Exclusive interview: TerraVia on the rise of plant protein
Plant-based proteins are on the rise, popularity-wise, and TerraVia's AlgaVia Protein-Rich Whole Algae is one such product. The plant protein has already been incorporated into many snacks and bakery products, including bars.
We recently got the chance to talk to Mark Brooks, SVP of Food Ingredients at TerraVia, about this new trend and how it can be applied to snack and bakery products.
Liz Parker: Why plant protein?
Mark Brooks: We attribute the rise in popularity of plant-based proteins to growing demand for products that contain clean-labels, are allergen-free, and fit in a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle. Concerns about sustainability are also driving demand.
AlgaVia Protein-Rich Whole Algae is a vegan product that is an ideal complement to plant-based diets. As one of earth’s first foods—and the mother of all plants—algae gave rise to all plants and vegetables. Our product has enabled food and beverage manufacturers working with plant-based proteins to think differently about how they can formulate foods with greater freedom on texture, taste, sustainability and health. Moreover, marketers like the story of going back to one of earth’s oldest nutrient sources.
LP: Is the protein-fortified food market still growing?
MB: We have seen a clear increase in consumer perception of the benefits of protein fortified foods, with studies showing that the majority of consumers believe protein helps with exercise recovery, and helps provide energy throughout the day. We feel alternative protein fortification has tremendous potential for continued growth. In fact, according to the 2012 Global Industry Analyst report, the 2 million MT vegetable protein market is projected to grow at 10% CAGR through 2018.
LP: Where are the biggest core opportunities for snacks and baked goods?
MB: Consumers can expect to see more products in the year ahead, as we’ve been working with leading food companies and sustainable food innovators in the U.S., Europe and South America. We are excited to have active projects underway in a breadth of new arenas, including savory snacks, salad dressings, cereals, cheese analogs, cookies, coatings, cooking sauces, yogurts and RTM supplements.
LP: What are the emerging areas for protein in snack and bakery?
MB: We are seeing growing opportunity for innovation in baked goods, cereals and RTM beverages with our AlgaVia ingredients.
AlgaVia Protein-Rich Whole Algae’s limited interaction with other ingredients is a key competitive advantage over other sources of plant-based proteins. When used in formulations, the protein and nutrients are protected by the algae cell wall. This protection enables fortification in challenging applications such as low pH beverages, doughs, smoothies, dressings and low-moisture products like crackers–and with no impact on viscosity at up to 20% inclusion. This means beverages stay clean and crisp, and foods don’t become thick and dry over time.
LP: The press release says that your AlgaVia is a result of over a decade of product development–why did it take so long to develop, and when did you start testing it in foods?
MB: Our team has screened over 100,000 different strains of algae to identify the optimal strain for our AlgaVia Protein-Rich Whole Algae. After over a decade of researching and cataloguing different algae strains, we discovered the unique algae source of vegan protein.
LP: 33% of consumers are planning to buy more plant-based food products in the next year–if you had to speculate, why is this becoming more of a trend?
MB: We’ve seen interest in the protein ingredients market driven by the demand for nutritional food and a growing health consciousness among consumers. Consumers will continue to look for new, healthy, and delicious ways to achieve their weight management and energy goals, and proteins will continue to play a central and growing role in their food choices.