In recent years, the plant-based diet piqued the interest of many consumers’ nutritional agendas. As of 2021, nearly one in two consumers globally express interest in plant-based foods and beverages. This signifies the shift from niche to mainstream for this product market segment.
This transition can be attributed to flexitarianism — a diet primarily vegetarian, occasionally including fish and meat.
According to BENEO’s latest plant-based consumer survey, one in four global consumers identifies as flexitarians. Asia is leading the way, with 28 percent of consumers identifying as flexitarian, making them an important target group for plant-based manufacturers to tap into this trend effectively.
Underpinning the surge in plant-based diets and flexitarianism is the rising motivation to eat more healthily, including looking for vegan indulgence options. In fact, 32 percent of global flexitarians are already buying plant-based sweets, while another 42 percent are interested in them. Following an improved diet, besides not containing animal-derived components, there is, for example, demand for healthier sugar alternatives or clean labels.
Treating your taste buds with plant-based chocolate
Chocolate is the first to come to mind when consumers hear the word “treat,” with more than one in three people worldwide buying chocolate to improve their mood and indulge. This makes chocolate an ideal target for expanding the catalogue of dairy-free plant-based sweets and confectioneries.
BENEO extended its portfolio of specialty rice ingredients by enabling manufacturers to serve this demand. Its Nutriz range consists of dried rice syrup, flour, and starch blends. Milk powder replacement, with its light colour and neutral taste, can be used in dairy-free chocolate. It also allows plant-based cocoa bar development, providing a nice flavor, good snap, smooth mouthfeel, and good melting behaviour.
Rice has been proving particularly popular as an ingredient in the plant-based sector: BENEO’s research shows that seven of 10 flexitarians see rice as an appealing source of dairy alternatives. Using rice ingredients to develop plant-based chocolate can also be a viable solution to the demand for clean-label products. Rice starch and rice flour score impressively in this aspect. People see them as a natural and familiar cupboard ingredient, with 61 and 71 percent of consumers worldwide regarding rice starch and rice flour as natural, respectively.
Catering to long-term nutritional expectations
While consumers these days prioritise health-consciousness, manufacturers must realise that this does not equate to compromising on indulgence.
As demand for healthier plant-based alternatives soars, factors like taste and texture influencing consumers’ purchasing decisions must be kept top of mind. Indeed, according to BENEO’s plant-based survey, the aspect of “pleasant taste and texture” is a top priority (44%) when asked which factors consumers pay attention to when shopping for plant-based alternatives for sweets and bakeries. Forty-four percent of BENEO’s plant-based survey say that by strategically leveraging ingredients derived from rice to develop healthier bakery and sweet options, manufacturers will be better positioned to cater to consumers’ nutritional expectations and ride on the plant-based wave.
Christian Philippsen is the Managing Director at BENEO Asia Pacific.