Plant-based protein alternatives is an industry that has grown in significance hugely over recent years, and will likely continue to do so. Here, JBT’s Sales Director Sergio Rabadán Velazquez explains what is driving the trend and why all players in the industry need to pay close attention.
Ask what have been the key trends of the last 12 months and the answer for most people – with good reason – will be an obvious one. But away from the pandemic, another important trend has been making an impact and will continue to do so in the months and years ahead: the demand for plant-based meat substitutes across a wide swathe of products. At JBT, we have working closely with the processing industry to develop tailored solutions to fit individual product needs.
Of course the subject of plant-based foods at JBT is not a new one. We have been working for a number of years on applications that substitute animal protein for vegetable protein. But what has happened in more recent times? There has been a huge change with a focus on a reduction in the production and consumption of meat because of its impact on the environment and a growing interest in proteins generated by plants. There is also a perception among many consumers that vegetable protein is better for a healthy diet than animal protein.
How significant is this trend? Well according to a study carried out by Euromonitor International, global sales of meat and milk alternatives reached US$36 billion in 2019 and are continuing to grow. Sales of meat substitutes rose by 9% between 2019-2020 compared with 4% over 2018-2019.
As these figures indicate, one of the most important segments within plant-based foods has been the growth in products based on plant proteins that seek to imitate traditional, meat-based products. This has led to an enormous boom in hamburgers, sausages and bacon based on vegetable proteins.
To meet this demand, we at JBT have designed new processes for our customers who are formulating new products based on the raw materials. We help customers develop these products, adapting to each of the individual processes, the kind of product being developed, and the best means of processing it, at our Food Technology Centers, including at our facilities in Helsingborg, Sweden and Livingston, UK. We can assist customers in the development of the products, and following that we carry out practical testing in a factory setting.
JBT’s considerable experience in delivering solutions for the plant-based foods industry has proven invaluable given the huge increase in demand at a consumer-level, and the need for processors to develop products that effectively mimic the taste and appearance of meat-based foods, often at speed.
An increased awareness of environmental concerns is fueling a desire on the part of many consumers worldwide to consume less meat. if you have a product that says it can effectively substitute meat in terms of taste, aroma, color to that which you have on your plate, and it comes not from animals, but from plants, people are willing to pay the same amount or more money for it. This has led to a demand especially for plant-based hamburgers, followed to a lesser extent by sausages and bacon substitutes.
However, substituting a meat-based product for a plant-based alternative that offers the same eating experience is far from easy. Taking plant proteins and developing a protein that imitates the text, color, taste and aroma of meats is very difficult to achieve. We at JBT have designed and developed processes and systems – from cooking to freezing – which do just that, but which furthermore are tailored to meet the needs of each individual processor, while also complying with stringent hygiene standards required when handling plant-based products.
It seems likely plant-based meat substitutes are here to stay, and we at JBT will make sure customers produce foods that deliver and optimum experience, from taste to texture, time and time again.