The booming alternative meat market is seeing high-profile products exploding onto the scene. But, as health-food movers and shakers have pointed out, raw ingredients have not yet lived up to the vision of making clean-label products nutritious.
Itay Dana, marketing director, Equinom, said most consumers make food-buying choices with their wallets. To continue ramping up adoption, meat-free alternatives need to be affordable.
He says until now, manufacturing nutritious, minimally processed products has been expensive because locating ingredients that hit the sweet spot between optimizing clean nutrition and profitability has evaded manufacturers.
“Natural products not only need to exclude additives and preservatives; they must have short, simple ingredient lists,” said Dana.
“Unfortunately, despite the buzz, plant-based meat products don’t necessarily support clean-labeling.”
According to Innova Market Insights’ 2018 consumer survey, 49% of US consumers are driven by health when buying meat and dairy alternatives.
Plant-based food demand is climbing, with consumers concerned about animal welfare and minimizing their carbon footprint.
Educated shoppers such as flexitarians understand that a balanced diet that addresses their health issues can include fewer animal products.
With the clean-label revolution hitting the mainstream thanks to consumers looking for simple-to-understand labels on food products, “clean” has taken on a new meaning.
Sigal Meirovitch, PhD, head of protein development, Equinom, said most natural ingredients still need extensive processing to allure health- and ethic-minded customers. This over-processing strips the products of taste and functionality.
To achieve palate appeal as well as nutritional and sales objectives, manufacturers tack on masks, flavor enhancers, fillers and highly processed ingredients, such as protein isolates.
“Since Equinom’s legumes are bred for both high protein and simple protein extraction, ingredient producers can achieve their yield performance goals easier, and food manufacturing costs less,” added Meirovitch.
This is empowering the market to offer more competitively priced products and achieve financially viable market penetration.”
Dana said Equinom’s breeding technology grows better-for-you ingredients that irradicate over-processing, simplify ingredient lists and eliminate the need for additives, so producers can go ‘from plant to product’ in fewer steps.
He added, in the past, the triad of texture, taste and nutrition was too much to ask for in a single isolated ingredient. This caused food manufacturers to pursue the impossible: to create taste-bud-pleasing natural meat-free burger products from poorly flavored source ingredients.
Equinom maximizes component contribution using minimum separation, which reduces the need to mask unpleasant tastes.
“Equinom breeds specifically for organoleptic properties, custom-designing plant varieties that have revived great taste, appealing texture and improved nutrition,” said Meirovitch.
“The company has restored these high-demand qualities naturally in the crops, demonstrating that one plant can have it all.”