Retail food and drink trends

Plant-based colours are a natural choice for plant-based meat alternatives

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Consumer tastes are changing fast. Figures show that more people are working plant-based foods into their daily diets, with sales increasing 11 per cent from 2018 to 2019 in the US[1] . That includes plant-based meat substitutes.

Food innovation in the plant-based meat category is gaining momentum with consumers, with sales growth at 37 per cent between 2017 and 2019[2] . This is attracting the attention of food industry manufacturers as they continue to develop new products to compete in this emerging market.

Meaty category set to grow

MarketsandMarkets recently projected the Meat Substitutes Market to be worth $3.5 billion by 2026 achieving double-digit compound annual growth. As a result, it is no surprise that some of the world’s most prominent food and meat processing companies are investing in this segment

Plant-based meats have become an appetizing market globally and there is plenty of near-term opportunity for food processors to sink their teeth into. The price to compete in the category can be high, due to a number of challenges they face preparing recipes that meet high dietary and cultural expectations.

From now on it’s clean label

To appeal to vegan, vegetarian, and flexitarian consumers, plant-based food products (including meat alternatives) must have clean-label ingredient lists. This includes clean-label colour ingredients.

More importantly regarding colour, studies reveal that for people to accept that plant-based foods actually taste like the real thing, they first have to look like the real thing. An FMCG Gurus study found that 61% of respondents believe colour and appearance are important. Another 65% believe colour helps make the product look visually appealing and 58% found it increases flavour expectations[3]. Many consumers will simply bypass foods marketed in this category if they don’t look the part. To compete in the category, products must present as naturally as possible and appear nearly identical to familiar meats.

Bring your “A” game to the table

Meeting consumer expectations demands food processors bring their “A” game to the table. To grow demand for products in this high-stakes segment, food engineers have been busy crafting amazingly realistic recipes that virtually duplicate the density and texture of ground beef, chicken, tuna and encased meats in common formats.

A winning strategy calls for food processors to make products that help people engage vegetarian diet philosophies through accessible and delicious options that offer few trade-offs with their real counterparts.

Colouring plant-based proteins

Plant proteins for plant-based meats come from a variety of sources such as:

• Soy protein
• Pea protein
• Mycoprotein
• Chickpea protein
• Seaweed protein
• Cell-based cultures

Colour stability at issue

Industrial-scale manufacturing of plant-based meat preparations requires a high degree of technical sophistication and expertise with high-pressure, high-pH processing techniques.

It’s at this point where making viable colour ingredient choices for these recipes – especially in the red and pink hues expected of most meats – becomes challenging relative to stability in processing.

Limited colour ingredient choices bugging industry

Economically and technically food engineers really have only five primary choices to naturally colour plant-based meats:

Plant-based colours: a daigram of how they work

Viable choices narrow when there is a requirement for vegan friendly sources. Carmine, for example, although a relatively all-natural and practical red hue source for many food products is made from insects and therefore unacceptable.

Lycopene, a natural choice to colour plant-based meats

Lycored’s all-natural lycopene-based colours (pink and reds) are derived from the company’s purpose-bred super tomatoes, while Beta-Carotene (yellow and oranges) are from our own strain of Blakeslea Trispora fungus.

Extensively tested for stability, across product formats such as cold cut sliced products (ham or poultry shades), frankfurter and ground meat types, during processing through to point of sale and typical consumption scencarios, Lycored`s palette of all-natural colours are proven to remain highly consistent across a broad range of temperature and light conditions. Stability studies highlight authentic natural effect and consistency over time.

Taste neutral, Lycored’s red hues are pH independent and also offer the best coverage for most plant-based meat substitutes being manufactured today.

Colour intensity processors and consumers crave

Food processors have limited viable choices for red hues, but not all have the intensity, integrity and stability to present appetite-sparking shades that prompt meat eaters and vegetarians to bite. To find the right hue for any plant-based meat format, access Lycored’s HueFinder™ here.

Sponsored by: Lycored

[1] https://plantbasedfoods.org/2019-data-plant-based-market/

[2] https://www.gfi.org/marketresearch

[3] https://fmcggurus.com/blog/premium-clean-label/

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