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Meat alternatives, ancient grains lead protein innovation

Packaged Facts
According to Packaged Facts, 28 percent of those surveyed said they are seeking vegetarian sources of protein, including alternative meats and ancient grains.

The increase in vegetarianism and, more broadly, flexitarianism has made the meat alternatives market a competitive and lucrative space, according to market research publisher Packaged Facts in the report, Proteins — Classic, Alternative and Exotic Sources: Culinary Trend Tracking Series. The report contains five food and beverage profiles that chart key menu and packaged product development opportunities.

In a Packaged Facts survey conducted in April and May 2014, 28 percent of respondents indicated they are seeking vegetarian sources of protein. These sources span a healthy range of products from beans and legumes to "fake meat."

"Meat substitutes, including all types of textured vegetable protein, tofu, and ancient seeds and grains are benefiting from a rising interest in vegetarian options that taste like and stand in for meat," said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.

In the past, the meat alternatives market has been maligned because of the too-often unsatisfactory taste and quality of "fake meat," resulting in a history of unfavorable comments and perceptions in the media, on product review sites, and in vegetarian blogs.

In particular, vegetarian analogs for chicken have been on menus and on retailers' shelves for a while, but have received mixed review in terms of flavor, texture/composition and heartiness. However, companies such as Gardein and Beyond Meat are answering the call for a better chicken alternative, so the perceptions and market possibilities are changing.

For many companies, replicating chicken's taste profile has many benefits. Chicken is a widely used meat protein that has a reputation for being flexible — a close-to-blank canvas for the culinary arts in that it can pair with so many dishes and seasonings. For chicken analogs, having the basic taste and texture of chicken provides a consumer use advantage in a very competitive meat-alternatives space.

With more investment behind companies such as Beyond Meat and a bigger market for companies that follow the opportunity, the resources will be in place to develop and perfect the flavors of meat alternatives such as chicken analogs. The competition that is created to win over vegetarians and flexitarians in terms of flavor and texture will also fuel investment in better-tasting products.

In a separate market research report, Food Formulation Trends: Ancient Grains and Sprouted Ingredients, Packaged Facts' analysis found that recent ancient grain and sprouted product launches suggests the growing importance of these ingredients as healthful sources of plant protein, particularly for vegans and vegetarians.  This is especially true since media stories and reports of studies in recent years have suggested potential negative health implications associated with soy consumption.  Brands that highlight plant protein in conjunction with formulating with ancient grains include Nature's Path Organic and Enjoy Life Foods.

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