Tapping into the plant-based trend in North America

More so than ever before, consumers in North America and beyond are demanding products that reflect their attitudes, values, and outlooks on life. For many, this translates to opting for products that they can identify with, which relate to a wider purpose, be that environmental, moral, or personal.

Today, around one in five consumers identify themselves as flexitarian. This represents a monumental transformation from the emergence of the plant-based movement, sparked by the Meatless Monday campaign, at the turn of the century. Amid the global pandemic, the likelihood is that this figure will continue to grow as, driven by health and environmental concerns, many consumers are making conscious efforts to rethink
their consumption habits. 

In North America particularly, consumers are increasingly adopting plant-based diets which they consider to be better for both themselves and for the environment. 

Tracking the trends

As the consumer demand for more natural and organic, and clean label ingredients across the region and further afield continues to rise, plant-based is set to remain a key industry trend. Alongside this, the drive for sustainably sourced protein by companies and consumers in North America is paving a bright future for natural fermentation applications.

As Rahul Shinde, Director of Front-End Innovation at Givaudan emphasises, companies should keep these aspects at front of mind when developing ingredients for the North American market.

Personal nutrition and health & nutrition are also rapidly gaining momentum. In Shinde’s experience, “there is a growing trend for upcycling, for developing new food applications and products from side streams.”

Producing meat-like products without the environmental cost

One example of new products being developed to meet consumer demand, US-based start-up, Sundial Foods is in the process of securing a patent on its newly developed mechanical process, used to produce plant-based chicken drumsticks.

Set to launch in early 2022, the fibrous, plant-based chicken drumstick features a plant-based skin and ‘bone’ (a wooden stick) and can be grilled, roasted, barbecued, and fried.

Founded by former University of California, Berkley students Siwen Deng and Jessica Schwabach, the product aims to fill the gap in the market for a clean-label meat alternative which is good for both the consumer and the environment.

We wanted our products to be genuinely good for people and for us that meant clean label; not only matching the macros of plant-based but also having minimal processing and making sure these products are healthy,” Schwabach said. 

Unlike other plant-based products which are often produced via unsustainable, energy-intensive processes such as extrusion, Sundial Foods use mechanical fractionation to create a protein concentrate, which is later fibrilised.

By inputting diverse ingredients, this method produces a variety of fibres, which can effectively mimic different meat products.

This process allows us to control not only the little fibres you see when you take one bite of meat but also the 3D structure of muscle, cuts and bundles – the whole aesthetic of meat – and that has led us to a whole-cut concept,” said Schwabach.

Consumers commented positively on the realistic appearance of the chicken drumstick and taste and texture of the skin.

 

For more of the latest updates and insights into the plant-based trend, click here