New materials and technologies helping to improve dairy alternatives

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Which dairy alternative categories have the greatest growth potential? What factors are driving this growth?

Dairy alternatives can be a gateway to a more flexitarian lifestyle, with non-dairy milk alternatives leading the pack. This category is more mature and many options are available, including milk alternatives made from soy, nuts and oats.

With advanced technologies and new sources of raw materials, formulators are solving taste and texture issues to create alternatives that more closely mimic traditional dairy products. For example, dairy alternatives containing enzyme-modified oat products are on the rise.

ADM Research Finds Consumption of Plant-Based Dairy Alternatives Most Prevalent at Breakfast and Between Meal Snacks1​. Additionally, 48% of regular dairy users who enjoy a snack or light meal to start or end the day, alone or with family, would be willing to replace their last dairy opportunity in this situation with an option at herbal basis.1​. Brands can address this need by enhancing the sensory experience of morning-friendly foods like milk and cream alternatives, ready-to-eat yogurts and smoothies.

Another area of ​​growth is in alternatives to cheese for snacks or main meals, and fermentation is an exciting and forward-looking solution. Food scientists are rebuilding dairy-like characteristics with products like dairy-free whey and dairy-free casein protein from precision fermentation processes.

It is an evolution in the category of non-animal cheeses currently dominated by plant-based varieties, which generally consist of a deliberate balance of starches, water and fats that can mimic the texture of dairy cheese. . With non-animal dairy protein from fermentation, we are beginning to solve the nutrition and performance factors of the equation.

What applications are the most difficult alternative options to formulate? How can industry innovations help?

Dairy alternatives are big business, and each segment requires a different strategy to get to the end product, whether it’s non-dairy ice cream, milk, yogurt, butter, or cheese.

Additionally, alternative ingredients can cause problems such as off-flavor and aroma notes or a grainy texture. Complementary ingredients can correct flavor and mouthfeel issues, ensuring plant-based options provide a rich, creamy texture that can be lost in the absence of milk fat. Other potential issues may be related to production processes and specific application settings.

For example, viscosity and color for beverages, or fermentation for cheese making, freeze-thaw capabilities for ice cream, and pH values ​​or harsh processing conditions for formulating yogurt. A holistic, full-formula approach and technical ingenuity can solve these challenges and create delicious, consumer-favorite products.

Study finds 56% of global consumers regularly buy comfort food because of COVID-192​. Manufacturers of dairy alternatives can meet this demand for more indulgent offerings by enhancing the sensory experience to increase pleasure.

Many new product launches include coconut or blends such as coconut and oats or another plant-based alternative to develop creamier textures. Adding rich dessert flavors like hazelnut fudge brownie or blood orange mimosa can enhance non-dairy yogurts, yogurt drinks, ice cream and frozen treats.

As more consumers seek out permitted indulgences to satisfy their cravings and improve their mood, there is increased interest in low-sugar or sugar-free offerings, nature-derived flavors and colors, as well as a nutritional profile similar to that of standard dairy products. In fact, 57% of plant-based consumers would like to see more protein-rich plant-based dairy alternatives.3​.

Product developers can meet these consumer demands by incorporating soluble protein from sources such as pea, soy, hemp and sunflower. For example, our soy and pea proteins have a superior clean taste that reduces the need for flavor modifiers, and they are high quality proteins with a PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Index) of 0 .8 or more. Additionally, we recently launched plant-based texture solutions that support clean labels for dairy products and alternatives to ice cream, frozen desserts, spoonable yogurts and yogurt drinks. Plant-based proteins combined with natural flavors, colors and sweeteners help brands develop the recipe for success.

What’s next for dairy alternatives? What do you think is the next big trend?

One trend that is already here and that is sure to grow in importance as a key differentiator is sustainability. New ingredients and formats will likely emerge and challenge existing plant-based offerings as potentially more eco-friendly alternatives.

We see child nutrition as the next horizon as the flexitarian lifestyle becomes a choice for families, not just individuals. Formulations, flavors and colors that appeal to children and their caregivers have a lot of potential.

For example, a non-dairy beverage that mixes fruits, grains, nuts, and/or spices can improve nutrition and flavor. The nutrient profiles of plant-based products are of growing concern to consumers, and we’re likely to see new entrants that can help fill nutrient gaps and increase nutrient density in dairy alternatives. Likewise, we also anticipate greater incorporation of ingredients with functional attributes, such as supporting digestive health, immune function, or weight management.

These best-for-you product enhancements will add value to dairy alternatives for parents and kids, as long as they also provide a truly enjoyable experience.

1​ADM External Voices, October 2021

2FMCG Gurus, Top Ten Trends for 2021, January 2021

3Lightspeed/Mintel, March 2021

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