Under plant-based pressure: “Plenty of room on the shelf,” say dairy ingredient suppliers

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06 Dec 2018 --- Interest in plant-based nutrition is showing no signs of slowing down, with The Plant Kingdom being one of Innova Market Insights’ Top Trends for 2019. Plant-based options are flourishing in a range of categories, with dairy alternatives, for example, on the rise. But what will this plant-centered NPD boom spell for dairy suppliers, as consumer interest turns toward the ever-growing range of non-dairy options? At HiE 2018 in Frankfurt, Germany, NutritionInsight spoke with a number of dairy ingredients suppliers to hear their views on plant-based NPD growth and how it will impact the dairy ingredients sector.

Almost 6 percent of global food and beverage launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in the 12 months to the end of September 2018 featured vegan-friendly positionings, up from just 1.4 percent five years previously. Even in the relatively developed US market, share has more than doubled from 3.4 percent to 8 percent over the same period, while in the UK it is up from less than 5 percent to 13.5 percent.

Click to EnlargeRamon Mommersteeg of FrieslandCampina. The dairy alternatives market has also been a beneficiary of the interest in plant-based diets, with the growing availability and promotion of plant-based options to traditional lines, especially dairy beverages, but also cultured products such as yogurt, frozen desserts and ice cream, creamers and cheese.

In the move to offer something new, there is also an increasing variety of non-soy plant-based ingredients for beverages, including cereals such as rice, oats and barley and nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts and macadamias, as well as coconut and more unusual options such as lupin, hemp and flaxseed.

Despite this growing dairy alternative space, dairy suppliers remain upbeat on the market outlook for dairy ingredients, listing the growing demand for protein, complete amino acid profiles and a body of clinical evidence as main strengths.

“It’s a good thing that plant-based proteins are starting to improve and be more accessible in a wider variety,” says Ramon Mommersteeg of FrieslandCampina. 

“If we look even further than this year or next year, and in the long-term, we will need all the protein we can get to feed the growing population. Also, I think all protein types have their strengths and their weaknesses. You ought to put forward your strengths, which is also what we do, we emphasize what we are good at and that is where we target and position ourselves,” he says.

Click to EnlargeThijs Bosch of NZMP. NZMP
“You can’t deny the plant-based trend, especially with the rise of not only vegetarian, but pure vegan products as well. We also see growth in the plant-based drinks industry, so more and more almond milks, rice milks and so on, are replacing traditional dairy drinks,” says Thijs Bosch of NZMP. 

However, Bosch affirms the continuing need for dairy products, such as in the infant nutrition space. 

“In B2B ingredients for sports nutrition and infant nutrition, we believe that dairy protein is definitely a superior product for any formulation and also proven to have a clinical benefit for consumers.”

Arla Foods Ingredients
“When we look at both the vegetable proteins and our whey proteins, there is space for all of us,” affirms Inge Lise Povlsen, Senior Category & Application Manager, at Arla Foods Ingredients. 

She highlights the strong potential for blending different protein sources and ingredients.

“We see a lot of different proteins on the market, with manufacturers starting to blend different proteins together. We are focusing very much on the nutritional value of whey proteins since it is known that whey proteins or milk proteins have a higher nutritional benefit compared to soy or rice protein,” she notes. “So we are are focusing on the [nutritional aspects of] the protein, and in this regard, there is space for all of us.”

EPI Ingredients
“Plant-based is clearly a big trend. We only produce dairy ingredients. But I don’t see this as a competition,” says Mathieu Lucot, Marketing Manager of EPI Ingredients. 

“There are advantages to both plant-based and dairy, so we can coexist in the market. Specifically in terms of the nutritional paths, we have evidence that dairy proteins are very important in nutritional markets such as bone health, muscle health and against sarcopenia. So there is space for both.”

What’s next?
Due to its amino acid profile, dairy has clear benefits for use in sports, medical and infant nutrition. As the growing world population starts to strain global food supplies, it is inevitable that suppliers will continue looking into all available protein sources. This means that we could see an increase in the blending of different sources, including of course dairy, to ensure ample amount of nutritious and affordable proteins.

The appeal of plant-based alternatives has widened far beyond the relatively small group of people who avoid animal products for ethical reasons, to the much larger group of people looking for healthier, cleaner foods, with the least environmental impact possible. This development could be indicative of an opportunity for the dairy industry to clearly communicate its credentials in these areas. 

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