Is the party over for meat substitutes? It’s just getting started, says ADM
ADM – which supplies a wide range of ingredients used in meat substitutes, from vegetable proteins such as soy, peas and wheat, to colors, flavors, oils and fats, starches, texturizers, beans and legumes – feels rather optimistic, says Allyson Fish, global president of plant-based and alternative proteins.
“There is a lot of noise in the market right now and we have to answer a lot of questions because these items [querying the market potential of meat alternatives] keep coming. And there are challenges the industry faces in terms of taste, texture and price,” Fish told FoodNavigator-USA.
That said, she added, “We don’t really see a market downturn from where we’re sitting. And we don’t expect any significant change in the trajectory or our forecast for growth in this industry over the next 10 years.
“We are seeing changes in consumer buying behaviors, but we are not seeing an overall slowdown in the meat alternatives space”
Prices need to come down, especially in the current environment, as consumer budgets tighten and taste and texture challenges remain, she said. However, the fundamental drivers of so-called “alternative” proteins have not changed, with major meat and dairy companies themselves acknowledging that we need to find more sustainable ways to feed more people with fewer resources.
“So we need to come up with all kinds of new solutions, including new alternative proteins in order to serve this growing population. So maybe it won’t have that 40% CAGR that some people have dated, but it’s still going to be very healthy [growth]. So I would say we’re seeing changes in consumer buying behaviors, but we’re not seeing an overall slowdown in the meat alternatives business and our customers are asking for more capacity.
Asked about syndicated retail data showing U.S. plant-based meat retail sales were flat last year, she added: “So in the data you see some reduction in retail and some reduction in [sales of refrigerated plant-based] burger and sausages, but you see strong growth in foodservice, you see strong growth in private label, and so on, and so we’re not seeing a slowdown in business.
“Asia-Pacific is a huge opportunity”
She added: “The other thing to note is that a lot of this data is coming from the US retail market, but this is a global economy and each of the regions are at different stages of development. For example , Asia-Pacific is a huge opportunity that we’re just starting to get into and I think food safety there is going to drive a lot of the adoption and a lot of the local government investment in this [area of alternative proteins].”
ADM, which recently opened a pea protein plant in Enderlin, North Dakota, “recently announced our expansion [at ADM’s soy protein concentrate plant] at Decatur, where we will nearly double our textured protein capacity,” says Fish.
“We’re also adding a very large Protein Innovation Center because we want to have a space where we can quickly pilot new technology and accelerate it to market by bringing everyone from processing to end-use applications together. , in the same space.
“And that completes our acquisition of [Serbian soy ingredients specialist] Sojaprotein, where we wanted to bring local solutions to the European market. And then we have a joint venture with [Brazilian beef producer] Marfrig will create PlantPlus Foods [which is dedicated to plant-based protein products].”
Alternatives to whole muscle meat
One area where ADM sees a lot of opportunity is in “whole muscle” meat substitutes, Fish said.
“How do we create all this muscle-like texture for chicken breasts, steaks, chops?
“We devote a lot of time to high humidity extrusion technologies and work with our customers to achieve very specific textures and sensory experiences. Something like 26% of meals have a whole breast or chunks of whole meat in their traditional family style meals, while on the veggie side it’s actually only 12 or 13%. So what can we do there to improve that as an opportunity? »
“We did a lot of testing with the PowerHeater”
One texturing technology that ADM is testing is Electric heating, developed by Danish company Source Technology, which can produce high-moisture meat analogues (this involves combining vegetable proteins and other ingredients with water and oil to form an emulsion that is pumped through the Electric heatingwhere it is heated by indirect heat energy to coagulate the proteins, which come out of the die with a “laminate, fibrous, structure”).
According to Fish: “We did a lot of testing with the PowerHeater; the chicken pieces we had coming out of the PowerHeater, the pieces of this chicken were so dense and rich.
“It’s an interesting technology very similar to high humidity extrusion and I think something we’re continuing to look at is how do we bring a portfolio that services those kinds of processes to allow that to be accessible? Because than the mycelium [which companies such as Meati and MyForest are using to make whole cut products] won’t be fully commercialized at the scale we need to accelerate this to expand all of this short-term muscle opportunity.
