Get ready for microalgae and fava beans, pigless rinds, and vegetable-based spreads that definitely aren’t your grandmother’s margarine cups.
According to industry experts, the future of plant-based foods now lies in the fact that marketers achieve record sales during the Covid-19 crisis and plan to harness consumer appetite for artificial meat, nut milk, egg substitute and vegan cheese.
“The growth was not linear. It’s been exponential, ”said Zak Weston, food service and supply chain manager at the nonprofit Good Food Institute. “We have recognized the importance of innovation this year and are about to launch many new products.”
The fake burger boom isn’t over – it’s still raging in fast food restaurants, and grocery stores have lots of brands like Impossible Foods, Kelloggs Incogmeato, and Beyond Meat.
As we move into 2021, however, flexitarians can look forward to a wider selection of plant-based foods, revised recipes aimed at better taste and versatility, and new core ingredients and processing methods. Fermentation and fungus?
Highly competitive brands that invest heavily in marketing will continue to rely on health conscious and environmental messages. And while in the early stages, labriculture (laboratory-grown meat) and cellular aquaculture (manufactured seafood) will gain a foothold as the industry continues to improve the traditional animal food system and develop alternative sources of protein.
Beyond the bun
Consumers can expect to see more fake chicken (nuggets, tender, and schnitzel), different types of hog-free pork (like fake chorizo and bacon), and seafood substitutes over the next year. Plant-based lunchtime meats are becoming a sub-category, along with other ready-made meals and snacks such as beef dried meat made from mushrooms and koji, a fermented protein.
These products follow the sausage storm in 2020 when Impossible launches a breakfast sandwich at 15,000 Starbucks locations and Beyond’s sausage platter pizzas are the first to gain a foothold in a national chain, Pizza Hut. (In addition, KFC also expanded its chicken without a chicken). In the meantime, both companies have expanded their retail product lines to include meatballs, sausages and patties, family packaging, and other non-burger items.
But the burger takeover, which began in earnest in 2019, is still happening in restaurants. McDonald’s will be the latest entry sometime in 2021 with its McPlant, a meatless burger developed with Beyond and reportedly at the center of an upcoming plant-based line.
Diversity in the dairy
As part of the lockdown bake wave, brands are focusing on new plant-based eggs and butter and putting their energies into fine-tuning the recipes for these multi-purpose products, said Julie Emmett, senior director, retail partnerships at Plant Based Foods Association. “There will be a lot of reformulations,” she said, “and these are about improving the taste or the texture or both.”
Vegan-friendly cheese, ice cream, and yogurt will continue to grow, Emmett predicted, as will the use of new key ingredients like seaweed, sesame seeds, chickpeas, and pistachios.
Milk alternatives show no signs of slowing down. They are now over $ 2 billion and account for 40% of total plant-based food sales. One of the stars? Oat milk, which surpassed an old standby soy milk, has seen triple-digit gains recently. It is expected to soon catch up with another established competitor, long-time almond milk leader.
An overabundance of brands
For every boutique startup that sells fish-free tuna and meatless shells, there are heavyweights like Smithfield, Nestle, General Mills, Tyson and Danone aggressively pursuing the flexitarian consumer. Unilever recently announced a goal of growing sales of its meat and dairy alternatives to $ 1.2 billion in five to seven years, a five-fold increase from current levels. The potential for cleanup, accompanied by mergers and acquisitions, is high.