With consumers becoming ever-more conscious of the impact food has on their bodies and the world around them, 2019 is shaping up to be an interesting year.
The UK free-from market continues to surge ahead. While free-from fundamentally caters for those with food allergies, consumers are also looking for clean-label products that exclude artificial additives, creating a market for foods based on plant-based proteins.
Opportunity to profit
While there is an opportunity for manufacturers to profit, it entails more complicated production. To extrude and expand plant-based protein requires the addition of water to the process. Plant-based foods can require additional cooling compared to traditional formulations, to offset increases in mechanical energy – and additional energy consumption pushes up the carbon footprint.
With production facilities already paying a premium for water from local water authorities, optimised water treatment programmes will be essential to the profitability of plant-based proteins. Programmes that enable the recycling of water in cooling tower operations can generate significant savings while driving down the rate of energy consumption.
Ethical sourcing and sustainable production are further trends. A recent survey by Elementar UK found that 84% of consumers check where their food has come from ‘all’, ‘most’ or ‘some’ of the time. So, providing transparency offers brands an opportunity to increase consumer loyalty and drive up basket value.
A 2017 Unilever study, meanwhile, found a third of consumers based purchasing decisions on a brand’s social and environmental responsibility. By investing in renewable energy and optimising production processes, such as water treatment programmes that reduce energy consumption, manufacturers can build on this opportunity.