USA – Plant-based proteins dominated the food and beverage landscape in 2019 driving new product introductions and overall industry buzz.

As food companies look for ways to keep pace with the rapidly expanding and evolving market, ADM has released a new report highlighting key trends that will drive innovation and growth in the plant-based protein space in 2020 and beyond.

“The plant-based food and beverage movement has been gaining momentum over the past 12-months, and this is going to be another breakout year for the category,” said Kurt Long, director of Flexitarian Solutions, ADM.

“We expect to see even more new and enhanced protein options hit the shelves in the coming months, and to get an edge in this growing space, manufacturers have to respond quickly with on-trend products.

“This is an area where ADM is ready and eager to help. We look forward to helping our customers drive advancements in the space through new and innovative products.”

According the ‘OutsideVoice Protein Perception & Awareness Study’ conducted by ADM, 44% of consumers in the US alone currently identify as flexitarian.

The study posed that this group of consumers drives demand for foods and beverages with plant-based proteins – motivated primarily by health, wellness and sustainability.

These motivations, coupled with expectations for exceptional flavor and product variety, are expected to further shape 2020 trends in the plant-based protein category.

“Protein Plus”

According to ADM’s study, in 2020, consumers will be looking for more than just plant-based proteins as consumer look for more nutritional benefits on plant-based branded packages.

“Protein Plus” is the name of the game. The study projects that, going forward consumers are expected to demand more health features like added fiber, antioxidants, probiotics and vitamins.

As a matter of fact, these functional benefits don’t just drive demand; they also command a higher price point. Research shows consumers are willing to pay a premium for products higher in protein, fiber, whole grains and vitamins.

Research shows that while consumers are drawn to plant-based proteins for their nutritional benefits, they won’t fully incorporate products into their repertoires if they don’t deliver on taste and texture.

This is the year to expect more products to be formulated with plant-based blends — such as soy or pea combined with beans, seeds or ancient grains — to deliver the craveable flavor that consumers demand.

Meaty Innovations

While burgers led the plant-based protein craze in 2019, new proteins are expected to take center stage in 2020 – already, the market is seeing an increase in alternatives to chicken, sausage and even seafood.

Because taste matters, the study argues that the key to success with these new products is achieving a flavor and texture similar to their animal-based inspirations.

Clean-label products

Sixty percent of consumers say recognizable ingredients influence their purchase decision, and 66% say they are looking for labels with the shortest ingredient list.

ADM projects that in 2020, these numbers are likely to rise, meaning successful plant-based formulations must have shorter, more familiar ingredient lists that rely only on all-natural ingredient sources.

According to the study, plant-based innovation in the dairy case are expected to gain momentum, building on the success of the past few years.

While growth has been prevalent in the plant-based protein space, there is significant opportunity for companies to leverage in order to drive even wider consumer interest in the year ahead.