As we head into 2023, a major trend has taken the industry by storm. In a bid to reduce carbon footprints and increase sustainable eating, many food companies have made it their mission to follow more environmentally friendly practices. Innova Market Insights reports 21% of consumers have added more plant based products to their diets. New innovations boast of plant based claims and highlight ingredients like animal free whey protein, mushrooms, and jackfruit. Let’s take a look at trends in the plant based space.

Challenges With Plant Based

Making a plant based product can have its challenges, as  there are key characteristics animal based ingredients add.. Texture is the main hurdle to jump whether it’s plant based meat, dairy free cheese, or dairy-less baked goods and snacks. Flavor is also often a struggle as many plant based options could be described as having a cardboard aftertaste. New innovations are setting out to refine these hurdles and make plant based products as widely accepted as their animal based counterparts.

Savory Snacks

Roasted chickpeas, coconut chips, and cauliflower crackers have been making their way onto shelves as a better-for-you option for snacking. Many snacks have a protein call out when made from various legumes or fortified with pea protein. Sea salt had the highest number of product launches over the last 5 years. While the number of product launches for sea salt flavored snacks declines, many other fun flavors take the spotlight for these snacks.

Top 10 Flavors:

  • Sea Salt
  • Barbeque +31.61%
  • Chili +41.42%
  • Lime +31.61%
  • Cheddar Cheese +18.92%
  • Cinnamon +14.42%
  • Coconut +18.92%
  • Ranch +24.47%
  • Garlic +21.79%
  • Jalapeno Chili +3.93%

Sweet Treats

Sweet treats aren’t exempt from having plant based claims on their labels. These products are often made with coconut oil, dates, and alternative flours that add a gluten free claim as well. To no surprise, chocolate flavored desserts top the list. Because this category is constantly growing, all top flavors have an increasing growth rate in the rising number of product launches to meet consumers’ wants.

Top 10 Flavors:

  • Milk Chocolate +88.96%
  • Chocolate Chip +79.29%
  • Peanut Butter +121.34%
  • Vanilla +68.18%
  • Dark Chocolate +105.98%
  • Strawberry +75.56%
  • Blueberry +89.88%
  • Almond +41.42%
  • Banana +77.83%
  • Mint +68.18%

Protein Beverages

According to Innova Market Insights, 25% of consumers are consuming more plant protein than ever before. Many of these drinks, consumers agree, can use help in flavor, texture, and affordability. The innovation is headed in that direction as product developers focus more of their efforts on plant based. This trend is only growing and evolving. Alternatively, the sports nutrition market is seeing a shift to better-for-you ingredients. No artificial sweeteners, flavors, and limited preservatives drive the products consumers are reaching for. Product developers are also adding functional ingredients like maca root, lion’s mane mushroom, and immunity boosting antioxidants. Protein is an established category, so top flavor launches vary in the sense of fantasy flavor names like Chocolate Brownie and Peanut Butter Cookie. Taking spins on classics keeps flavor innovation wheels turning.

Top 10 Flavors:

  • Milk Chocolate
  • Vanilla
  • Strawberry
  • Vanilla Bean +18.9%
  • Peanut Butter
  • Chai Tea
  • Fudge
  • Banana
  • Brownie
  • Cookie +31.6%

Dairy Alternatives

It seems as though you can get any dairy alternative milk substituted in your morning latte. As many shift towards dairy free milk due to allergy or other reasons, many alternatives have been popping up rivaling dairy milk. Many new products have hit shelves from staples such as oat, almond, and soy, to more adventurous alternatives like flaxseed, avocado, and even animal free whey made using precision fermentation to mimic whey proteins. With the upcycle movement making its way into this category with dairy alternatives such as barley milk, many consumers look to this space to help with environmental impacts dairy milk can impart. Additionally, dairy alternatives allow for more functional ingredients to be added to the beverages such as prebiotics, adding various mushroom extracts, and fortifying with protein. Consumers are drawn to this to support their lifestyles and current health needs. A current trend in this space is demanding that dairy alternatives be made with clean ingredients, limited preservatives, and short ingredient lists. As we see this category evolve, we expect to see more innovative dairy alternatives and blends of different alternatives creating a positive taste and mouthfeel experience for consumers.

Understanding the trends of the plant based space opens conversations on how this sector can continue to grow, how consumers define plant based in their diets, and look to what’s next in innovation. While this is not an exhaustive list of plant based trends, we find these particular sectors most interesting and fast moving in innovation. Looking to flavor your next plant based creation? Our team at Flavor Insights is here to help take boring to exciting. Contact us today to start the plant based conversation.