The Food Industry and the Plant-Based Eating Trend

Plant-Based Eating – A New Trend on the Rise

The plant-based food market is booming. It’s estimated to reach $4.63 billion in 2018 and this figure will increase to $6.43 billion by 2023. That’s according to a report by Markets and Markets. And it’s not just vegans and vegetarians who are contributing to the growth.

plant-based diet

Defining Plant-Based Eating

So, what does plant-based eating actually mean?

Plant-based eating refers to any diet that focuses on foods derived from plant sources. Common foods associated with plant-based diets include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, soy, whole grains, tofu and lentils.

Many people have different interpretations of what plant-based eating involves. While one person may avoid eating meat completely, another person may eat plant-based sources but include minimal animal products such as fish and dairy in their diets. In this way, plant-based eating creates more of a grey area.

Often people assume veganism and plant-based eating are the same. However, veganism is more of a lifestyle choice, that seeks to decrease the amount of animal suffering in the world. Although vegans do follow a plant-based diet, they usually avoid all animal products from their diet as well as from other aspects of their life, such as clothing. These products can include leather, fur, gelatine, eggs, and honey.

No Longer a Niche

While plant-based products and meat substitutes now dominate a large proportion of supermarket shelves, it wasn’t always the case. Previously, vegetarianism, veganism and plant-based eating were regarded as niche lifestyle choices, with meat-free products hard to find and often unappetising.

However, fast forward a few years and it’s a different scenario. The taste, texture, and variety of meat substitutes have vastly improved. Today consumers can purchase anything from meat-free buffalo wings and steak style pie to quarter pounder burgers and roast gammon.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that meat-free products are now being consumed by an increasing number of meat eaters, who are looking for a natural protein source and to reduce their meat intake.

Plant-Based Diets Becoming More Mainstream

According to Nestlé, 87% of Americans, both vegans, and meat-eaters are incorporating plant-based protein into their diets, with two-thirds of them doing so one or more times a week.

At the same time, research conducted by comparethemarket.com found that 7% of the UK’s population are avoiding animal related products completely and are embracing plant-based lifestyles. Importantly, this figure has surged significantly since 2016.

Although plant-based meat substitutes may not be entirely mainstream yet, they are becoming more and more accepted. Some people even claim they can’t tell the difference between meat and plant-based protein.plant-based diet words

Health Concerns, Sustainability, and Animal Welfare

So, what is driving the growth in plant-based eating?

The shift towards plant-based eating has been largely fuelled by consumer concern regarding animal welfare, personal well-being and the health risks linked to eating meat (especially red meat). In recent years, food traceability has gained momentum, where consumers care more about what they are eating and where their food comes from.

Consumers also desire more creativity, flexibility, and variety in their diets, therefore they are experimenting with new products and adding plant-based meal combinations to the mix.

Other key drivers include the positive health benefits associated with plant-based eating. Many consumers believe that meat substitutes improve overall health and aid weight management. At the same time, many are embracing a plant-based diet because of health issues and to help environmental sustainability.

Many Manufacturers Introducing Plant-Based Options

To meet the increasing demand for plant-based food options, many manufacturers are increasing their production capacity and are introducing new plant-based offerings.

Supermarket chain Tesco has been commended for its ambitious target to reduce emissions from livestock supply chains by 15% by 2030 and recognising that plant-based foods are a critical component of this strategy.

The retailer has fuelled demand for meat-free alternatives by introducing a range of plant-based food products which include ready meals and sandwiches and wraps. Since the products were introduced to the market, sales have surged and have gained traction amongst meat eaters as well as vegans.

Similarly, the makers of the meat substitute Quorn also reported that sales of their products increased by 16% in 2017, largely due to consumers turning their back on meat.

More and More Companies Getting On Board

As the plant-based food market continues to grow, more and more larger companies have identified opportunities within the sector.plant-based food options

For instance, Nestlé USA recently entered the plant-based food market by acquiring Sweet Earth, a US firm renowned for vegan meals and snacks. Also, food company Campbell’s last year purchased Pacific Foods, well known for its non-dairy milk.

Ben and Jerrys’, manufacturers of ice cream and frozen yoghurt, have addressed the growing demand for plant-based alternatives, by introducing new dairy-free ice cream flavours: chocolate fudge brownie, chunky money and peanut butter and cookies. McDonald’s are even getting on board with their vegan burger ‘McVegan’, which is being trialled out in Finland and Sweden and is anticipated to be released in the UK in the future.

What Has This Got to do With Product Recovery Solutions?

From ready meals, dips, and soups to yoghurt, meat emulsions and their vegan alternatives, product recovery (‘pigging’) systems are in wide use in the food industry. The technology recovers a large percentage of product from pipelines, instead of wasting it. With more and more manufacturers expanding their production due to consumer demand for plant-based offerings, the more important it becomes for them to improve efficiency.

However, improving efficiency can often be a challenge when producing different ranges of products and different configurations. Having a separate line for each of these products would be ideal, but unfortunately, that’s not always economic or practical.

Pigging systems recover practically all of the product from the pipeline(s), therefore the same line can be used for different products which greatly enhances the capacity and flexibility of production. At the same time, cross-contamination risks are significantly minimised due to the hygienic pipeline pig cleaning the line as well as recovering nearly every drop of liquid or wet product.

Pigging and Higher Yields

Pigging considerably increases product yields. As an example, HPS helped a butter oil manufacturer increase their product yields by approximately 200 kgs, that would otherwise be thrown away. You can find more examples of pigging system effectiveness on the case studies page of our website.

Because pigging improves yields, this means less waste, increased efficiency and productivity as well as higher profits. The technology also boasts a high return on investment (ROI) and rapid payment, often in just a few months.

Therefore, it’s quite clear why more and more food manufacturers are implementing the established and proven HPS pigging technology.

Find out More

If you have any questions about liquid product recovery for food applications, or if you’re wanting to speak to HPS about increasing your product yields and improving efficiency through highly effective product recovery and transfer solutions, please fill out the short form below:

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