Taste, texture slow plant-based protein consumer acceptance

Improvements in taste, texture and aroma need to occur before more consumers will accept plant-based proteins.

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gilaxia | iStock.com
gilaxia | iStock.com

Improvements in taste, texture and aroma need to occur before more consumers will accept plant-based proteins, Jonathan McIntyre, CEO, Motif FoodWorks, explained.

“One of the important things to recognize about eating is that it’s all about the entire experience. It’s taste, texture, aroma and appearance,” he said. “Now, if we want to replace these foods with plant-based foods, we need to recreate that experience as close as possible to be able to convert more consumers into more plant-based.”

Taste and texture have historically been a major challenge for manufacturers of plant-based proteins. In a recent survey, two out of three Americans noted that they would eat more plant-based proteins vs. meat if the alternatives tasted better.

Speaking at the Future Food-Tech Alternative Proteins Summit, McIntyre discussed how the differences between the composition of meat alternatives and traditional animal proteins affect consumer perception. Motif Foodworks manufactures meat and dairy alternatives, as well as plant-based innovations.

Structural and chemical differences

Traditional animal proteins are primarily made up of muscle cells, connective tissue and fat cells. This arrangement and the relative proportion of each impact the unique texture, color and flavor of meat.

During the cooking process, meat undergoes a chemical process. At higher temperatures, structured molecules and the gelatin breaks down.

“All of these things contribute to the aroma, the taste, the color and the texture,” McIntyre noted.

Conversely, a plant-based burger is produced using a plant protein, like pea or soy, alongside binding agents, water and a fat system. The structure has a chemical composition similar to meat, however the structural composition is different. This makes it cook differently than a traditional animal protein.

Advancements in technology are driving improvements in the taste, texture, aroma and appearance of meat alternatives, which could result in a greater number of consumers turning to plant-based proteins, McIntyre concluded.

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