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Plant-based protein submission

Article-Plant-based protein submission

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​​​​​​​Consumer demands drive growth of plant-based products

As popularity for plant-based products rises, Innova Market Insights’ recent report sees a renewal of “Plant-Based” as a trend for 2021, with the top reasons for plant-based alternatives being health, diet variety, sustainability and taste.[1] These preferences are driving a rethink towards products that are ‘right-for-the-planet’, ‘right-for-me’ and right-for-producers.’ Conscious plant-based products that meet these three objectives are at the base of consumer preferences and manufacturers should consider these when creating products for consumers to love.

Transparency in the supply chain

Plant-based products that meet consumer demands for sustainability and traceability will thrive in 2021 “with consumers searching for brands that can build trust, provide authentic and credible products”.[2] In 2019, a report released by the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet and Health highlighted what it called a global “healthy and sustainable diet.”[3] Plant-based dietsincluding the consumption of nutswere regarded as a positive way to address the tandem global issues of malnutrition and over-nutrition. The report also states that the consumption of plant-based products, nuts and legumes, will need to double on a global scale in order to realise “health and environmental benefits.”[4]  

As with many other agri products, this growth can come with sustainability challenges for the nut industry. For example, many cashew growers are smallholder farmers in countries like Cote d’Ivoire with limited access to training or the means to invest in their farms. This means they can’t get the best quality and volumes from their trees and may not be able to afford labour or send their children to school, which can increase the risk of child labour. While many of us eat cashews for their nutritional values, the farmers themselves may not be getting a nutritious diet as our team discovered when they surveyed the farmers in a region of Cote d’Ivoire. Water challenges can also prevail for crops such as almonds. Those suppliers offering a resilient and sustainable sourcing model will be the ones to help satisfy the growing trend for conscious and healthy consumption and thrive within the industry. OFI is working hard to address sustainability challenges, for example through our extensive farmer and worker livelihood programmes. In addition, OFI’s sustainability insights platform, AtSource—which we believe to be revolutionary—offers a truly unique view of the entire journey of the nut, including full traceability from farmer groups, full environmental footprint from farm to factory gate and full view of varied initiatives to help create thriving rural communities. With this insight, customers can implement action plans with their OFI team on the ground to improve those metrics for the long term.

Flavour first

Flavour is one of the single most important factors in consumers’ food and drink choices, with research suggesting three-quarters of consumers say that they “love to discover new flavours”.[5] With plant-based products, manufacturers cannot afford to compromise when it comes taste and texture as research from Mintel reveals taste is the top reason US consumers eat plant-based proteins.[6]

When it comes to dairy alternatives for example, there is huge variation in the type of cocoa ingredient that can be paired with a plant-based product. Olam Cocoa, part of OFI, has developed a tool specifically designed at categorising alternative milks by their flavour attributes to find their perfect cocoa powder match. Various cocoa ingredients work better than others depending on the flavour profile of the milk. For example, the soft chocolate flavour in powders such as deZaan D11A and deZaan TrueDark work best in an oat-based drink as they help to elevate the milky and nutty notes of this dairy alternative. Whereas, for earthier tastes like pea or hemp, the intense chocolate flavour of red alkalised cocoa powders like deZaan D11 help balance out the earthy notes from the milk alternative.

Similarly, Olam Spices works to offer plant-based manufacturers a much wider range of flavours to support product development. The first step is choosing the right protein base as this not only creates the proper texture, but also the right flavour and colour. Common plant-based proteins such as pea, which are growing in popularity within the industry, may need masking and would benefit from the natural flavour of spices such as such as onion, garlic and cumin. Look and texture also play key roles. Manufacturers can add a small amount of paprika and turmeric to help replicate colour in certain plant-based beverages that tend to have a green hint of colouring such as hemp and soy.

Right for producer

Alongside plant-based trends, Innova’s report highlighted transparency as "the clear winner" for 2021.

Consumers are asking more questions about how their food is produced and transported, with greater attention being paid to supply chain traceability to meet the demands of the more responsible consumer. Fuelled by the supply chain vulnerabilities laid bare by the pandemic, consumers are seeking assurance on provenance and traceability that establishes a clear and direct link to the producer.

Digital innovation has a key role to play in this process, OFI‘s digital sourcing platform for instance, Olam Direct, is empowering farmers to transact directly with the company rather than through an intermediary, yielding higher prices for farmers plus cost savings on expenses. In the recent Superfoods Sustainability Report, a spotlight has been shone on community programmes with farmers to ensure transparency for both producers and consumers. For example, producers benefit from a direct relationship with farmers in the Quinoa and Chia growing regions of Peru, working with local authorities to build grower knowledge, promote partnerships in the quinoa value chain and support initiatives which encourage organic production.

Innovation opportunity

The plant-based industry will continue to expand as consumers seek to make healthy and responsible choices. However, plant-based alone is no longer enough to pique the interests of consumers. The future of the food and beverage sector runs parallel with the future of the planet. This offers manufacturers the opportunity to demonstrate how their products can deliver great taste whilst minimising environmental impact. With a full range of quality, sustainably sourced ingredients, combined with the technical expertise to create trend-setting products, OFI is proud to deliver innovative, natural and value-added plant-based products that meet the needs of the plant-based market.

Briony Mathieson is chief marketing officer at Olam Food Ingredients

[1] Innova Market Insights. 2020. Innova Identifies Top 10 Food And Beverage Trends To Accelerate Innovation In 2021 Press Releases. [online] Available at:
[2] Innova Market Insights. 2020. Innova Identifies Top 10 Food And Beverage Trends To Accelerate Innovation In 2021 Press Releases. [online] Available at:
[3] EAT. 2020. The EAT-Lancet Commission On Food, Planet, Health - EAT Knowledge. [online] Available at:
[4] EAT. 2020. The EAT-Lancet Commission On Food, Planet, Health - EAT Knowledge. [online] Available at:
[5] Innova Market Insights. 2020. Tasting Success Through Flavor Innovation - Innova Market Insights. [online] Available at:
[6] Team, M., 2020. Taste Is Top Reason Americans Eat Plant-Based Proteins. [online] Mintel. Available at: