ofi, a global leader in naturally good food and beverage ingredients, has pinpointed plant-based dairy’s potential in new consumer research across five European countries.
Interest in plant-based products continues to grow, showing high potential for plant-based as something new and complementary for European diets. 61% of consumers indicate they are consuming more plant-based products than two years ago, and 58% expect it to increase in the coming two years.
Dairy alternatives specifically are carving out an identity beyond being a mere substitute. Two thirds (67%) of consumers see plant-based dairy as complementary to dairy products, and ‘an opportunity to try something new’ (65%), particularly for indulgent product categories including ice-cream, desserts and cocoa beverages.
Missing significant opportunities
The plant-based beverages, desserts and ice-cream market is worth an estimated €5.3bn (2022) yet there is significant opportunity if key formulation challenges faced by manufacturers can be addressed. For example, over a third (35%) of the consumers polled are dissatisfied with the plant-based dairy product they tried.
Further, 8% of consumers switched back to dairy as they did not like the first plant-based product they tried. More than a fifth (22%) of all those polled do not believe plant-based products can taste great.
Even current users (61%) say that bad taste and texture is preventing them from consuming more plant-based products.
Addressing taste and texture
In formulating plant-based proteins, nuts prove a popular choice, with the consumer survey revealing that nuts stand out compared to soy and oats as having a good taste and being rich in nutrients. Almonds, cashews, and hazelnuts were strongly associated with being tasty, natural, and healthy.
ofi’s Chief Innovation & Quality Officer, Kamesh Ellajosyula said, “Manufacturers have a huge opportunity to dial up taste and health benefits but face ongoing formulation challenges. Consumers who enjoy plant-based want wholesome products with real ingredients but instead may find products have added sugars, masking agents and stabilizers. At ofi, with our deep knowledge of nuts, cocoa, coffee and spices we can work with customers to produce nutritious and delicious plant-based products such as ice-creams and beverages.
“Equally, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Our dairy team is co-creating with our nuts R&D specialists to find exciting hybrid solutions that can combine the functional, nutritional and sustainability benefits of both dairy and plant-based.”
ofi’s Chief Marketing Officer, Briony Mathieson added, “75% of all consumers surveyed say they are willing to pay more for a sustainable product. ofi’s extensive farmer programs mean we can help customers source ingredients with a powerful narrative about communities and planet. We make this real through our product sustainability strategies such as Cashew Trail and Coffee LENS. Our focus on reporting through granular data and metrics was recognized today with our Cocoa Compass sustainability strategy and impact reports winning the Sustainability Innovation Award at Food Ingredients Europe. By collaborating with our customers from plant to palate we can together be the change for good food and a healthy future.”
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 The award recognizes “an organization or company for a measurable supply system that demonstrates environmental, economic and/or socially sustainable practices in the F&B industry. Preference is given to systems introduced/significantly improved within the last 2 years.”