56% of food and drink manufacturers to invest in plant-based products in 2022

New research commissioned by Atura Proteins, UK-based manufacturer of naturally produced pulse protein ingredients, reveals food and drink brand owners and manufacturers are most likely (56 percent) to invest their new product development budgets in the development of plant-based products in 2022.

Broadening product ranges to appeal to flexitarians i.e., those who eat a plant-based diet without eliminating meat completely (48 percent), and vegans (47 percent) was the most common reason for plant-based investment, with interest from retail customers and environmental concerns both on par (36 percent).

Of the 102 UK-based food and drink professionals surveyed, four in ten (41 percent) believe that meat alternatives, plant-based substitutes for meat such as mince, will be the biggest growth category for plant-based foods, followed by cereals (13 percent) and cheese (12 percent).

A third of industry professionals (34 percent) claim that difficulty of sourcing ingredients is the biggest barrier to developing plant-based products. More than a quarter (29 percent) claimed the biggest barrier was consumer resistance related to taste and formulation issues.

Paul Donegan, Commercial Development and Marketing Manager at Atura Proteins believes that the development of plant-based products needn’t be complicated.

He said: “Our research suggests that plant-based is a big priority for professionals in the food and drink industry, tapping into evolving vegetarian, flexitarian and vegan consumer diets. The increase in demand presents a significant opportunity for food and beverage brands.

“Our survey suggests that decision makers may have challenges sourcing some plant-based ingredients which may reflect the supply chain pressures brought about by increasing demand.

“The plant-based food market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.9% from 2020 to 2027, and there are now an estimated 8.7 million flexitarians in the UK, so it’s a great time for businesses to think about tapping into the market.”

Atura Proteins manufactures pulse proteins at a facility in Somerset, UK, offering a regional source of supply for European customers with potentially reduced food miles.

Furthermore, with protein fortification high on the agenda, incorporating plant protein to deliver a source of protein claim is important for product formulators. More than half (55 percent) of decision-makers confirmed that developing protein-fortified products typically came in response to demand from more health-conscious consumers.

Paul continued: “Protein is enduring in its popularity and the trend towards protein fortification shows no sign of slowing. Coupled with the trend towards plant-based food and drink manufacturers, there is a real opportunity to consider alternative protein sources, like fava beans, chickpea and red lentils, to help deliver optimal food and beverage products for consumers.”

The other key areas of new product development for 2022 include clean labelling, using as few ingredients as possible and ensuring they are natural, which 37 percent of industry professionals believe will be a key area for investment and low-calorie options that a third of respondents (34 percent) see as a growth area.