The pandemic has created a shift in food preferences, pivoting consumers towards more sustainable, plant-based options. Research shows that environmental concerns were heightened as a result of COVID-19, with 60 percent of consumers now more attentive to the impact their food and drink consumption has on the environment.1 As more mainstream consumers make changes to their diets to improve their long-term health and reduce their impact on the planet, there has been a corresponding upsurge in shoppers (20 percent) planning to include more plant-based foods in their diets, as a result of COVID-192. In particular, meat alternatives are gaining traction in Asia Pacific. Investments in protein alternatives have almost doubled in the region, reaching 312 million USD, 60 percent more than the amount globally.3
Meat Replacements Becoming a More Popular Alternative
For those who are incorporating more plant-based ingredients into their diet, meat alternatives have become a sought-after choice. Many consumers perceive plant proteins as natural, healthy ingredients that are more sustainable than meat in their production. These proteins also have specific benefits such as being low in cholesterol, saturated fats and sugars, making them a popular choice for a growing range of plant-based applications.
With a wide variety of plant proteins available, manufacturers need to choose high-quality ingredients which can offer convincing technical benefits. The popularity of wheat protein is due to its wide variety of textures it can create. In addition, wheat protein is an excellent source of many amino acids (such as cystéine, méthionine, phénylalanine, tyrosine and tryptophane).
Moreover, it has a neutral taste and can deliver a variety of textures in a wide range of meat-free applications, which is key as a pleasant taste and texture are important shopping motivators for consumers. As such, wheat-based protein is one of the most promising meat substitutes for meat-free burgers, nuggets, vegetarian sausages or even dim sum to name but a few. In addition, a recent consumer survey on behalf of BENEO shows that 66% of global flexitarians find wheat an appealing plant-based source in meat and fish alternatives.4
The Many Faces of Textured Wheat Protein
To meet growing demand for meat-alternative solutions, BENEO has developed a range of textured wheat proteins, called BeneoPro W-Tex. This has proved popular with producers as it has a unique alveolar structure5 that allows the development of juicy plant-based products with a meat-like texture. It also takes only 5 to 15 minutes to hydrate, reducing the need for long soaking and making it convenient for production. As well as enabling the creation of meat-free products with a meaty texture and granular, fibrous structure, BeneoPro W-Tex can also be flavoured with a variety of tastes, herbs and spices, making it a flexible meat substitute.
However, as the consumer palate for plant-based foods continues to evolve, a wider variety of meat alternative foods are now being created. To meet growing demand, producers are wanting even more versatility when it comes to fine-tuning their plant-based product’s organoleptic profile (its taste, sight, smell and touch) and its texture. To facilitate this process, BENEO’s range of BeneoPro W-Tex variants deliver both in terms of taste and texture, no matter the plant-based food application.
Textures, Textures, Textures
As many consumers are looking to make the switch to a more plant-based diet, many are seeking meat alternatives that mimic the textures of regular meat. A recent consumer survey on behalf of BENEO shows that globally, 81% of flexitarians agree that meat alternatives should be tender and easy to chew and 74% of them want them to be juicy.6 With the help of the different BeneoPro W-Tex variants, producers of meat alternatives can develop a variety of meat-free applications. For example, BeneoPro W-Tex’s existing formulation has been recreated in a smaller particle size of average 5 mm, instead of the standard 7 mm, replicating the finer textures in plant-based sausages (emulsified or not). Two other variants, with 7 mm and 5 mm as average particle sizes, are ideal for the preparation of ground meat products such as plant-based burgers and meat-free meatballs, and can also resist tougher processing conditions and freezing, making them ideal for minced meat replacement in frozen vegan ready meals. For those producers looking to replace the texture of chicken, in imitation chicken nuggets or strips, a variant has been created that has a slightly lower protein content of a minimum 60 percent (on dry matter). It has a higher water holding capacity and as a consequence creates softer, juicier, more chicken-like textures.
The rise in consumers looking to be more sustainable in their food choices means greater demand for plant-based products within the region. As consumers continue to shift their preferences, food manufacturers can capitalise on this trend and innovate with healthier, plant-based alternatives that not only provide new and exciting tastes, but help to contribute to sustainability.
- FMCG Gurus COVID-19 Survey: 18 countries surveyed in July 2020 [Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, UK, USA, Vietnam]
- FMCG Gurus, COVID19 Survey: 18 countries surveyed in July 2020
- 2021 Plant-Based State of the Industry Report (gfi.org)
- BENEO Global Plant-Based Survey 2021 - Insites Consulting conducted an online quantitative survey in July 2021 in Spain, France, Germany, Poland, UK, US, Brazil, Australia, China and Russia: 1000 consumers/ country = 11,990 consumers in total; sample of flexitarians = 2905. Filter: Global Meat & Fish Alternative Consumers & Flexitarian
- A structure composed of many very small cavities more or less ordered, like honeycomb
- BENEO Global Plant-Based Survey 2021 (Filter: Global Meat & Fish Alternative Consumers & Flexitarian)