Innovation & Development/Climate
Meat and dairy products have traditionally been a part of diets around the world, but increasingly the products that end up on our plates no longer need to come from animals. For vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians, plant-based proteins are often on the menu, and there’s no question that they also have to taste good. Symrise supplies the crucial ingredients for hundreds of these foods. Here are some insights into a growing business.
In 2050, ten billion people are expected to live on earth, a good two billion more than today. What will they eat? It is clear that the current form of nutrition with lots of meat, fish and dairy products will no longer be viable at that point. There are several reasons for this. Climate-damaging emissions from mass livestock farming, which produce large amounts of methane gas, nitrates and ammonia, would increase. At the same time, livestock farming requires more and more water, which causes natural resources to dwindle. Last but not least, animal welfare is also increasing in the public eye.
Consumers have been responding to this for years. In addition to people who eat a vegan or vegetarian diet, there has been particularly strong growth in the group of what are known as flexitarians, who limit their meat consumption but do not want to give it up completely. “In the context of coronavirus pandemic, we are seeing increased consumption of plant-based proteins as many consumers perceive this diet to be healthy and safe,” says Regine Lueghausen, Vice President Global Marketing Flavor Division. “In the future, we can expect people to enjoy meat more consciously and focus on quality rather than quantity.”
The food industry is innovative and frequently launches new products worldwide. In supermarkets, for example, the range of vegetarian or vegan meat alternatives is growing, and even traditional suppliers are changing their product ranges. “In 2019, global sales of these products totaled USD 19.5 billion,” explains Lueghausen. “Compared to the traditional food market, this segment is still small, but it has significantly higher growth rates than the conventional food industry – five times higher in the USA alone.” Alternatives to dairy products are also an important market, with sales expected to rise to USD 22 billion by 2023. This corresponds to growth of almost 10 %. While this development has so far mainly taken place in North America and Europe, the markets in Asia, Africa and South America will also become increasingly attractive in the coming years.
The Symrise marketing and consumer insight teams conduct a variety of studies and evaluate social media to identify product, ingredient and flavor trends. “We know exactly what consumers want and can develop the best possible products,” says Regine Lueghausen. Symrise also communicates with cooks around the world to gain culinary insights, including recipes and developments in alternative proteins. One of the company’s memberships is in the Plant-Based Foods Foundation in the USA, where it shares information on developments with other producers.
There are primarily two main consumer groups. The first is looking for a meat-like experience, even in meatless products. “But often, it’s not just about the taste,” says Florian Herkner, Head of the Plant-Based global growth platform. “People also want the foods to be similar in terms of appearance, texture, juiciness, and even preparation, if applicable.” This is quite complex, as beef, chicken, pork and lamb have very different characteristics. The second main group is more interested in plant-based products and is open to “culinary innovations”, even if they have no equivalent in the “meat world”. These people test plant-based products in novel formats and dishes. For both consumer groups, it is important that local Symrise teams adapt ethnically inspired recipes to the taste preferences in their respective regions.
The Symrise Flavor and Nutrition segments have been extracting ingredients for foods from natural raw materials for decades, often through internal collaborations and with universities and other research institutes. “We investigate them with regard to their protein content and other substances. We look in particular at the specific properties of the individual raw materials and how the sensory properties are linked to the molecular composition of scent and flavor-active substances,” says Dr. Gerhard Krammer, Senior Vice President Global Research and Technology Group. This ensures that the ingredients achieve the desired effect even when combined with others. They then provide good flavor, a certain consistency, and the right nutrients, or they balance desirable and undesirable tastes. In addition, Diana Food offers natural colors and food protection solutions for customer-friendly packaging labels that are easy to understand.
Symrise relies on raw materials from nature, including in solutions for alternative proteins. In extensive research programs, the company has analyzed and deciphered natural flavoring substances. Symrise offers these products, which are purchased in a transparent and traceable way, on its code of nature® platform. “Our teams carefully prepare and optimize them to achieve an authentic, natural taste in plant-based products,” explains Global Marketing Manager Stefanie Hartwig. This approach also helps with regulatory issues. Manufacturers, and increasingly also consumers, want to know what food is made from. Ingredients from nature can be labeled clearly and understandably for this purpose.
The Symrise portfolio is broad and offers solutions for all the culinary and sensory challenges that alternative proteins pose. For example, when plant-based raw materials such as peas, soy, chickpeas or rapeseed are used in vegetarian or vegan meat alternatives, they often taste bitter and sometimes leave an unpleasant mouthfeel. The taste-balancing solutions from Symrise compensate for these undesirable effects. “We have carried out extensive scientific work and studies on this and have patented the results. These property rights, along with our new flavor management technologies and our flavorists’ expertise, demonstrate our innovative strength and make us the industry leader,” says Dr. Gerhard Krammer. New analytical methods such as ProtiScan™, which uses a special measuring technique to reduce off-flavors and optimize flavor release for foods containing plant-based protein, also contribute to the company’s strength. Symrise has also developed natural and vegan chicken and beef flavors as well as a barbecue and smoked foods collection in order to replicate the flavors of the original as perfectly as possible.
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