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What is priority in plant-based manufacturing?

Examine the top challenges that make plant-based a complex category to navigate despite its soaring popularity.
SIG 2023 Blogimages Expert Insights Category Complexities 2 Desktop 1920X590

Plant-based beverages have moved from niche to mainstream in recent years, transforming the global food and beverage industry. Although plant-based milk alternatives can be, in some cases, traced back hundreds of years, their rising popularity has propelled manufactures across categories to venture into plant-based.

And producing better, improved plant-based drinks is high on the agenda as the plant-based beverage market is expected to grow at CAGR of 6.6% in the next ten years. But this is easier said than done as plant-based manufacturing comes with its own set of complexities and challenges that manufacturers need to address to meet consumer expectations.

For a deep dive into these challenges in part two of our Expert insights: category complexities series, we reached out to Julia Trebels, Global Consumer Category & Consumer Insights Manager, SIG. And the insights brought forth a pentagon of challenges.

More variety equals more complexities

Plant-based is a rapidly growing category with new products on the shelf every single day. As the name suggests, plant-based encompasses products from varied sources spanning seeds, legumes, crops, plants, and so on. Manufacturers are constantly innovating and crafting products from varied plant-based ingredients. And each source comes with its own manufacturing complexities.

SIG 2023 Expert Insights Category Complexities 2 Blog Text Images 370X370 More Variety Equals More Complexities
Diversity in production processes

Different base ingredients have their own process of extraction, separation, fortification, homogenization, and so on. The equipment varies as per each product's specific characteristics and processing needs. This diversity of production steps adds an extra layer of complexity as manufacturers need to navigate multiple techniques depending on the base ingredient.

Taste and texture are crucial

Plant-based alternative beverages were created on the premise of mimicking dairy-based beverages. And although today’s younger consumers are ready to move beyond and explore varied tastes plant-based drinks can offer, mouthfeel and texture remain vital. And the vast majority still expect a likeness to traditional. Also, masking off-notes associated with plant-based proteins remains a critical factor in achieving a winning blend.

Nutrition profile matters

Nutritional profile of plant-based alternatives is different from those of dairy-based products, making fortification a must to augment nutritional value. Essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin D, potassium, need to be added into plant-based beverages to ensure comparable health benefits, making it an additional level of complexity for manufacturers.

SIG 2023 Expert Insights Category Complexities 2 Blog Text Images 370X370 Difference In Nutrition Profile
Long ingredient list vs clean label

Clean label is increasingly becoming a consumer ask. Plant-based, usually comes with long ingredient lists which are often unfamiliar, due to the varied processing techniques, texture enhancement, and fortification. Balancing these factors while maintaining transparency in ingredient lists is another key focus.

The plant-based beverage industry is flourishing despite its inherent complexities, as manufacturers navigate challenges through innovative approaches. As pure plant-based players enhance taste profiles through extensive research and dairy companies cater to flexitarian demands, the industry evolves. Additionally, large food and beverage corporations contribute to growth by leveraging resources for innovative production methods, resulting in an ever-expanding and evolving sector with each new product.

In the next part of the series, we will move onto a simpler category – water, and examine whether manufacturers face any complexities here too. To delve into the world of water, keep tabs on the series or just subscribe to our exclusive bi-weekly newsletter and never miss an update from our blog.