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Anuga Alternatives: A global market overview from Innova Market Insights

1 Jul 2024

Why Are Consumers Interested in Alternative Proteins?

Health and sustainability are key drivers for consumers choosing alternative proteins in their diet.

Health and wellbeing is the top spending priority for consumers globally beyond living essentials, and consumers are focusing on health as a vehicle for feeling well in their day-to-day life. Innova's market research into alternative proteins indicates many consumers are incorporating alternative protein sources into their diet largely for the perceived health benefits. Additionally, 43% of consumers say that they consider a healthy, nutritious diet as central to healthier living.

Consumers are also increasingly conscious of social and environmental issues. Choosing alternative proteins allows consumers to feel they have a direct impact on such causes. For instance, some of the top sustainability-related reasons consumers say would incentivize more plant-based product purchases include better animal welfare, less product waste, reduced water pollution, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, 41% of consumers say that they consider meat alternatives to be more sustainable compared to regular meat products.

Fried chicken based on soy

It looks and tastes like fried chicken - but it's made from soya.“ (Copyright Innova Market Insights)

Differences in Demographics

Younger consumers are driving the alternative protein market. Gen Z and Millennials are more likely to be following pescetarian, vegetarian, and vegan diets, and are likely to maintain these principles as they age. Additionally, younger consumers generally express more curiosity and excitement toward new technologies for producing meat and meat alternatives. Conversely, older consumers show less interest in meat and meat alternatives produced with novel technologies.

Top Formats in the Alternative Protein Market

A sense of familiarity is especially important for consumers making the switch to alternative protein-based products. Innova's alternative protein market research demonstrates that 50% of consumers globally say that familiar formats are important to them when buying plant-based products; 62% say that familiar tastes and flavors are important.

For meat alternatives, burgers are the most preferred format, but consumers are interested in a wide variety of other formats as well. Whole cuts, meatballs, sausages, ground/minced/chunks/shredded variations, finger foods, and breaded options are all enticing for consumers.

A growing group of consumers is also interested in alternative dairy products as their preferred sources of protein. Popular dairy alternative products include dairy alternative drinks, non-dairy cheese, spoonable non-dairy yogurt, margarine, and vegan cream.

Ingredients of Interest

Pea protein is currently the top alternative protein source seen in products across the globe. Over 40% of total launches with a plant-based or vegan claim contain pea protein. Soy and wheat protein are also seen in over 25% of vegan and plant-based products. Bean, chickpea, and lentil proteins are all notably increasing in use, with lentil and chickpea protein seen over 80% more often compared to 2019. Seed proteins should also be watched, with flaxseed and canola protein as emerging niches.

Mushroom protein is of note within the alternative protein market for providing a superior sensorial profile. The ingredients can be seen used in a variety of products, from beef steaks to fish filets. Mushroom protein is notable for its ability to provide a signature meatiness that is difficult to replicate. Many companies and startups are investing in technological advancements within this field, such as fungal ingredient developer using Ginkgo Strain Optimization Services to screen for protein-producing fungi strains with superior sensorial profiles.

Cultured and microbial based protein are also showing growth in the alternative protein market, seen in 10% more product launches in the last five years. This includes mycoprotein or fungal protein, non-animal whey protein (often made from precision fermentation), nutritional yeast protein, and other alternative proteins. Nearly three in five launches in 2023 containing cultured and microbial based protein ingredients were from fungal protein/mycoprotein. Yeast protein and non-animal whey protein are showing potential with a 60% and 24% increase in launches respectively in the last five years (non-animal whey protein is marketed as a more sustainable protein). Most of these ingredients are used in meat substitutes but Innova's research reveals distinct growth in the dairy and bakery section.

What's Next in the Alternative Protein Market?

Cell-cultured and precision fermented animal-free proteins, including beef, chicken, and seafood, will likely continue to attract investment money and innovative solutions. This technology will enable meat substitutes to expand beyond ground and patties into whole cuts that better replicate meat. However, high cost, production capacity, and concerns regarding projected vs. real environmental costs are barriers the industry will need to overcome with this innovative technology. Precision fermented dairy ingredients are also expected to continue expanding into a broader range of dairy products, including cheeses and ice creams.

While many consumers are receptive to alternative proteins, concerns over ultra-processed foods are causing some to refrain from choosing these products. Media outlets are continuing to report on the adverse health effects of ultra-processed foods, influencing consumers around the world. Many consider a large portion of alternative proteins to fall underneath the umbrella of ultra-processed, and 22% say that they would like meat alternatives to be less artificial or processed. To compensate, brands can more heavily emphasize clean and natural ingredients on their products.

Author: Innova Market Insights