The rise and rise of plant-based food manufacturing

As we enter the new year, Veganuary once again highlights the rise in popularity of plant-based diets and food manufacturing.

A record number of 500,000 people, double those of 2019,  have signed up to the challenge to only eat plant-based products for the month, as consumers become more conscious of the health and environmental benefits of reducing their intake of animal products.

The rise of the ‘conscious consumer’ coupled with recent popular productions such as Netflix’s Don’t look up and Seaspiricy have brought the current sustainability and ethical issues of food sourcing to the mainstream conversation. Consumers are now looking to practise ‘conscious food purchasing’ by switching to sustainable and ethical products, and Gen Z is the driving force behind it. In a study by Utopia, 60% 18-24-year-olds, are now prepared to give up or limit their consumption of meat and dairy in order to tackle climate change and are willing to spend more on ecological products.

This increasing demand for vegan and plant-based food, particularly among younger consumers, has led to a significant shift in the food manufacturing industry, and the UK is at the forefront. UK manufacturers are stepping up to the plate to deliver innovative vegan products. Gone are the days of brown rice and bland tofu. Manufacturers have developed vegan and vegetarian products that replicate the taste and texture of animal-based products.

Our client, Quorn partnered with KFC to create their meat-free alternative which is now a permanent fixture on the menu, and Beyond Meat are supplying MacDonalds with their new plant-based burgers which have received rave reviews from both meat and non-meat eaters.

According to the Vegan Society, in 2018 the UK launched more vegan products than any other nation and in 2019 nearly one in four products launched in UK were labeled as Vegan. However, the price point and availability of these products may still act as a barrier for many consumers.

Although plant-based is no longer viewed as ‘niche’, there is still a way to go before the lifestyle can be easily adapted as the mainstream. Currently, 65% of consumers do not eat plant-based meats because of price and quality issues, indicating a need for efficiencies in production, processing, and supply within plant-based product manufacturing. This is what North Yorkshire plant-based product manufacturer Plant & Bean aims to do as they are set to open Europe’s largest plant-based meat production factory. Their progressive digital manufacturing system means brands can scale high-volume product ranges at lower price points for customers.

With meat producers like Heck and Richmond’s sausages releasing a meat-free version, there’s clearly a growing appetite for meat-free alternatives. Whilst many consumers turn to Veganism for health reasons, people still want to enjoy tasty comfort food. There has been an automatic association between vegan and vegetarian food and being healthy, however, more manufacturers and consumers are looking at a wider range of food products to satisfy the growing trend to reduce meat and dairy intake in all aspects of their daily diets.

As an engineering company working across the food sector, we have provided a range of services to leading plant-based manufactures including Quorn and Toofoo to support their expansion plans, machinery and processes. If you are looking for a food engineering company to support the growth of your plant-based food manufacturing business, we’d love to discuss how we can help. Email info@fessgroup.co.uk for further information and to arrange an informal discussion

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