Plant-based foods are taking the world by storm. Consumers can find these ingredients in practically every aisle of the grocery store, from meat alternatives to dairy and beverage applications to skin care products. Many consumers consider themselves flexitarians instead of vegans or vegetarians, meaning they still eat meat but want to replace some of their meat options with healthier plant-based ones. As a result, these consumers are expecting delicious plant-based products that taste like real meat or dairy.

ICL Food Specialties is committed to keeping up with these trends and innovating in areas beyond traditional meat alternatives. The shift to a more flexitarian diet has expanded the audience, as well as heightened expectations of how these foods should taste. This has resulted in customer requests for formulations in areas where there are not currently many high-quality plant-based options – such as seafood.

ICL’s dedicated team of technologists have noticed an increase in the demand for plant-based alternatives during the COVID-19 pandemic, because consumers have used this time to reflect on their lifestyles and are now choosing food options that are better for their personal health and the planet. Today, plant-based alternative proteins have become a principal focus in most of their formulations and many fall into the spectrum of vegan alternatives in meat, dairy and beverage applications. ICL scientists share this commitment and have a genuine dedication to creating exceptional, tasty and on-trend vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian foods.

Why everyone is craving plant protein

Now, more than ever, this plant-based community seems more committed to maintaining an exclusively clean, healthier diet. According to National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), consumers are minimizing their consumption of processed foods, animal products and oils – instead turning to vegetables, fruits and healthier fats. The key to understanding what motivates consumers to be driven to a plant-based diet begins with understanding the difference between the various plant-based diets:

  • A vegan diet is fully plant-based and excludes all animal foods
  • A vegetarian diet is plant-based but includes animal foods like dairy, beverages and eggs
  • A flexitarian diet is mostly plant-based but occasionally includes meat or fish
  • A plant-forward diet is not purely limited to plant-based foods but empathizes them for the cooking and eating style

According to the American Heart Association, the benefits of consuming less meat or giving up meat entirely are explicit – improved overall health, enhanced well-being and a reduced risk of diseases, especially high cholesterol, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease. Meat products are often loaded with too much sodium, cholesterol and saturated fat, all of which can lead to heart health consequences.

Other factoring driving the push towards plant-based foods

Consumers are also motivated by heightened sustainability efforts with rising public awareness and concern for the environment. Research has shown production of plant-based products is better for the environment and the planet because they consume less water, produce fewer greenhouse gases and require less energy and land than beef production. Many consumers have reconsidered their habits to lessen their ecological footprint by reducing meat consumption and replacing food with meatless alternatives. Animal welfare also plays a critical role in the decision to adopt vegan or vegetarian diets, as humans are showing compassion towards animals by restricting consumption of meat or animal byproducts.

Evidence suggests that many consumers don’t strictly adopt a plant-based diet but rather include it as a supplementary diet. This allows consumers to mitigate some of the negative risks associated with meat consumption by varying their diets to include more vegetable-based foods while still enjoying their favorite meat products.

Taste the ROVITARIS® difference

Novel proteins, such as pea and fava, enable the team to innovate in ways food technologists never imagined. These sources provide excellent taste and texture with fewer off-flavors common in many plant replacements. ICL’s technical experts developed ROVITARIS® Alternative Protein Solutions, which are innovative technologies that provide meat-like texture from plant proteins. The versatility of these proteins allows manufacturers to apply this technology in a wide variety of applications. The natural color and fibrous meat-like texture of their wet fibers perfectly suits white meat or seafood alternative applications such as vegan chicken nuggets or fish sticks. Their dry texturates provide amouthfeel that mimics ground meat products like hamburgers, meatballs or taco meat.  Lastly, their plant-based emulsion systems provide the clean flavor and snappy bite consumers expect from traditional meat-based hot dogs, sausages and deli meat.

The ICL team holds the ROVITARIS® line to the highest taste and texture standards, ensuring an optimal eating experience. Many who have tasted applications like the ROVITARIS® chicken nuggets have trouble telling the difference between those and animal-based nuggets. The formulation team takes pride in knowing that they are doing their jobs by bringing the best possible solutions to the market.

The team is delivering its expertise in plant-based beverage and dairy applications as well. For example, achieving a smooth, creamy texture in dairy and beverages is often difficult to achieve when using vegetable proteins due to the functional differences in plant proteins compared to dairy. ICL’s brands like BEKAPLUS® and JOHA® have proven successful in combatting these challenges and are widely embraced among the plant-based community.

Endless plant-based possibilities

ICL recognizes this demand for evolving consumer choices and continues tailoring their solutions to keep up with those trends. The possibilities are endless with ROVITARIS Alternative Protein Solutions and the BEKAPLUS product lines – and through continuous innovation, ICL Food Specialties is continually bringing customers delicious, new formulations.

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