ADM highlights top trends in rapidly-growing alternative protein category

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Photo Credit: GettyImages / Rocky89
Photo Credit: GettyImages / Rocky89

Related tags Adm plant-based protein

As concerns about how to feed a growing global population expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030 and consumer demand for health-forward food solutions build, ADM predicts that alternative proteins will soon transition from a niche alternative to center plate.

According to ADM's Outside Voice survey, close to half (46%) of plant-based consumers believe that eating plant-based protein will support their overall health and just over one-quarter (27%) of consumers plan to change their diet to become more plant-based.

"These factors, among others, are powering the mainstreaming of protein alternatives. In the last year alone, the amount of alternative meat, cheese, and dairy products available to consumers has more than doubled,"​ said ADM in its recent trends report​. 

"Looking ahead, we expect the rapid growth of the alternative protein market to continue at an accelerated rate," ​said ADM, highlighting several key trends from unexpected protein sources to whole-muscle plant-based protein products.

Cell-cultured meat, novel protein sources, and microbial fermentation

With more than $1.2bn invested in startups working on cell-cultured meat and seafood solutions, the emerging cell-based meat production category is becoming one of the most promising segments of alternative proteins. According to ADM Outside Voice research, 68% of global consumers showed interest in cell-cultured meat.

"The year ahead could bring significant advances in the space, with some experts predicting that the FDA and USDA will allow companies to begin selling cell-based meat within the US by the middle of 2022," ​said ADM.

At the same time, novel sources of alternative protein production are also emerging, noted ADM.

"Other novel sources coming from air particles to volcanic ash, seaweed and insects, have shown promise as it relates to nutrition, functionality, flavor, sourcing, and price. Regardless of the ingredient source, in all instances, brands and consumers are seeking out proteins that are local and traceable," ​said ADM.

Heightened interest in microbial fermentation as a method of production of alternative protein products is also rapidly developing, noted ADM.

"Today, the US consumes ~50 billion burgers per year, with many of those burgers being from alternative sources of protein. With the alternative meats market expected to grow at a rate of 16% through 2030, the industry will need more than today’s protein sources to meet evolving demand,"​ ADM commented, adding that the company is currently exploring new ways to serve brands that are seeking support with downstream processing such microbial fermentation.

"Expansive capabilities in food-grade fermentation are required to support the processing, lab services and consulting needs of food and beverage companies,"​ said ADM.

Whole muscle, plant-based protein

Whole-muscle plant-based solutions are an underrepresented, untapped market opportunity for food companies to develop products that more closely mimic their animal protein counterparts, according to ADM.

"Whole-muscle, plant-based solutions, such as chicken breast alternatives, are becoming increasingly available to consumers in markets all over the world. These solutions will continue to evolve as brands seek out novel ways to reproduce the texturization of animal-based whole-muscle cuts, from T-bone steaks to shellfish," ​said ADM.

"As R&D work continues to advance in the industry, these products may also one day be sold in 'raw' formats in the butcher’s case, as opposed to pre-cooked, to enhance consumer perception of freshness,"​ predicted ADM.

Kid-friendly formats

Plant-based protein products for kids is another area of significant opportunity for food and beverage manufacturers who should be looking to develop products targeted at a growing demographic of flexitarian parents and kids, noted ADM.

Research from ADM’s Outside Voice survey found that almost two-thirds of global flexitarians are looking to incorporate more plant protein into their diets.

"These consumers are more likely to be families with parents and children seeking out options that are both tasty and beneficial to their overall health and well-being. In many cases, this growing desire to increase intake of protein alternatives has impacted entire families, with parents and children seeking out options that are both tasty and beneficial to their overall health and well-being,"​ said ADM.

Plant-based spins on traditional and authentic cuisines

From plant-based shawarma to shrimp dumplings, plant-based versions of traditional and authentic global cuisine are growing in popularity, noted ADM.

"Through new products featuring an assortment of globalized flavors, textures and product formats, brands are aiming to deliver an array of tasty, satiating comfort food analogues," ​said ADM.

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