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27th June 2023  Content supplied by: International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. IFF

Learning to Love Plant-Based Proteins Without Mimicry

The alternative protein market is currently dominated by 'imitation' plant-based 'meats,' where highly processed alt protein sources have been manipulated into various meat analogues, that have a look and taste similar to that of real meat. Aside from some shortfall in appearance, sensory experiences, and cookability, the main issues are that these are normally highly processed foods with many additives making a lengthy ingredient list.

Increasingly, the consumer trend is a desire for a more clean label, less processed food, ideally from a sustainable ingredients source. This aim can pose challenges to new product development teams; how can they be addressed?

In this NewProtein interview with Sonia Huppert, IFF’s Global Innovation Marketing Leader, we explore the concept that it’s time for NPD to step back and think outside the box, discover how IFF can help producers make better use of alternative protein sources to produce innovative, textured products at cost parity that also meets consumer demands. Make your next new product innovation achieve market-wide adoption.

Q: Why have manufacturers focused on mimicry of animal-based meats, and what are the downsides?
Sonia: The primary reason for the focus on mimicry is familiarity – consumers are more comfortable with foods they already know and like, and the barrier to trying something new is lower when the concept is familiar. It’s also easier for manufacturers to design products that are easily described and easily compared to the 'real thing.'

The downside is that expectations are very high. If you make a plant-based analogue, people not only expect the same sensory experience as the meat product but also the ability to cook with it in the same way. When a product doesn’t meet these expectations, they’re disappointed.

Q: What trends are emerging now? Where do you see the new areas of opportunity?
Sonia: Consumers want healthier alternatives to conventional foods but also rich, sensorial experiences and a wider variety of options for their dietary preferences. At the same time, growing interest in sustainability is driving global demand for plant-based protein alternatives to traditional meat and dairy products.

People want novel experiences but also familiarity, so products need to be close enough to what’s comfortable while providing an exciting new experience. Additionally, plant-based innovation needs to be anchored in a culinary syntax, with recipes based on consumer insights, eating cultures, and local cuisine. Success lies in finding the right balance between expectation and recognition.

Q: How can IFF help new product developers create innovative and appealing products that meet consumer demand?
Sonia: We recently launched SUPRO® TEX – an irregularly shaped, dry, textured soy protein designed to recreate the differentiated textures of whole-muscle animal protein. It’s a solution that allows manufacturers to make multiple whole-muscle plant-based meat analogues – such as chicken stir fry, lamb kebabs, and beef stew – by adjusting flavors, spices, and colors. So with one single product, they can create new opportunities for plant-based meals that cater to market-specific taste profiles all over the world.

Made from soy, SUPRO® TEX is a complete, high-quality protein, comparable in quality to animal protein. It's easy to use and cost-effective for manufacturers.

Many other whole muscle plant-based meat products have an appealing appearance but lose firmness, chew and bite after hydration. This is a major problem, as all these attributes are key to consumer enjoyment and acceptance. Without the proper structure, these extruded products become spongy and lack the desired bite and texture of a meat-like eating experience.

SUPRO® TEX was designed to address this problem. It allows brands to create whole-muscle dishes with pieces that closely mimic the taste and texture of animal-based proteins.

Q: Why should IFF be the partner of choice in the development of a ‘real’ plant-based product?
Sonia: IFF’s Panoptic insights offer the industry unique perspectives on what consumers want. When we co-design with customers, we work on targeted consumer segmentation to develop new products designed to meet their real expectations.

Meanwhile, our sensory science tools allow us to focus not just on what consumers say they want in surveys but also on what they actually feel and crave. In short, we can identify the 'moment of truth,' allowing us to develop innovative and successful plant-based foods and beverages targeting specific consumer groups.

Q: Where do you see the future of plant-based food, what new concepts will dominate development, and how is IFF working to stay ahead of the curve?
Sonia: IFF is a pioneer in leading-edge product design for a healthier and more sustainable future. To cultivate the rising interest in alternative and plant-based proteins, we proactively address the critical need for category-defining innovation.

In doing so, we combine extensive consumer insights and product design expertise with an unrivaled flavor and ingredient portfolio to deliver exceptional taste and texture experiences. Engaging our cross-category application know-how, we generate customized profiles for diverse consumer preferences.

Discover how IFF can help bring your ‘new age of protein’ product to market. Learn more about SUPRO® TEX here.

About the interviewee - Sonia Huppert, Global Innovation Marketing Leader, RE-IMAGINE PROTEIN®, IFF

Sonia Huppert Global Innovation Marketing Leader IFF Nourish
Sonia Huppert is Global Innovation Marketing Leader, RE-IMAGINE PROTEIN® at IFF’s Nourish, leading the industry roadmap for growth in alternative proteins. She has deep insight into and broad experience in food technology, product development, business development, and strategic marketing. She has more than 25 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, turning ideation into successful innovation that is consumer-oriented and customer-driven. Sonia holds an MSc in Microbiology-Enzymology and obtained a certificate in strategic marketing and digital from HEC Paris. Sonia lived and worked in different regions of the globe and developed a strong ability to lead multicultural and disperse teams.



Date Published: 27th June 2023

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