Sector News

ADM reveals plant-based boom and behavior shifts amid COVID-19

August 28, 2020
Food & Drink

The plant-based trend will further mainstream due to COVID-19’s impact on consumer preferences, finds recent ADM research. With health and convenience top-of-mind, plant-based NPD that delivers exceptional nutrition and good sensory experience, is pegged for success, the company says.

ADM has identified six emerging behavioral changes that are expected to influence innovation and product development in the months ahead. Among the trending areas of interest for consumers are gut health, immunity, personalized nutrition and emotional wellbeing.

“ADM anticipates that these trends will contribute to more innovation within the plant protein category in the coming months. Product developers have an opportunity to further boost category growth by highlighting the features of plant-based protein offerings that motivate purchases: the connection to holistic wellness and improved environmental outcomes in food production,” Ana Ferrell, Vice President of Marketing at ADM, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

“Consumers’ attitudes, priorities and behaviors are shifting significantly,” highlights Ferrell. “This evolution is providing a unique opportunity for forward-looking food and beverage companies to bring a suite of trailblazing new products to market.”

OutsideVoice insights
ADM’s OutsideVoice study found that 77 percent of consumers intend to make more attempts to stay healthy in the future. Food and beverage manufacturers who successfully balance consumer health concerns and product affordability are most likely to win the race, the company notes. The six consumer behavioral shifts that the company has spotted are bound to create opportunities for F&B manufacturers to gain market share in an increasingly uncertain business environment, ADM supports.

Plant-based innovation is showing no signs of slowing down with an array of NPD reaching market within this year from major players such as Nestlé, Unilever and Tesco. A four-year investor engagement with 25 giant food retailers and manufacturers found that two in five global food giants, with combined annual revenues of US$459 billion, now have dedicated teams to develop and sell plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy.

Echoing this mega-trend, Innova Market Insights pegged the Plant-Based Revolution as one of its Top Ten Trends for 2020. According to the market researcher, 57 percent of global consumers are actively seeking alternative protein sources. This led to a 92 percent growth in sales of plant protein products in 2019, and the global plant protein market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 8 percent to reach an estimated value of US$13.7 billion by 2021.

Plant-based becomes mainstream
According to ADM’s research, 18 percent of alternative protein buyers in the US purchased their first plant-based protein during the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 92 percent of these first-time buyers report they are likely to continue purchasing meat alternatives. In Germany, the UK and the Netherlands, 80 percent of consumers state they are likely to continue eating plant-based meat alternatives beyond COVID-19.

In the plant protein segment, Innova Market Insights data show a 9 percent growth in plant based protein NPD (Global, 2014-2018). In the same period, the fastest growing categories for F&B applications tracked with a plant protein are Sports Nutrition (32 percent), Snacks (14 percent), Dairy (10 percent) and Baby & Toddlers (10 percent). Within this space, the fastest growing ingredient is pea protein with a CAGR of 36 percent (Global 2014-2018).

The sector does face its hurdles however and Ferrell explains that the biggest barriers to consumer acceptance of plant-based proteins are disappointing taste and texture. “Consumers widely report that nutrition and wellness benefits motivate purchases of plant-based protein products, but they’re unwilling to settle for offerings that fall short of providing an enjoyable eating experience.”

“At ADM, we understand that the key to continued growth in the plant-based space is raising the bar on sensory aspects of finished products. We support our customers by leaning on our sharp market insights and industry-leading technical expertise to fine tune formulations to create products that are delicious, visually appealing and nutritionally focused,” Ferrell underscores.

She affirms that as the plant-based movement spreads into new markets across the globe, new formats and flavors are expected to catalyze plant-based innovation. “There is widespread interest in new products inspired by authentic regional cuisine. For example, we recently announced our venture with Imagine Meats to introduce a line of plant-based protein products to the Mumbai market with plans to expand into additional Indian markets in the future.

“Another emerging growth area is plant-based seafood alternatives. ADM has invested in the evolution of our portfolio to overcome the taste and texture challenges associated with successfully replicating the unique flavor profiles and textures of seafood in plant-based alternatives,” Ferrell notes.

Furthermore, she details that consumer interest in the dairy alternatives category is also on the rise. Product developers have an opportunity to capture a bigger percentage of market share by introducing plant-based cheese, beverages and yogurt with improved flavor and texture.

“These are aspects which consumers widely report are in need of improvement. Manufacturers can further increase the appeal of plant-based dairy alternatives by enhancing the nutrition profile of these products by adding vitamins and minerals, as well as other functional ingredients like prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics,” Ferrell says.

Health nutrition in the limelight
Another important trend is an increasing focus on the connection of gut health and immune function, according to the ADM research. Consumers report being worried about immunity as a result of COVID-19, which led them to become more knowledgeable on the human microbiome.

Weight management and metabolic health will also be trending. Roughly 51 percent of consumers indicate they are concerned about being less active or gaining weight during lockdowns and quarantine measures that restrict movement. That worry is likely to increase demand for functional solutions supportive of metabolic wellness and healthy weight management.

COVID-19 has also increased feelings of anxiety and stress as 35 percent of consumers report being concerned about mental health. People are looking for new ways to improve their mental wellness, and allow themselves indulgent and comforting food, the research found. However, they are tempering this desire with weight management needs.

Food and beverages designed to elevate mood, sustain energy and reduce stress will grow in popularity and ADM also projects new opportunities for comfort foods, snacks and baked goods offering nutrient-rich ingredients and functional health benefits.

The mega trend of the nutrition space, personalized nutrition, will see more growth. The ADM research showed that 49 percent of consumers feel every individual is unique and requires a customized approach to diet and exercise, and 31 percent of consumers are already purchasing more items tailored for health and nutrition.

A shift in shopping values
The last trend is a shift in consumer’s overall shopping values. Forty-eight percent of consumers plan to purchase more items related to health and wellness. Concurrently, manifesting concerns around widespread economic decline have prompted a shift to value-based shopping, including propelling a demand for basic pantry staples, stimulating trade-downs to private labels and increasing traffic to value retailers.

By: Kristiana Lalou
Source: Food Ingredients First

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