What Are Alternative Proteins?

Protein alternatives have long been associated with meat-free and dairy-free diets. But the reality is that non-meat and non-dairy proteins are about much more than ditching these two food sources. From rounding out diets to diversifying our food sources, protein alternatives are shaking up the food industry.

What are protein alternatives? And why are they becoming more common?

A Few Reasons People Want Protein Alternatives

what are the plant based alternative proteinsSure, vegetarian and vegan diets can be supplemented with protein alternatives, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Science and environmental awareness have fueled a surge in alternative protein products. Here are reasons consumers are seeking non-meat and non-dairy proteins.

  • Clean labels. Consumers want to know what they are eating, and many protein alternatives offer a clear, clean and easy-to-grasp alternative to traditional manufactured foods. Plant-based proteins especially appeal to a growing consumer segment who are concerned about clean labels.
  • Ease of digestion. Nutritionists have a better understanding of gut health. In addition to probiotics, they are more frequently recommending non-meat and non-dairy proteins that are less harsh on the overall digestive system.
  • Allergen concerns. Ingredient transparency means a lot to consumers with allergies. The detail that goes into listing protein alternatives eliminates the guesswork and allows for a broader range of safe options.
  • Sustainability. In addition to dietary concerns, consumers are more aware of the environmental impact of their food-purchasing decisions. Plant-based proteins and other options such as edible insects reduce grazing space for meat production.

Infographic: which plant proteins contain all 9 essential amino acids?

Diversifying Our Sources of Protein

pea protein is one plant-based alternative to meat and dairy protein sourcesAs the demand for protein has grown, so have alternative protein sources. Traditional logic held that meat and dairy products had a lock on the protein market. But the more we understand food science, that’s no longer the case.

Protein can come from a range of sources, which helps to ensure a reliable, safe supply. More traditional sources of alternative plant proteins include soy, wheat and peas. Peas are a popular up-and-comer, largely because the risk of allergen is lower than in soy and wheat. Learn about the versatility of food extrusion for adding plant-based protein to food products.

As demand goes up, nutritionists are turning to new sources of protein, including chickpeas, mushrooms, duckweed, seaweed and ancient grains. In other words, consumers of non-meat and non-dairy proteins have more options than ever.

Alternative Proteins Meet Mainstream Manufacturers

What was once seen as a niche market has exploded into the broader food industry. Here are a few examples:

  • Tyson’s Beyond Meat
  • Cargill’s Memphis Meats
  • Dean Foods’ Good Karma
PacMoore is experienced in using alternative protein sources like pea protein for textured protein, crisps and inclusions

Ingredient manufacturers are helping to round out the industry. For example, Ripple Foods creates allergen-free vegan milk made from pea protein. It has more protein than nut milk and more calcium than animal milk. MycoTechnology, Inc. is using mushroom protein and flavor ingredients that have bitter blockers — in other words, they can actually sweeten foods without adding calories. Aspire Foods and Exo are two edible insect companies who recently merged to expand product offerings as this small but growing category appeals to more and more consumers.

What Does PacMoore Offer?

Long before niche industries make their mainstream debut, PacMoore helps food manufacturers meet demand. We have a long history in the specialty foods space. In extrusion, we can work with an endless list of plant-based protein ingredients. Our background and experience make us an excellent partner for food manufacturers looking to take advantage of the alternative protein trend.

To learn more about alternative proteins, or to find out how PacMoore can partner with you, contact us today.

Contact PacMoore

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