Veganism is defined as a plant-based diet/lifestyle that abstains from consuming any and all animal products and/or byproducts. As opposed to vegetarians, who abstain from consuming animal muscle protein, vegans do not consume or use any animal derivatives whatsoever, including butter, honey and even beeswax.
A decade ago, veganism was primarily focused on the desire to improve animal welfare within the agriculture industry. The sad truth about deplorable conditions within factory farms hit the mainstream in the mid-1990s, sparking this movement toward more conscious and compassionate eating behaviors.
While seeking to end animal suffering is a truly honorable cause, some vegans missed the variety and flavor of animal proteins. In the early 2000s, a new batch of creative vegetable-based products hit the shelves, designed to mimic the look, mouthfeel and taste of meat. Even wheat gluten shared a moment in the spotlight when “seitan” was prized as a novel addition to vegan diets, due to its freakishly spot-on meaty consistency.
Fast-forward a decade and it’s easy to see just how much the industry has shifted. In response to the concerns over animal welfare, new, more sustainable and ethical farming methods have been implemented. From free-range eggs to grass-fed, naturally-pastured beef, modern-day ranchers are answering the call for a more ethical approach—one that everyone can feel good about.
Although many aspects of animal welfare have indeed improved, the vegan lifestyle continues to trend upward.
A simple Google search for the word, “vegan,” makes it abundantly clear that veganism has reached the mainstream. Not only has there been a rise in the number of people who choose to be vegan (6% of population, up from 1% in 2009), but other statistics speak loudly that the trend is not going away:
- Google reported a three-fold increase in vegan searches from 2007 to 2014.
- 36- 39% of the population is interested in reducing (if not eliminating) meat and dairy consumption.
- Major restaurant chains, like Chipotle and Subway, are steadily increasing vegan and vegetarian menu options.
- Native Foods, a chain restaurant that serves only plant-based foods, plans to open 200 more stores in the next five years.
Why does veganism continue to trend upward, despite the new wave of sustainable animal protein options?
Health, vitality and environmental sustainability of course!
According to a 2015 article by Food Navigator, 35% of consumers link vegan products with better health and 13% of consumers associate vegan products with cleaner ingredients.
The new, more inclusive term for vegan product marketing is “plant-based.” Not only does plant based work for true vegans, but also for consumers seeking clean products that are better for the environment, the gut, healthy internal pH, weight maintenance, etc.
Plant-based products punctuate the fastest-growing trends in food for 2016, such as:
- Clean Label
- Free From for All
- The “Flexitarian Effect”
- Natural Processing Methods
- Vegetable-Fusion with Flavor
- Seed-to-Shelf Transparency in Supply Chain
Click here to read more about Innova’s Top 10 Trends for 2016.
Industry Opportunity – Plant-Based ANYTHING
Plant-based products are a growing trend that shows no sign of slowing.
While plant-based foods are gaining traction overall, there is a special niche for plant-based proteins in particular. The number of consumers seeking out foods high in protein has increased from 39% in 2006 to over 50% in 2014. While many vegans depend on plant-based proteins to meet their daily protein intake needs, the growth in vegan or plant based products is largely coming from meat eaters!
In years past, the industry focused on soy-based supplemental proteins. Soy has lost popularity due to concerns over genetically modified agriculture methods that may or may not include glyphosate along with concerns over consuming too many phytoestrogens, which may negatively impact hormone balance.
Non-soy, complete plant proteins are now transforming the industry. These novel protein sources are being added to all kinds of products, from breakfast cereal and snacks to beverages, bread and baked good mixes.
The growth in plant-based foods now even warrants its own trade group. The Plant-Based Food Association debuted in March of this year. The group was established to represent makers of plant-based foods and ingredients intended to replace animal products, dairy and eggs. Their goal is to level the playing field for plant-based foods to compete fairly. This includes taking a seat in Washington to counter the meat and dairy industries. In addition, the group will focus on:
- Lobbying the FDA to change label restrictions that place plant-based meats, milks, eggs, and butters at an economic disadvantage.
- Debating important public policy issues such as dietary guidelines.
- Public education, public relations and media outreach to increase visibility for plant-based foods and boost consumer acceptance.
The Best Plant-Based Protein Ingredients to Use in Blends
Popular plant-based proteins include pea and brown rice in addition to seeds such as hemp, quinoa flax, chia and pumpkin. Since one of the biggest challenges of the vegan diet is getting enough complete protein, these blends can be tailored to provide the perfect amount of balanced amino acid profiles as well as better taste.
At RFI, we offer a variety of plant-based proteins, including non-GMO-verified ingredients, for use in whole-food, clean-label products.
Our Blueprints for Health® service will guide you through customizing a blend that aligns your customers’ values. Our unique expertise will help you launch turnkey, condition-specific formulas from the initial concept on through to costing, packaging and marketing.