foods that have a positive impact on the environment and their health,” says Minh Tsai, Hodo Foods CEO and Founder.

Similarly, food companies are making it part of their mission to reduce their environmental impact.

Florian Klass, Chief of Marketing Officer at Future Farm said the company entered the meat and seafood alternative spaces to offer options that don’t contribute to the world’s deforestation and overfishing problems.

Some brands are turning to up-cycling and creatively transforming food byproducts – which often end up in landfills – into nutritious snacks.

RIND Snacks Founder, Matt Weiss, said that by using “up-cycled, rescued fruits; those that may be a little blemished, overripe, or with some sun spots,” they are able to “take fruit ‘seconds’ and give them a second life by turning them into delicious, dehydrated snacks.”

12 Tides is “creating a more sustainable food system” by making snacks from kelp, a type of seaweed that “removes carbon from the atmosphere 20 times more efficiently than land crops,” sayid Co-Founder Lindsey Palmer.

Similarly, gimMe Snacks offers a seaweed snack that is kinder to the environment. Chief Marketing Officer, Diego Norris, shared that “consumers are starting to understand the real footprint of animal-based products” and are choosing more sustainable food options.

Companies are attempting to reduce their environmental impact by using ingredients like up-cycled fruits and seaweed. (Photo by Loic Venloic Venance/AFP via Getty Images)

Companies are attempting to reduce their environmental impact by using ingredients like up-cycled fruits and seaweed. (Photo by Loic Venloic Venance/AFP via Getty Images)

If you’re a fan of plant-based products, read these next:

The fewer ingredients, the better

But it’s not enough to be plant-based. It needs to be good for you. Consumers are raising the bar on plant-based standards and choosing more nutritious, less processed foods.

With nutritional value at the forefront of consumer’s minds, companies are now more mindful about the ingredients they use.

Chris Kirby, founder of Ithaca Hummus, believes “A food is only as good as the ingredients it is made from.” The company uses fresh ingredients such as garlic and lemon to provide a bold hummus flavour.

Another wholefood superstar is Core and Rind’s Cashew Cheesy Sauce, which brings real-food ingredients to the middle aisles of grocery stores. “There are so many whole food ingredients that can make delicious plant-based foods,” shared Co-founder Rita Childers.

Organic plant milk maker, MALK, prides itself on offering only three to five ingredients. Thomas Oh, Vice President of Marketing, shares that the company’s new campaign, “#turnitaround,” encourages consumers to turn packages around and read the ingredients list.

Mock meats will continue to grow, but with better ingredients.

As the demand for healthier plant-based foods increases, meat alternative makers are coming out with cleaner ingredient labels.

Eden Cali, Director of Communications at Daring, shares that “With so many plant-based meat alternative options in the market, consumers also need a healthy product that they can feel good about eating.”

With only six ingredients in their original chicken, Daring’s products have “almost 50% less ingredients than market competitors,” adds Cali.

Gina Galvan, Senior Vice President of R&D and Innovation at CHKN Not Chicken, says she was passionate about developing a plant chicken product with better ingredients.

“A lot of the meat alternatives hide behind a lot of ingredients, one of them being gluten, which many people are sensitive to,” says Galvan.

A few years back, consumers were excited to get their hands on meat-like products that tasted similar to the real thing. Now, they are ditching artificial ingredients and highly processed foods for cleaner alternatives.

Consumers are seeking out less processed meat alternatives made with more natural ingredients. (Photo via Getty Images)

Consumers are seeking out less processed meat alternatives made with more natural ingredients. (Photo via Getty Images)

More dairy-based companies transitioning to dairy-free options

Started with dairy now we’re here. Super Coffee, which gained traction with a high-protein coffee beverage that contained milk protein isolate, now offers several vegan options.

Jimmy DeCicco, Co-Founder and CEO, shared that along with the plant-based demand, the advance in plant protein technology and flavour profiles has energised the addition of more vegan options.

DeCicco predicts that plant-based products will become “more broadly available” and will create a larger appeal to all consumers. “This is when long-term change and adoption will take place,” he adds.

In need of some dinner inspiration?

Here are 15 easy vegan meals you can make in 30 minutes!

*Featured image via Getty Images

References

  1. Good Food Institute (2021). 2020 U.S. retail market data for the plant-based industry. Available at gfi.org/marketresearch/
  2. Xu, Xiaoming & Sharma, Prateek & Shu, Shijie & Lin, Tzu-Shun & Ciais, Philippe & Tubiello, Francesco & Smith, Pete & Campbell, Nelson & Jain, Atul. (2021). Global greenhouse gas emissions from animal-based foods are twice those of plant-based foods. Nature Food. 2. 1-9.

Written by

Carolina Schneider, MS, RD

Carolina Schneider, MS, RD

Carolina Schneider, MS, RD is a registered dietitian specialising in plant-based nutrition who has followed a vegan diet for almost a decade. Carolina is the founder of Hungry for Plants, a company dedicated to offering nutrition consulting services to health and wellness brands, primarily in the plant-based food and beverage space.

www.hungryforplants.com/

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