As for the high humidity extrusion, she said: “I see a lot of investment in this space right now. But it has to be localized because there is the cold chain factor [high moisture meat analogs must be kept cold, whereas low moisture extrusion products (TVP) can be dried, stored and transported as a shelf stable ingredient and rehydrated when ready for use].”
“The plant base has been too focused on burgers and sausages”
She added: “I think plant-based foods have been too focused on burgers and sausages, which, by the way, aren’t necessarily global foods. So the question is how to apply these technologies and make meat alternatives more relevant to local audiences around the world? »
“We see a lot of different ways to participate in this [cell-cultured meat] space’
When it comes to cell-cultured (aka cultured) meat, ADM invested in an Israeli startup Future meat technologiesbut also works with Eat Just’s GOOD MEATdivision to help reduce the cost of growth media and help improve the flavor and texture of the first wave of products, which will be hybrids combining cell-culture meat and plant-based meat, she said .
“We see many different ways to participate in this [cell-cultured meat] space. We have a large flavor house and we have food scientists and chefs who work with a number of our partners to help them accelerate their product development.
Chickpeas and sunflower… vegetable proteins to watch out for?
Asked about the diversification of protein sources used in meat alternatives, Fish said: “We’ve reviewed them all and for us soy is still king with the best price, best functionality and best flavor, but we’re also seeing a lot more demand and pulling the pea [protein] side.
“As we look to expand and bring more concentrates and isolates to market, our focus on chickpea and sunflower, we believe they have a tremendous opportunity.
“Whether we do it through partnerships or through our own construction and capabilities, we’re still trying to define that.”
Through his ADM Enterprisesarms, ADM has invested in a series of startups ranging from Air Protein (which uses microbes that can introduce carbon dioxide into food using hydrogen from water) and Nature’s Fynd (mushrooms) to to the precision fermentation companies Perfect Day (dairy products without animal proteins) and Geltor (collagen of animal origin); to Israeli cultured meat company Future Meat Technologies.
“We believe microbial fermentation is essential for part of the future of this space”
Asked about other sources of protein, she replied: “Some of the other sources like lupine or seaweed or some of the ancient grains, it’s a little harder to bring them to scale and consumers are less aware of them, so it takes a lot more education to get them up to speed.
“We are also very supportive of mycoprotein and believe it will be a great solution in the near future, although part of the challenge is how to educate the consumer on where it comes from and how it is made.”
As for fats, she said: “We believe microbial fermentation is essential to part of the future of this space and we believe alternative fats will be a great way to help overcome some of the challenges around mouthfeel and sensory experience. alternatives to meat and dairy products.
“We think fermentation is a huge opportunity. We’ve been in fermentation for years and we’re trying to bring that expertise to this industry…so to that end, we’re working with Temasek to provide food-grade fermentation support and capacity access for startups.
* Source: IRI, Integrated Fresh, Total US, MULO
Meat substitutes in numbers
Plant-based alternatives to meat dollar sales were down slightly (-0.9%) to $118m in measured US distribution channels* in May 2022 compared to May 2021, with solid growth of +10.1% in the frozen section offset by a -16.1% decline in the refrigerated section, where sales of chilled plant-based patties fell -37.3% year-on-year ( YoY), pomace sales fell -26% and dinner sausage sales fell -6.8%, according to IRI* data crunched by 210 Analytics.
Volumes (pounds sold) of plant-based meat alternatives fell -7.3% year-on-year, with frozen meat alternatives again relatively flat (-0.8%), but alternative meats volumes refrigerated fell dramatically (-18.1%).
In contrast, total dollar sales of the meat aisle – which saw a bigger inflationary push than their factory counterparts – rose +4.5% to $8.1 billion in May 2022 from May 2021. , with volumes down -6.1% year-on-year.
Price per pound, fresh alternative meat ($8.28/lb) vs. fresh conventional meat ($4.31/lb)
In the chilled segment, while the price of regular meat has risen steadily over the past few months, the price gap between conventional meat and alternative meat remains large, with chilled meat alternatives averaging 8, $28/lb in May 2022 (+2.4% year-on-year) compared to $4.31/lb for conventional fresh meat (+8.8% year-on-year).
Source: IRI, Integrated Fresh, Total US, MULO