Food Tech Summit & Expo in Mexico

Consumers are raising the bar on animal proteins as more choices for sources come to market

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Consumers are raising the bar on animal proteins as more choices for sources come to market
As alternatives to meat become increasingly sophisticated and available and a growing population begins to strain the supply of animal products, consumers are raising the bar for animal proteins in terms of appearance, freshness, processing and price – pushing manufacturers and producers to find new solutions, according to a protein expert with Kalsec.

“It is a new world of protein. Every day we hear on social media and the Internet and TV how everyone is coming out with new proteins, new product launches and new protein sources. People are pouring money into this area, which at the end of the day is good because it educates and aids people who are looking for delicious food,”​ Poulson Joseph, a principal scientist and team lead for protein at Kalsec, told attendees at the Food Tech Summit & Expo in Mexico last week.

He added that while “we have seen meat from animals as a dominant category in the protein space so far, and it will be for quite a bit of time still, there are other players and emerging sectors that we need to pay attention to, such as meat alternatives”​ made from insects and worm, and plant-based protein products that are increasingly “lifelike,”​ such as Beyond Meat and the Impossible Burger.

In addition, he said cultured or cell-based meat grown in a lab instead of on a farm, is quickly becoming not just a futuristic concept, but something available on the market.

As such, he suggested manufacturers and marketers of animal-based meat need to begin thinking now how they can add value to their products so that they can remain competitive as these other options rise in prominence.

To do this, he said, manufacturers and producers must consider what attributes of animal-based protein do consumers most value.

Offer added value without impacting price

“When it comes to purchasing decisions, many of the factors that people consider may seem common sense, but they still should be considered carefully,”​ he said.

The first factor most people consider is price. “At the end of the day, some people can afford a premium price, but others cannot, so as we talk about creating value within animal proteins, we must look for ways to do so without increasing the price,”​ he said.

One way to do this is by offering a new taste experience, Poulson noted. Traditionally, taste has been altered through processing and by the addition of dry spices – both of which are successful strategies. But, as pressure increases to innovate more quickly, he suggested that brands consider working with liquid spices to speed research and develop without compromising the quality or experience of the end flavor.

For example, he noted that Kalsec’s garlic and onion extracts offer fully developed flavors that are immediately and completely available to the palate when they are added to food – even in low pH applications. Dehydrated options, on the other hand, develop flavor during the rehydration process, which can slow R&D.

In addition, liquid garlic and onion extracts can offer 40% to 80% savings over dehydrated powders because they are more concentrated, which allows for lower usage rates, according to Kalsec.

Other oleoresins offered by Kalsec come in a range of flavors and offer consistency in application that can be hard to replicate with dry spices, are easy to use and have microbial qualities, he said.

Protect color and appearance

Following price, the second most important factor consumers consider when selecting animal protein is its appearance, which is often a stand-in for evaluating freshness, Poulson said.

“As many of you already know, consumers eat first with their eyes. When they go to the store they want red meat, like ground beef, that is red in color, because that is what they associate with freshness,”​ he said.

Kalsec can help companies enhance the visual appeal of animal protein and maintain a clean label through the use of its natural huge range, which includes options such as paprika, anthocyans and beet to create deep reds. In addition, the company’s Vegetone color blends enhance the color of cooked meat such as poultry – giving it a deep roasted hue even when it is steamed or baked, Poulson said.

Extend shelf-life with natural antioxidants

In addition to color, consumers evaluate the freshness of animal protein based on the sell-by date, which historically is much shorter for products that also meet consumer demand for minimally processed and preservative-free products, Poulson said.

However, he noted, Kalsec offers a range of natural oxidation management products that can significantly extend shelf-life without sacrificing food safety.

These include the company’s Herbalox rosemary extract can extend the shelf life of meat by slowing oxidation, Poulson explained. In addition, the quick soluble version can be used in chilled liquids without clogging processing equipment, while the low-flavor and low-aroma versions can provide benefits without off-notes.

The company also offers Duralox Oxidation management systems, which are built on the Herbalox technology with the addition of “quenchers”​ and chelators, which can enhance shelf life and microbial control, he said.

In addition to improving shelf life, these tools can also improve appearance and do so without sacrificing clean label properties, which Poulson said a third of consumers in the US now consider a top priority when selecting animal proteins.



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