The Rise of Non-Dairy Alternatives

Soy holds strong in fevered plant-based protein market

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

'Soy remains a highly accepted food and ingredient globally, especially when it comes to protein,' ADM president of proteins says. ©GettyImages/HandmadePictures
'Soy remains a highly accepted food and ingredient globally, especially when it comes to protein,' ADM president of proteins says. ©GettyImages/HandmadePictures

Related tags: Nutrition

While the plant-based protein market becoming more crowded with new sources, long-standing player soy has managed to stay relevant to consumers, according to Archer Daniels Midland (ADM).

The soy protein market is expected to reach $5.89bn by 2022 growing at a rate of 6.6% annually with North America remaining as the dominant market, a MarketsandMarkets reports estimated.

“Soy is very well known and is in fact one of the most widely consumed plant-based proteins in the world,”​ ADM vice president of global food marketing, Mark Rainey, told DairyReporter.

“Consumers told us that their overall sentiment and perception towards soy is positive with more than 70% of people thinking soy is ‘good’ or ‘great’.”

Reducing reliance on dairy

“We continue to invest in soy and a wide array of other plant-based proteins, blends and complete systems to ensure we have the widest portfolio to meet evolving consumer tastes and preferences,” ​Rainey said.

One such investment was the acquisition of WILD Flavors & Fragrances in 2014 that allowed ADM to design new plant-based proteins and blends while leveraging its natural taste, flavor, and masking technologies.

In addition, ADM’s CLARISOY portfolio of plant-based protein ingredients is designed to help reduce developers’ and manufacturers’ reliance on dairy while stabilizing cost and boosting nutrition to create vegan versions of coffee creamers, non-dairy desserts, cheeses, and nutritional beverages, according to the company.

ADM has also found that through surveying and research that consumer attitude towards soy as protein source is positive with more than half of respondents viewing it as an ideal alternative to animal-based protein, according to the company’s OutsideVoice proprietary research platform.

Rainey added that survey respondents’ approval of soy hit 95% when they were offered additional information about the plant-based protein such as requiring a small fraction of the natural resources needed to produce animal protein.

“A shift like this is remarkable and something we see time and time again. It tells us that people want more information about key ingredients, like soy, in their foods,” ​he said.

Rising flexitarian trend

Along with non-dairy alternatives, the growing flexitarian trend has proliferated into various food and beverage products, especially RTD drinks.

“Manufacturers are responding in many ways, and we’re continuing to see tremendous renovation and innovation in the rise of non-dairy, plant-based proteins,” ​Rainey said.

One trend that has emerged is the rise of hybrid drinks that combine dairy and non-dairy sources of protein.

According to Kati Ledbetter, senior manager of Food Research at ADM, soy also has also offers several advantages over other plant-based sources.

“Soy is probably the most comparable to dairy when it comes to the protein quality – it’s going to be more of a complete protein source,”​ Ledbetter said.

ADM works with its customers to develop a formula using a balance of CLARISOY plant-based ingredients as well as flavor and taste ingredients made from dairy milk, cream, cheese, and butter.

“In many cases—especially for nutrition bars and beverages—a blend of both dairy and plant-based protein is attractive to consumers and also helps product developers achieve the desired taste, nutrition and texture of the finished product,” ​ADM president of proteins, Bruce Bennett, told DairyReporter. 

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1 comment

Whey protein, dairy drinks and climate change

Posted by Samuel,

The move to adding soy in beverages can only be good as climate change awareness and concern continues to grow among the global population. While I like dairy products like milk, cheese and whey protein, dairy production is one of the worst offenders in climate change.

Not only does dairy production and farming exact a significant environmental impact, now we know that dairy cows and cattle produce significant amounts of methane (by belching it out their mouth and not just in the manure). Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 25X more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere. Carbon pricing is coming and, to be fair, methane must be priced 25X higher than CO2.

However, regardless of whether carbon pricing comes in or not, savvy consumers, especially young people, are realizing the environmental costs of dairy products and vowing to use less or consume none at all.

The risk for drink producers using whey protein ingredients and other milk products is that consumers will start reading labels and begin boycotting drinks that contain dairy ingredients. So, this move towards using formulating drinks with soy, pea and other plant proteins is prudent not only for beverage makers but also for the environment.

If drink producers can't eliminate the use of whey, what they can do is formulate so that soy or pea is the first ingredient listed so that the product maker can claim they're doing their best to be eco-friendly.

Sorry dairy industry. I love my cheese, milk and whey protein but until you solve the methane issue I'm cutting back as much as I can. And more and more people are going to do the same.

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