Demand for Plant-Based Protein Sparks Product Innovation

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With the global plant-based protein market predicted to reach $40.6 billion by 2025, food brands big and small are doubling down on innovation to meet rising demand from health-conscious consumers – and investment is rife. 

Over the past 6 months, koji bacon, seaweed shrimps and soy sausages have all hit the market, with brands including Unilever, Nestlé, Tyson Foods and Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) investing millions of dollars on NPD within the space. 

According to ADM – one of the world’s largest suppliers of food ingredients – ‘protein surplus’ (ie. added vitamins and whole grains), product variety, and ‘clean’ options with minimal ingredients, among others, will be the key trends driving this market going forward. 

Read More: Fast-Food Brands Are Betting On A Plant-Based Future

2020 is expected to be “another break out year” for the plant protein market, noted Kurt Long, director of Flexitarian Solutions at ADM. 

Adding: “We expect to see even more new and enhanced protein options hitting the shelves in the coming months and to get an edge in this growing space, manufacturers have to respond quickly with on-trend products.” 

As demand for nutritional and sustainable plant-based food soars, established companies are responding with product development, investment and expansion to consolidate their market position and ensure long term customer loyalty. 

Last year, DuPont Health and Nutrition expanded its range with a new plant-based, high protein ‘nugget’ made from soy and pea sources. Whilst this January, the Merit Functional Foods Corporation received a sizable co-investment from Protein Industries Canada to facilitate the completion of a $65 million pea-protein and canola-protein facility by the end of the year. 

Established in 2019 by Burcon NutraScience – a global technology leader in the development of plant-based proteins – and three veteran food industry executives, Merit Foods looks to produce the first high-purity, non-GMO canola protein products for the global market. Not only is the new production facility “crucial” for the company’s continued growth, says co-CEO Ryan Bracken, but it will help to “create a new value-added revenue stream for canola grown in Western Canada.”

And it’s not only existing brands that are capitalising on this high-growth market; the plant-based protein category has witnessed an explosion of startups seeking to disrupt the space and cement their position as one of the leaders of the movement.

Demand for Plant-Based Protein Sparks Product Innovation

Image: koji bacon

As demonstrated in the exponential number of new and exciting products landing on supermarket shelves, protein diversification is becoming increasingly common among startups, as a means of distinguishing themselves from competitors and satisfying consumer demand for product variety. 

Seeking to fill the gap in plant-based seafood options, US startup Good Catch offers seafood classics made from legumes and algae oil. The brand, which launched in 2016, completed its first commercial partnership outside of the US earlier this year, with a national listing in British supermarket chawellin, Tesco. 

This followed news of a $32 million Series B financing round led by several leading industry players including Greenleaf Foods and New Crop Capital. And elsewhere other new entrants are also capturing the attention of investors who recognise the opportunities that lie within the market.

Dutch startup FUMI Ingredients, which claims to have produced the world’s first vegan and non-GMO egg-white replacer using upcycled beer yeast, recently received its first investment of 500,000 from Innovation Industries and SHIFT Invest. While SEN Foods –– a Czech startup offering high protein, insect-based products raised 1.9 million in Series A funding in a round co-led by Reflex Capital and Presto Ventures.

With investment in the plant-based protein sector continuing to soar, innovation in taste, texture and flavour is also set to carry on rising. This points to a future with a more diverse and more sustainable food supply chain than ever before.

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