Seed-breeding specialist start-up Equinom Ltd. is helping food manufacturers unlock the true potential of plant-based meat products. Equinom’s innovative designer non-GMO seeds are enabling food companies to close the gap between consumer demand for cleaner meat alternatives and innovating palate-pleasing, affordable products.
According to Innova Market Insights’ 2018 consumer survey, 49% of U.S. consumers are driven by health when buying meat and dairy alternatives. Plant-based food demand is climbing, with consumers concerned about animal welfare and minimizing their carbon footprint. Educated shoppers such as flexitarians are flexing their consumer muscles, understanding that a balanced diet that addresses their health issues can include fewer animal products.
With the clean-label revolution hitting the mainstream thanks to consumers seeking simple-to-understand labels on food products, “clean” has taken on an expanded meaning. “Natural products not only need to exclude additives and preservatives; they also must have short, simple ingredient lists,” says Itay Dana, Marketing Director for Equinom. “Unfortunately, despite the buzz, plant-based meat products don’t necessarily support clean-labeling.” Most natural ingredients still require extensive processing to allure health- and ethic-minded customers. This over-processing strips the products of taste and functionality. To achieve palate appeal as well as nutritional and sales objectives, manufacturers tack on masks, flavor enhancers, fillers and highly processed ingredients, such as protein isolates.
Equinom’s multifaceted proprietary solution can give manufacturers the opportunity to brand their products with a cleaner label in order to drive strong consumer adoption.
In their historic pursuit of optimizing profit by maximizing yield, growers bred out highly functional plant qualities. In the past, the triad of texture, taste and nutrition was too much to ask for in a single isolated ingredient. This caused food manufacturers to pursue the impossible: to create taste-bud-pleasing natural meat-free burger products from poorly flavored source ingredients.
By leveraging the whole plant and designating key components to meet food company product development needs, Equinom maximizes component contribution using minimum separation, which also reduces the need to mask unpleasant tastes. Equinom uses electronic sensing systems such as e-tongue and e-nose for high-throughput analysis of off flavors, which helps top quality and accelerate breeding.
Most consumers make food-buying choices with their wallets. To continue ramping up adoption, meat-free alternatives need to be affordable. Until now, manufacturing nutritious, minimally processed products has been expensive because locating ingredients that hit the sweet spot between optimizing clean nutrition and profitability has evaded manufacturers.
The booming alternative meat market is seeing high-profile products exploding onto the scene. But, as health-food movers and shakers have pointed out, raw ingredients have not yet lived up to the vision of helping make clean-label products truly nutritious.