From natural preservatives to sugar replacements and clean-label claims, there were a host of solutions designed to support dairy and dairy alternatives manufacturers looking to conform to the latest consumer trends. One key takeaway from the Paris-based show was that the plant-based dairy market is set to offer significant growth opportunities to manufacturers, who believe this is segment ripe for innovation.
Below, we look at some of the key trends in dairy and dairy alternatives we heard about during FiE . . .
Gut wellness and holistic health
Fermented milk products are expected to continue to be trendsetters in 2023, with dairy cultures including probiotics set to enjoy popularity among formulators. High-protein yogurts can be marketed as a convenient beverage or snack option for health-conscious consumers, with various concepts being presented at the show from companies including DSM and Ingredia.
Mike Bones, managing director, Europe for New Zealand dairy co-operative Fonterra, expects that consumers will continue to take a holistic approach to their cognitive health and sleep quality, along with immunity and healthy aging. “Holistic health was one of the big trends of 2022, sustained from 2020, and we expect this to remain a key consideration for consumers next year,” he said. “Likewise, ready-to-drink products have been an excellent platform for health and nutrition claims, and they also offer the convenience that consumers want. Non-dairy formulations will be another area for growth.” At the show, the co-op highlighted the portfolio of Nutiani, its ingredients brand launched in 2022.
Natural ingredients and fortification
“Consumers have become very proactive on natural and healthy and are starting to eschew products that contain synthetic ingredients, even at the sacrifice of a higher price point,” said Chloe Downs, technical account manager at Prinova. “So there is a market for natural preservatives and food ingredients.”
In plant-based dairy in particular, fortification is where significant opportunities exist, she explained. “One area of interest for us is trying to replicate the vitamin blend that exists in conventional dairy milk into plant-based alternatives. There are limitations, but we have a wealth of knowledge and expertise with micronization and other processes to enable nutrients to stay suspended within milk itself.”
At FiE 2022, Prinova unveiled Aquamin, a marine-derived ingredient that could boost calcium and magnesium content in plant-based beverages. “Aquamin can be used in dairy and fortified plant alternatives to boost mineral content,” Downs explained. “It is a natural ingredient with minimal impact on flavor, texture and color, and enables clean label claims.”
Better textures and low sugar content
On the plant-based front, improving textures will be key to developing better cheese, Prinova’s Downs told us. “There are two main trends in cheese alternatives right now – meeting the demands of flexitarians, and creating a sustainable product. In our experience, flexitarians seek cheese alternatives that are very close to traditional dairy in texture.”
DSM’s business unit director for dairy, baking and brewing Dirk Lippits also highlighted that improving plant-based cheese will be a key challenge during 2023. “The nutrition profile of non-dairy cheeses needs to be improved, as well as texture. We are simple not there yet,” he said.
Beneo’s head of market intelligence and consumer insights Myriam Snaet also thinks improving textures will be of significant focus for plant-based product makers, with rice starches and inulin offering functionality that mimics traditional dairy. “Different rice types offer different viscosity profiles, so there’s a real opportunity to experiment with this ingredient,” she explained. “We’ve also achieved great results with fava bean in dairy alternatives; it provides solubility and emulsification.”
Expanding on consumer trends, she added: “We did research on plant-based dairy, including flexitarians. From this consumer group, 85% said they were concerned about the environment, and they pay close attention to packaging and food trends. Nutrition labelling is really important, and so is sugar content. There, fruit and fiber can be used as replacement for fructose, to reduce sugar. So as a manufacturer, you really have to prove your value all-round.”
Ofi’s Rutger Schutte, vice-president for dairy said: “Dairy alternatives will continue to be a big trend in the new year. Governments around the globe are trying to clamp down on agricultural emissions, but there’s no denying that the consumer wants more and more dairy. How do you find the balance?”
On ingredients, he said that plant-based fats such as palm fat could be expected to become more prominent among formulations in 2023, but manufacturers need to keep sustainability in mind. “It’s so difficult to create fully sustainable products. This requires full control over the whole supply chain.” To address this, the company unveiled AtSource, an online platform that offers ‘a comprehensive view on social and environmental performance across supply chains’. Back to ingredients, Schutte insisted that nuts, particularly almonds, are expected to be ‘very strong’ as a base product for plant-based dairy alternatives during 2023.
Ethical and sustainable
Bord Bia’s insight and planning specialist Cian O’Mahony also highlighted the importance of environmental wellbeing. “Brands and suppliers that can clearly demonstrate and communicate their ethical and sustainable credentials will win long-term favour from more demanding and curious younger generation consumers. These consumers are looking beyond the widespread generic sustainability claims, with transparency a key focus given growing understanding around the impact of diets on the environment.”
Complete protein solutions
One company that has made waves in the ingredients space is MycoTechnology, the food technology specialist that derives plant proteins through mushroom mycelia fermentation. “We are definitely trending,” agreed co-founder Peter Lubar, who also told us that the company has expanded its presence in Europe through a distribution partnership with Brenntag, and has also partnered with ingredients supplier IFF to co-develop alternative proteins.
MycoTechnology has made headlines for its ‘bitter-blocking’ ingredient used to make sports drinks and other difficult-to-mask foods and beverages more palatable. But its their FermentIQ plant protein - which comes close to animal proteins in nutrient value - that could be of interest to dairy alternatives formulators. “It’s hard enough to get enough protein, let enough learn how to make it melt,” Lubar reflected, pointing out that FermentIQ is considered a complete protein and is easy to digest.
It can find applications in dairy-free ice cream and cheese.