Alternative protein is rapidly transforming from a niche product to a mainstream phenomenon over the years. Environmental costs of raising animals for meat, the strong focus on animal welfare, and the health consequences associated with the consumption of conventional proteins are the key reasons for the burgeoning popularity of alternative proteins for food applications.

In the bakery industry, manufacturers are growing their businesses with the use of plant-based products as a source of major protein ingredients. Pulse concentrates, which consist of 55%-60% protein, for example, can be adopted to enhance nutrition in baked products and in confectionery applications. The alternative protein industry for food application from the bakery segment is poised to depict a 16.5% CAGR through 2027, according to authentic sources.

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Booming alternative protein sector in COVID-19 era

The novel coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the advent of healthy eating options, with consumers increasingly shifting their preferences toward plant-based or vegan protein alternatives. As per a survey from the International Food Information Council, 45% of the consumers consider plant-based products to be healthier than ground beef, considering the Nutrition Facts label.

In countries including the United States, meat processing facilities are also believed to be among the coronavirus hotspots, causing a considerable business boom for alternative protein producers and eventually leading to the high intake of meat substitutes for protein. Also, diets that rely heavily on plants as protein alternative food sources have been linked to reduced risks of heart disease, stroke, and early death, thus strengthening the alternative protein market for food applications.

Following are the three health benefits of plant-based over animal proteins:

  1. Protection against cancer

The consumption of plant-rich diets can decrease the risk of cancer, as phytochemicals found in plants can help prevent the disease. Diets rich in fiber can also control weight and protect gut health, thus inhibiting the onset of the disease, given that obesity is one of its risk factors.

  1. Protection against heart disease

Studies have revealed that people who consumed vegan protein substitutes were 30% less likely to die from conditions like ischemic heart disease, as plant-based diets are low in iron, saturated fats, and hormones.

  1. Protection against type 2 diabetes

As compared to people who eat animal protein, those who have the highest adherence to plant-based diets have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. This is due to the increasing role of plant-based diets as a preferred weight control measure.

Rapid innovation by food technology providers in alternative protein space

The alternative protein business for food application is rapidly evolving beyond pea and soy, with manufacturers discovering an ever-expanding range of new ingredients and technologies. Factors such as these have enabled food brands to design products and boost innovations to cater to the rising number of flexitarian consumers who are planning to cut meat consumption for health, environmental, and ethical reasons.

Citing an instance, in September 2021, Givaudan expanded its protein innovation network with the launch of its Protein Hub to provide the technology and expertise required to help drive the development of alternative proteins.

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The global meat sector is also experiencing explosive growth, largely due to the escalating launch activities of cutting-edge products for health-conscious consumers. For example, in May 2021, Unilever announced a partnership with the food-tech firm, ENOUGH, to develop new plant-based meat products by tapping into a technology that uses a zero-waste fermentation process. In this process, natural fungi are fed with wheat, corn, and other renewable feedstock to produce ABUNDA mycoprotein, which is a complete food ingredient that is high in dietary fiber and contains all essential amino acids.

The ever-increasing development of innovative products for the fast-growing meat-alternative segment is further providing a major boost to the alternative protein market for food application over the foreseeable future.

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