All aboard the plant-based train

The plant-based foods trend is an opportunity for every type of business. And it is a great example of how product development skills can create new markets, writes Julian Mellentin of New Nutrition Business.

People want to eat more plants – and they are open to trying plants in forms that were not available 10 years ago.

What has brought the trend to life and is driving its growth is creative product development by food companies, by retailers and vegetable growers, whose efforts to make vegetables more convenient have passed a tipping point.

Some of these new product development (NPD) efforts are quite sophisticated but many more are simple, retaining the natural identity of plants, with few ingredients. And the fact is, naturalness and simplicity are what align best with consumer needs.

Millennials in particular are motivated by ultra-convenient vegetables. The rising interest in low-carb eating patterns (for weight loss) is also increasing consumer interest in ‘more vegetables’ – and is already more important than veganism.

Not only that, but we are all food explorers now: people are looking for more novel and exciting ingredients and tastes, and NPD makes it far easier to choose plant-based meals that tick these boxes.

Putting aside plant-based beverages and dairy, if you are thinking about a plant-based foods strategy for your business you basically have five options.

1. Plant-based meat alternatives – extruded, processed plant proteins (normally soy, pea, wheat) that are designed to mimic meats;

2. Plants blended with meat – such as beef and beetroot burgers and sausages;

3. Plants blended with ‘good carbs’ – such as bread with some vegetable content, or chips that combine broccoli and potato;

4. Plants replacing refined carbs – plants on the plate in place of pasta or potato; and

5. Plants remade as heroes – primarily about enabling people to get more vegetables. This includes snack forms such as pickles.

Of these five strategies, we believe that the first has the highest risk of failure, thanks to its disconnect from consumer preferences. For most food companies, the other four offer much better opportunities for building a profitable business.

Plant-based meat substitutes such as the Beyond Burger will get intense attention over the A number of high-profile and vocal businesses backed by Silicon Valley tech investors, looking for the next billion dollar “unicorn” believe they can transform the meat substitutes sector.

But most people do not want meat substitutes, which many will see as ‘too processed’ and failing the test of naturalness and few ingredients. They want healthy, plant-based choices and ideally vegetables. They have proved that they are open to a wide array of possibilities. The meat substitutes will be competing with all of these, not only with meat…… Read the full article here