Chris Weng, regional growth platform leader, plant-based proteins, Asia-Pacific; and Finna Natacia, innovation lead, low moisture systems, Asia-Pacific, Ingredion, provide an overview of meat alternatives in this region.
Who would have guessed the future of protein would be plant-based? While animal protein continues to be a dominant source of protein as it traditionally is, consumer consumption habits are already starting to shift towards one that is more plant-based. The rise in veganism, vegetarianism and flexitarianism driven by health, sustainability and animal welfare, has changed the way consumers eat and shaped the food industry, with plant-based innovations flourishing and revolutionizing food segments.
Meat alternatives is an example of how far plant-based protein has evolved from the first generation of mock meats to one that now mimics the taste and texture of real meat. The advancements in technology and formulation science have significantly narrowed the sensorial gap between real meat and their plant-based alternative counterparts, appealing to flexitarians and meat-eaters alike.
Asia-Pacific ranks second globally for new product launches in the meat alternative segment, and sees a growth trajectory similar to what is observed globally1. This comes as no surprise as Ingredion’s consumer research conducted in 2019 indicates that 27% of Asia-Pacific consumers are already adopting a meat minimising diet, with this figure set to reach 48% in the near future2.
Moreover, the consumer focus on health is unanimous across the region. High protein, low sugar and low-fat diets continues to reign as the most popular diets in Asia-Pacific, making up more than 30% of population’s current dietary habits2.
This further amplifies the appeal of meat alternatives, as they typically feature attributes such as high protein, low to no cholesterol and GMO-free1.
With the consumer shift in lifestyle and dietary choices, and meat alternatives continually evolving to meet the consumer expectation on taste, texture and health, Ingredion reckon that meat alternatives are just in infancy stage and set for a rapid growth in the years to come.
PLANT-BASED SOLUTIONS TO GO LOCAL
It is important to develop products that are relevant to the market Ingredion serves. At the moment, many meat alternative products globally are focused on western applications such as burger patties. In Asia, there are also opportunities in localising meat types like pork or seafood into formats like ground, or chunks to better suit Asian palates.
In addition, product preparation should not differ from the way real meat is typically prepared. Versatile formats like ground meat would encourage further use in home cooking as it is easier to apply in various dishes like dumplings and stir-fry.
In developing new plant-based products, there are some regional differences even within of Asia, to take note of. For instance, pea and faba beans are readily available and accepted in Indonesia, while Thai consumers have a positive perception of chickpea and pea. The good news is that plant proteins are perceived as natural, nutritious and of high quality. The fact that Ingredion has started to use meat alternatives taking shape in local formats such as vegan luncheon meat and seafood alternatives further affirms the importance of localising these solutions.
FORMULATION IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE
Formulation will be one of the hardest challenges to overcome when developing meat-alternative products. Developing an acceptable meat alternative requires a formulation that meets the consumer expectations on real meat, delivering on appearance, taste and texture before and after cooking. To achieve this, the right ingredients are needed.
Some plant-based meat alternatives today are actually very similar to those made with meat, like vegan burger patties and vegan nuggets. This could be achieved with texturised proteins to give that meat-like texture. Coupled with formulation expertise and understanding of ingredient interactions, such as use of proteins with starches and hydrocolloids, meat alternatives can achieve mouthfeel and texture that is reasonably close to real meat.
Food manufacturers have to balance suitable types of plant-based proteins with the right flavours and texturisers such as starch and hydrocolloids to mimic the authentic taste, mouthfeel, and structure of the meat they are replicating. Seeking the right support from technical professionals and suppliers with a wide ingredient portfolio and bench-to-scale capabilities can help to accelerate product development and formulation optimisation.
With Ingredion’s recent investments in plant-based proteins, the company now has a comprehensive ingredient toolbox that bolsters its formulation capabilities to address the challenges food manufacturers face when replicating the functionality of the proteins.
Ingredion’s SIMPLISTICA MT4310 stabiliser system is a versatile stabiliser developed to deliver a wide range of functionalities in meat-alternative applications, providing binding, structure, shape retention and texture during- and post process. It results in ease of handling and incorporation during processing.
Some of the functional properties of SIMPLISTICA MT4310 stabiliser system include improving emulsion stability, water-holding and oil-holding capacity, gelation, firmness and springiness. The stabiliser system also helps to maintain freeze-thaw stability.
It is now even easier for food manufacturers to place plant-based protein at the centre of their growth strategy, and help shape the future of food. Ingredion offers the expertise and ingredient solutions needed to create on-trend products to feed demand now, and be at the forefront of the world’s shift towards plant-based proteins.
- Innova Market Insights (2020)
- Ingredion proprietary quantitative study, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, 2019