Without a doubt, the way we eat is changing; plant-based alternatives are no longer the preserve of a niche market. Today several competitors are entering the sector, drawn in by the growth of increasingly viable plant-based alternatives, which are disrupting many food categories. With increased accountability about the impact on our planet and awareness of non-ethical food sources, consumer demand for innovative sustainable plant-based products is on the rise.
In the most developed plant-based category, diary, the variety of ingredients has increased significantly. Many speciality ingredients have emerged in the last couple of years, broadening non-diary product ranges. Pea Mylk is now widely available and has become a mainstay on the shelves of major supermarkets.
Demand for sustainable ingredients
Whilst plant-based alternatives to dairy products are in demand; the ingredients frequently used to make these products, such as soybeans or palm, are known to impact the environment significantly. With consumers turning away from less sustainable options, food and drink companies are protecting their brands by formulating more sustainable recipes and even acquiring new brands to address the needs of today's conscious consumers.
Industry shifts have allowed start-up and disrupter companies in many territories to develop and launch new products with broader ingredients. Consequently, the dairy spreads category, in particular, has been investing heavily in plant-based formulas. Plant oils show no sign of slowing down in the future, with companies like Upfield investing heavily to create the most extensive range of plant-based products.
Enter the Pongamia bean
The future of plant oils in the making, the Pongamia bean is a sustainable food source. It can yield up to four times the number of beans in a soybean crop and use the harvest similarly. Significantly more sustainable than soybeans or palm, this bean offers real versatility in plant oil production, with future flour and protein powder uses.
California-based company TerViva has been instrumental in seeking to develop Pongamia based products. Together with Danone, a leader in exploring environmentally beneficial food production methods, they are turning this from a niche source of use to a widespread ingredient. Not only will it broaden product ranges, but it's also a highly sustainable alternative to soybeans and palm.
Additionally, Paraguay-based reforestation company Investancia has signed a deal to plant 50 million Pongamia trees over the next ten years. This will lead to the supply of 300,000 tonnes of oil. With anti-nutritional components removed, Pongamia will open new opportunities for in-demand products such as vegan mayonnaise, oils, baked goods, plant-based meats and even protein shakes.
We're one step closer to a healthy planet
All of this shows that healthy regenerative food, which helps to heal the planet, is achievable, presenting the opportunity to create better culinary conversations. What's more, we're seeing better access to healthy and environmentally sustainable foods coming to fruition, improving our food systems.
Hopefully, the advent of more environmentally-friendly approaches will also address the rising world population. Working with nature to produce more nutritious food, these conscious innovations are essential for sustainable growth.