ICL driving plant-based food
innovation in Europe
Plant-based seems to be taking the world by storm. Consumers can find these ingredients in just about every aisle of the grocery store now – from meat alternatives to dairy and beverage applications – and even skincare products. Many consumers consider themselves “flexitarians” instead of vegans or vegetarians. This means they still eat meat; however, they 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.
Now more than ever, consumers are looking for foods that truly mimic the eating experience of traditional meats. The shift to a more flexitarian diet has expanded this 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 Food Specialties is committed to keeping up with these trends and innovating in areas beyond traditional meat alternatives. Plant-based alternative proteins have become a principal focus in most of their formulations – with significant range across the spectrum of vegan alternatives in meat, dairy and beverage applications. ICL’s dedicated team of technologists have noticed an increase in the demand for plant-based alternatives with the COVID-19 pandemic, as many 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. ICL scientists share this commitment and have a genuine dedication to creating exceptional, tasty, and on-trend vegan foods. The ICL laboratories and kitchens never shut down during COVID; they continued their innovative work throughout the year with a mission to replicate the eating experience of traditional food with new plant-based options.
Taste the ROVITARIS® difference
Novel proteins, such as pea and faba, are allowing the team to innovate in ways food technologists never imagined. These sources provide excellent taste and texture with fewer off-flavours 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 colour 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 enable particulation and mouthfeel that mimics ground meat products like hamburgers, meatballs or taco meat. Lastly, their plant-based emulsion systems provide the clean flavour and snappy bite consumers expect from traditional meat-based hot dogs, sausages and deli meat.
While working with these novel proteins proves to be a challenge for formulators, it also makes it exciting. The ICL team holds their ROVITARIS® line to a high taste and texture standard, ensuring optimal eating experience. Many of their team members have compared their prototypes – like the ROVITARIS® chicken nuggets – to animal-based ones, and even have trouble telling the difference. The team takes pride in knowing that they, as formulators, are doing their jobs by bringing the best possible solutions to the market.
The team has recognized similar challenges in plant-based beverage and dairy applications and delivers their expertise in those markets, as well. For example, achieving a smooth, creamy texture in dairy and beverages is often difficult to achieve when using vegetable proteins. This is due to the functional differences in plant proteins compared to meat and dairy. ICL’s brands like BEKAPLUS® and JOHA® have proven successful in combatting these challenges and are widely celebrated among the plant-based community.
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 NCBI, consumers are minimizing their consumption of processed foods, animal products and oils – instead resorting 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 emphasizes them for cooking and eating
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. One of the challenges of consuming meat is products are often loaded with too much sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat, all of which can lead to negative heart health consequences.
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 consumers not 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.
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. The ICL Food Specialties team is excited to continue innovating in this area and bring customers delicious, new formulations to try.