Plant-based milk alternatives are increasingly popular with consumers – and increasingly complex for formulators to get right. Technical possibilities and market expectations are evolving side by side, with more and more options available.
But one concern is always paramount: A food product must appeal to consumers to be successful.
Innovating for that target means a special kind of partnership. Emmanuelle Moretti is a Global Technical Developer for NUTRALYS® pea protein ingredients; she collaborates with marketers and food innovators to help Roquette customers ensure new products meet their production needs and marketing objectives. That means she sees concerns on both the technical and the communications side of new recipe development.
“The technical developer is the voice of the customer,” Morretti says. “We explain to team leaders and food scientists what our customers want.”
That means much of Moretti's time is spent at tastings with food creators – uncovering possibilities, developing new concepts, and gathering feedback based on marketing and technical concerns.
If you’re developing a plant-based milk alternative, here are five attributes she says you’ll need to focus on.
- Does your product’s taste suit your consumer? For food products, good taste is always key – but definitions of "good" may differ from region to region and market to market. For example, consumers in Japan may appreciate a milk alternative that tastes like its ingredients – oat flavor from oat milk, soy from soy milk, and so on. North Americans are more likely to want their plant-based milk products to resemble cow's milk, with a less vegetal taste. But as more consumers are exposed to new tastes, preferences can change.
- Does your product’s texture suit your consumer? Most milk buyers want a product they can drink by the glass; it needs to feel pleasant in the mouth. But preferences here vary by the market, too, with North American consumers typically wanting a more creamy mouthfeel while Europeans prefer milk alternatives to be less viscous.
- Do your ingredients suit your process? In the global market, processes like UHT are often used to increase milk alternatives' shelf life. If that's part of your process, you'll need to ensure your ingredients are stable for UHT.
- What health and nutritional claims matter to your consumer? Better health is a key factor in consumer choices to buy plant-based milk alternatives – but the specific claims you’ll make for your product may vary. Claims you’d like to make are a key factor in your recipe and choice of ingredients.
- What functions and behaviors are important to your consumer? Drinking a milk alternative out of a glass is one standard – but that’s not the only way to consume milk. So-called “barista” products, made for use in coffeeshop environments, are a recent focus in the industry. They require a different functionality – like the ability to foam in café equipment and stay stable in coffee – that other milk alternatives may not. The way consumers use your product will determine how it’s formulated.
The development of new products can be challenging. Some companies are expanding into plant-based foods for the first time and need help understanding how the market works and who the players are; others know from the outset what their new product must achieve, but need a deeper knowledge of ingredients like NUTRALYS® to develop recipes and processes that work successfully.
That’s why Roquette teams work collaboratively. You’ll have confidential access to the help you need, whether it’s technical, nutritional or marketing oriented. NUTRALYS® succeeds when you do, too.
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