Plant-based Beverages: Why the Ripple in the Industry is at its Peak?
With a growing interest in veganism, the beverage industry is constantly evolving towards incorporating plant proteins into the RTD shakes segment. The snack and beverage tycoon PepsiCo recently relaunched the plant-based protein brand EVOLVE and added plant-based versions to its line of Muscle Milk products, among other things. This relaunch clearly signifies the growing customer acceptance of healthier and more sustainable ingredient options.
While protein beverages are becoming more popular, there is still a strong emphasis on innovation to improve the protein content disparity between traditional dairy sources while improving palatability with novel and improved plant-protein sources. Pea, soy, and rice proteins remain popular sources for beverage applications. The recent launches of organic pea protein by Roquette and organic Peazazz C 850 by Merit Functional Foods (Burcon NutraScience Corporation) highlight the growing customer demand for organic protein sources. Sugar reduction is also being addressed by manufacturers such as Ripple Foods, a leading pea plant-based dairy company that recently introduced a zero-sugar version of its pea milk. Plant protein blends are promoted further in the industry by companies such as Kerry and ADM. This is because plant protein sources generally lack a complete protein profile to match the protein quality when compared to animal-derived proteins.
Protein drinks are being promoted as a convenient and nutritious way for consumers to live an active and healthy lifestyle in response to the growing demand for functional beverages. Although protein shakes continue to be one of the most popular beverage categories, manufacturers are looking into other options, such as fortified water and cold-brew coffees. In the coming few years, it will also be interesting to see how novel protein sources, such as oat and coffee protein, are used in these beverages, as well as how consumers react to them.