The plant-based dairy alternative category is an enormous market opportunity, with emerging brands racing to innovate in items such as beverages, frozen desserts, and vegan slices, among others. To help companies and startups differentiate from their competition, Kerry has developed and released a leading-edge Plant-based Dairy Alternative Toolkit. This virtual toolkit is designed to give innovators in the U.S. the simple, scalable and sustainable solutions they need to accelerate their plant-based food and beverage product development and growth prospects. 

Kerry’s toolkit provides innovators with a range of benefits: a research-based “building your brand” checklist; information on the top five development considerations; guides to help product developers create consumer-preferred taste experiences; and tips on formulating with exciting flavors that will build consumer loyalty and foster repeat purchasing. Importantly, it also discusses adding science-backed digestive and immune health-supporting ingredients that can successfully elevate a product over its competition. A series of videos present plant-based insights from Kerry experts—from flavorists and sensory scientists to dairy formulators, marketers and sustainability champions, all of whom bring extensive product development and innovation expertise that can help new products and brands shorten their pathway to commercial success.

Elizabeth Horvath, vice president of marketing at Kerry North America, comments on the toolkit’s release: “Emerging and innovative plant-based brands and products need straightforward expert assistance, a road map to scalability, and a focus on sustainability—which Kerry’s 2021 proprietary research says is important to 75 percent of consumers in this category. Kerry’s new Plant-based Dairy Alternative Toolkit provides an excellent jumpstart on that road to success. You own the brand identity, and Kerry is here to help in building the product’s market appeal through simple solutions and expert suggestions that are easy to implement, scalable and sustainable.”

Creating a plant-based product begins with addressing questions on a wide range of topics, and the toolkit’s plant-based checklist provides a roadmap for developers to ask the right questions to speed up a product’s innovation journey. What are the desired flavors and texture of the new product? What about claims, nutrition, and local and international regulations? These and other key product queries are used by Kerry food scientists and applications experts to deliver clear, experienced assistance to help customers meet the plant-based challenge. 

In plant-based dairy alternatives, taste is clearly the top purchase driver. Since—according to proprietary Kerry research conducted in 2021—nine out of ten consumers purchase both dairy and plant-based items, that makes it critical for plant-based products to be, above all, delicious. Building great taste in plant-based is about taking a holistic, layered approach, from neutralizing the taste of the protein base to adding the desired dairy notes, building in characterizing flavors, and then rounding out the taste to deliver the authentically creamy and rich dairy-like taste that consumers expect. 

Ms. Horvath adds: “With Kerry’s deep roster of highly experienced flavorists and product application experts and extensive ingredient portfolio, we can provide a wide range of taste solutions that can improve creaminess and mouthfeel, neutralize off-notes, and balance sweetness to achieve an optimized flavor profile. Controlling undesired off-notes—from sweeteners, caffeine, bitterness and plant proteins, for instance—is an essential challenge to developing satisfying tastes in alternative dairy, and our experts can help in that process.” 

First commercially available liquid BC30 can help drive product innovation and differentiation

It has become clear that consumers are looking for digestive health benefits and immune support. As proof, Kerry’s Digestive & Immune Health study, conducted earlier this year, found that two out of three American consumers associate ingredients like BC30 with digestive health benefits, while 64 percent of dairy and alt-dairy consumers would be interested in products fortified with digestive health benefits. 

Until now, however, the use of the traditional powdered format of these ingredients has been problematic for dairy and plant-based dairy alternative manufacturers. In order to ensure a viable ingredient option in these categories, Kerry has created the first-ever liquid delivery system for its spore-forming BC30; this eliminates the manufacturing challenges—such as clumping, insolubility and airborne contamination—typically found when working with powder ingredients. In order to address consumer demands for digestive health benefits, Kerry’s toolkit also offers guidance on incorporating digestive health ingredients in new plant-based and traditional dairy foods and beverages. 

Benjamin George, research scientist, elaborates on the new liquid-based ingredient: “The unique liquid version of our well-known, science-backed BC30 overcomes the challenges of adding digestive and immune health support into plant-based dairy-alternative or dairy products. There is value in doing this, as research has shown that American plant-based consumers are three times more likely to purchase products that contain ingredients like Kerry’s BC30. An additional benefit is that peer-reviewed, published research shows that the inclusion of BC30 supports protein absorption, and this is highly important to consumers seeking an extra nutritional bonus beyond the digestive benefits they have come to expect from many digestive and immune health ingredients.”

Ms. Horvath concludes: “Overall, the key in plant-based dairy-alternative product development is combining superior ingredients in an experienced way in order to achieve the creamy and delicious taste people associate with such traditional dairy products as ice cream, yogurt, and beverages. Kerry’s Plant-based Dairy Alternative Toolkit provides a fast track for emerging brands seeking to innovate, provide nutrition, and deliver sustainable competitive benefits. Versatility and ease of use in application must be top of mind in approaching the plant-based revolution—a movement that has only just begun.”

The Kerry Plant-based Dairy Alternative Toolkit can be downloaded here.