Does eating more sustainably equal bland and boring?


In November, the UK hosted the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow. The summit brings parties, companies, and civil society together to inspire climate change and accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. 

plant based trends

COP26 has four key goals1:

  • Commit countries to ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with reaching net zero
  • Enable and encourage countries affected by climate change to protect and restore ecosystems and build defences
  • Mobilise countries to make climate finance commitments
  • Work together to accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis

Consumers are also focused on doing their part to positively impact climate change by leading more sustainable lifestyles. There is a greater awareness of global warming, environmental deterioration, climate change and resource shortages, with 60% of global consumers say on-pack information about carbon and/or water footprint influences their product choices2. They are also concerned with getting healthy and staying healthy. As a result, consumers desire plant-based food and beverage products that are better for them and better for the planet but still meet their taste, texture, and improved nutritional profile expectations. Topics relating to this are cropping up at COP26 and we call this “Plant-Based” consumer trend.

Consumer focus is on limitation, not elimination

When it comes to plant-based eating, the focus currently is on limitation, not elimination. Only a small percentage of consumers identify as vegan (3% globally) and instead are limiting the amount of meat they consume (23% globally). As a result, consumers are now adopting flexitarian diets3 which is essentially the practice of following a vegan/vegetarian diet but includes animal products from time to time.

As a result of the consumer desire for plant-based food and drink, the global marketplace is booming with plant-based innovation. Product launches with vegan and/or plant-based claims grew +14% in North America, +27% in Latin America, +16% in Europe, +25% in Turkey Middle East Africa, and +19% in Asia Pacific over the past five years (2015-2020).4

Is plant-based food bland and boring?

Ingredients play a critical role in delivering desirable and a broader range of tastes and textures in plant-based products. 34% of consumers globally believe that plant-based food and drink tastes bland and boring5. 67% of consumers globally who turn to dairy alternatives say it is important for products to mimic the taste of real dairy and 62% of consumers globally who do not eat meat alternatives say that they believe such products are lacking in taste6.

Consumers desire plant-based products for health reasons but they also want to indulge. Plant-based indulgences can also be healthful with the help of fibre and protein ingredients. One such example is US Halo Top’s non-dairy ice cream (coconut milk) with only 310 calories per pint formulated with plant-based fiber, protein and sweeteners7.

Tate & Lyle can help food manufacturers meet their customers’ plant-based and sustainability needs. Our plant-based ingredients and can help to optimise taste, texture, and nutrition in plant-based innovation. Along with our formulation expertise, our ingredients offer the functionality required for plant-based formulations that consumers will love, are better for them, and better for the planet.

Caring for the planet

We are committed to caring for the planet and protecting its natural resources. That’s why all Tate & Lyle’s ingredients derived from corn are enrolled in a sustainable agriculture programme and why we are laying the groundwork for sustainable stevia. We've worked to increase the phytomass of our stevia leaves and utilise improved farming technologies that lower the environmental impacts of our stevia sweeteners and flavours.8 Key learnings from our first-of-its-kind study to assess the environmental impacts of different approaches to stevia production in China, where most of the world’s stevia is grown, have been incorporated into our new sustainable stevia pilot programme to support farmers, their communities and better care for our planet.

Meeting sustainability targets and developing new innovative products is an ongoing commitment and we need to stay flexible in order to adapt to its ever-changing needs.

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2 Source: GlobalData Q3 2021 Global Survey, 42 countries
3 GlobalData, Global Coronavirus (COVID-19) Consumer Survey, 2020
4 Mintel GNPD
5 FMCG Gurus, January 2021, Global
6 FMCG Gurus, January 2021, Global
7 Mintel Record ID 8301335 Source – Mintel GNPD
8 Founder of Sweet Green Fields started work in stevia breeding and plantation in 1999