Beyond taste – Texture counts for plant-based success

The health benefits of a plant-based diet are slowly gaining recognition among the masses. And also increasing awareness of sustainability issues have led people to set their sights on plant-based nutrition — with nearly one in two consumers across the globe being (very) interested in this type of diet, according to a BENEO consumer survey.

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Hence, plant-based products see immense growth. Besides plant-based staple foods, the demand also especially covers alternative products to meat, sausages, fish, dairy products, as well as bakery and sweets.

But in their pursuit for a healthy, plant-based diet, consumers also expect the comparative products to be in no way inferior to the “original”. This means that while health and sustainability are key considerations for consumers, taste and texture are still of great importance when it comes to making the purchase. This presents the food industry with the challenge of developing tasty products with familiar textures.

The great news is that with the advancement of technology, the plant-based nutrition market has progressed by leaps and bounds. Food manufacturers are now able to introduce plant-based meat, fish or dairy alternatives that are increasingly similar to the original to cater to the palate of present consumers.

Mimicking real meat with plant-based proteins

The survey also revealed that one in four consumers globally now call themselves flexitarians, intending to incorporate more foods from plant sources into their diets without abstaining completely from animal-derived proteins. When it comes to expectations towards meat alternatives, 8 in 10 flexitarians state that these products should be tender and easy to chew, like real meat, while almost 7 in 10 expect a meat flavour.

This is where wheat protein shows great potential. Besides having a neutral taste profile, wheat can deliver a variety of textures in a wide range of meat-free applications. It is also an excellent source of many amino acids.

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To meet the more adventurous demands of today’s flexitarian consumers, producers are looking for even more versatility when it comes to fine-tuning their plant-based product’s organoleptic profile (its taste, sight, smell, and touch) and its texture. Textured wheat protein, such as the BeneoPro W-Tex range, enables the creation of meat-free products such as burgers, sausages, or fillings with an authentic bite. With its fibrous structure after hydration that can emulate a meat-like juicy texture, this ingredient can also be easily flavoured with a variety of herbs and spices — making it an optimal meat substitute that meets consumer standards.

Rice ingredients for plant-based milk alternatives

One of the markets in the plant-based category includes dairy alternatives — and product development in this area has made enormous progress in recent years.

Rice and its derivatives (such as rice starch and rice flour) are ideal for use in many dairy alternative products. These plant-based ingredients are increasingly convincing in terms of taste and texture. Plus, rice ingredients score high amongst consumers — BENEO’s research shows that 70% of flexitarians worldwide see rice as an appealing dairy alternative ingredient. Rice starch, in particular, scores with its technical properties and high process stability. BENEO has a versatile portfolio of different rice starch variants on hand, making it versatile in use for different process conditions such as high temperatures or high shear forces. Also applications that are cold-processed under severe process conditions are possible such as sauces, dressings, dairy desserts and bakery fillings.

As natural texturisers in dairy alternatives, rice starch and flour provide a creamy and smooth mouthfeel, while ensuring a clean taste and colour at the same time.

Where do we go from here?

The plant-based movement is far from a fad and has come to stay. Delivering on both taste, mouthfeel, and texture is key to building a loyal consumer base. With readily available ingredients at their disposal, food manufacturers are well-equipped to reinvent their catalogues and include more plant-based ingredients to welcome the plant-based future and cater to consumer demands.

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