Early life nutrition
Explore the power of pulses: are plant-based protein drinks the future of the ready-to-drink market?
The new generation of health-conscious consumers is reshaping the functional drinks space – a market predicted to skyrocket over the next 10 years, reaching a value of $385.94 billion in 2032.1 Key trends, including the demand for convenient beverages that promote health and wellness, as well as including a range of protein sources, are fuelling innovation in functional drinks. Continue reading to find out how brands can leverage alternative plant-based proteins to create unique and distinctive ready-to-drink (RTD) products that stand out on a crowded shelf.
The rise of plant-based proteins
A growing number of health-conscious consumers are on the lookout for ways to infuse their diets with ‘good’ ingredients, a trend known as the positive nutrition movement. Among the many choices, protein has emerged as a popular ‘add’ for health savvy consumers as it has a strong health halo and a reputation for being fulfilling as well as nutritious. In 2022, the protein trend soared, as a remarkable 58% of consumers increased their protein intake2 marking a significant switch from the era of negative dietary habits like overly restrictive fad diets.
However, RTD brands can’t take a one-protein-fits-all approach. Consumers increasingly want a variety of protein sources, which has spurred the stratospheric rise of plant-based protein drinks.
Flexitarians are fuelling the plant-based trend
Gone are the days when plant-based foods and drinks were a niche interest limited to vegetarians and vegans. Projections anticipate that the global plant-based food market will reach a value of $78.95 billion by the year 2028 – nearly doubling from $40.21 billion in 2021.3 This is being driven by a significant rise in flexitarians – a dynamic group of people who are adding plant-based foods to their diets alongside more traditional protein sources, like dairy, in an effort to support optimal health.4
One global report reveals that 42% of people now identify as flexitarian, while only 4% and 6% are vegan or vegetarian, respectively.5 Following a flexitarian diet is not about elimination. Instead, it’s a way to ensure that consumers have a full, balanced and healthy diet.
Unravelling the health benefits of plant-based proteins
The flexitarian movement is driven by health-conscious consumers who perceive plant-based foods as a healthy choice. In fact, 71% of consumers said that they opt for dairy alternatives because they consider plant-based options a healthier alternative.6 Plant proteins are generally lower in cholesterol and saturated fats compared to dairy proteins.7 In addition, plant-based proteins are a great alternative for consumers who are sensitive or intolerant to lactose.
Overcoming the taste and texture challenge
The taste and texture of a beverage is the first thing to influence a consumer’s experience. Getting it right is essential. However, plant proteins, such as pea, can often leave beany or earthy off-notes in final products, leaving an unpleasant aftertaste that lingers in the consumer’s memory. To gain the loyalty of consumers, brands must provide a consumption experience that never compromises on taste or texture. The key lies in mastering the art of flavour masking and creating a smooth and palatable texture, all while ensuring a nutritional profile comparable to animal-proteins.
Mastering the art of plant-based protein drinks with Plantaris™
Overcoming barriers to formulation issues around taste and texture is regarded as the biggest game-changer for the plant protein space.8 At FrieslandCampina Ingredients, we take challenges in our stride. That’s why we combined all our years of experience in dairy proteins to develop highly nutritious plant proteins that mimic the authentic dairy experience in taste and texture. Our Plantaris™ range takes plant protein formulation to the next level. This exceptional ingredient is engineered to deliver on taste expectations without compromising on protein content or quality.
So far, we have developed two high-protein drink solutions derived from pulses, Plantaris™ Faba Isolate 90 A and Plantaris™ Pea Isolate 85 A. Both solutions are packed with 25g of protein, including 2g of leucine, in a compact and convenient on-the-go format. The magic lies in Plantaris’™ neutral taste and smooth mouthfeel, opening a world of flavour possibilities that consumers will love. This allows brands to meet the needs of busy, health-conscious consumers seeking delicious plant-based ready-to-drink high protein beverages.
1 Precedence Research, Functional Drinks Market (By Type: Energy Drinks, Dairy-based Beverages, Sports Drinks, Juices, Others; By Distribution Channels: Specialty Stores, Supermarket/ Hypermarket E-Commerce Others; By End-User: Fitness Lifestyle Users, Athletes, Others) – Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends, Regional Outlook, and Forecast 2023-2032, 2023 https://www.precedenceresearch.com/functional-drinks-market
2 FMCG Gurus, Trends & Opportunities in the Ingredient Market, 2022
3 Vantage Market Research, ‘Plant Based Food Market – Global Industry Assessment & Forecast’, 2022
4 Innova Market Insights, Top Ten Trends, 2022
5 Going Plant-Based: The Rise of Vegan and Vegetarian Food – Euromonitor.com
6 FMCG Gurus, Meat & Plant-Based – Global Report, 2022
7 Kerri Mitchell, 2023, Plant-Based Protein vs Whey: How Do They Compare? | Miami Herald
8 Innova Market Insights, ‘Top Ten Trends for 2023’, 2022
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