World Vegan month is celebrating this dietary trend, which has shown no signs of slowing this year - with the global retail consumption of meat substitutes having grown by 8% in 2020. This market has reached a value of $5.1bn in 2020 from $4.7bn in 2019, having outpaced the original pre-COVID forecasts for this year, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
The vegan diet has become synonymous to many with ethical and environmentally friendly lifestyles. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, nearly half (47%) of global consumers reported that ethically and sustainably sourced ingredients are more important to them than ever before. As plant-based sectors develop, consumer choice will be dictated by more than just taste and availability. The synergies between plant-based food products and environmental sustainability mean that whichever company can create the most efficient method of protein creation will have a strong competitive advantage and consumer appeal."
Aaron Bryson, Consumer Analyst, GlobalData
Innovations in microflora and microalgae – next generation animal-free proteins – could be key in capturing this growing interest and, more importantly, willingness to buy plant-based products. Here, GlobalData highlights the two key types of plant-based protein that could revolutionize an already rapidly developing industry in the coming years:
Manufacturers such as Perfect Days have capitalized on the ‘microflora' technique that engineers bacteria, yeast or fungi to give them the same genetic ‘blueprint’ as various meat proteins. Its ‘animal-free, vegan, lactose-free and plant-based ice cream uses animal-free whey protein to help give the product the taste and texture of traditional dairy ice-cream.
Bryson continues: “Replicating the full experience of traditional dairy - from taste to texture, and even the way it smells – is key for plant-based dairy products to appeal to segments that would not typically diverge from traditional dairy. Microflora will become a stronger challenger to alternatives used currently such as Soy, by not only offering consumers an improved consumption experience, but also comparatively stronger health credentials.”
GlobalData’s 2019 Q3 consumer survey found that 42% of global respondents believe whey protein has a positive impact on their health.
GlobalData’s 2019 survey also found that 45% of global respondents believe algae to have a positive impact on their health. As the ingredient becomes more commonplace, this is likely to rise.
Unilever’s partnership with biotech start-up Algenuity aims to expand its plant-based products portfolio utilizing Algenuity’s chemical-free methods of tailoring microalgae to food and beverage products, particularly in terms of producing neutral smell and flavor properties. This follows a similar collaboration between Nestle and Corbion in late 2019.
Microalgae is a potential game changer in plant-based foods due to its strong nutritional profile, as it maintains essential amino-acids, vitamins and fatty acids. Key players in the industry are increasingly aware of this technique. Microalgae has huge commercial potential due to its compatibility with the fermentation process, greatly improving protein yield and therefore reducing production costs. Although not an immediate challenger due to ongoing R&D and high set up cots, microalgae as a source for plant-based products has the potential to become a real sector disruptor in the long-term.”