In a proprietary research report Cargill conducted among US consumers, they aimed to understand the drivers toward plant protein, consumer expectations in the space and what kind of opportunities it opens up in both formulation and marketing.
“Plant-based products are rising to a whole new level of consumer interest and popularity, while prompting key strides in new product development. But for brands, keeping up with the pace of new product innovation and shifting consumer attitudes takes a constant effort,” Cargill said.
The report found that the average plant-based consumer is not strictly a vegetarian, but a flexitarian, consuming both plant and animal-based protein. About 25% of consumers said that “more protein in the diet is always better,” and about 60% are “somewhat likely to check the ingredient list for protein.”
With the overlay of the plant protein perspective, people shift to a healthy, natural focus. Almost half the study’s respondents perceive that plant proteins are a healthier way to consume protein, and half also now say that the type of protein in foods is very important.
Cargill’s plant-based portfolio includes soy products and pea protein products, which they have found to be popular ingredient at shows like Expo West. Matthew Jacobs, product line manager of plant proteins at Cargill, said that pea has a better taste and texture compared to other plant bases that makes it easier to work with.
“Pea is a very familiar botanical source. From a label context, people can turn that product around and they see pea and it’s familiar to them. There’s none of that hurdle or uncertainty. Secondly, it’s a very versatile protein that works across a wide range of applications, from beverage to bakery,” Jacobs said.
In general, consumers are flocking to plant-based proteins because they want to consumer more overall protein and assume the plant bases offer a healthier form of protein than animal bases.
“Interest in plant-based proteins is highest in nutritional beverages, but respondents also noted strong interest in a plant-based protein boost in snacks and dairy,” Cargill said.