A tipping point

A tipping point

The news today from market research company Euromonitor International that other milk alternatives, (milk substitutes that are not dairy-based or made from soy), is the fastest growing category in the dairy products and alternatives industry falls in line with much data lately around health, wellness and, indeed, taste.

According to the research, soy drinks are losing ground due to poor perception of the ingredient by consumers, however other non-dairy-based milk substitutes, such as almonds, oats, coconuts, and peas, have spurred innovation and have been embraced by consumers.

Such data draws into focus, Danone pinpointing its alt-dairy portfolio as part of its new “plant-based 2.0” platform. The platform is set to launch in the second half of 2021, as the brand increases its vegan offerings amid record sales in the category.

The French food giant clearly wants to make its products more appealing to health-conscious consumers by going deeper into the world of plants. The plant-based 2.0 platform will see “dairy-like technology” used to improve Danone’s vegan dairy range. A response to competitors in this area, Danone also seeks points of differentiation undoubtedly via improvements in taste and texture.

Within North America, the tech is set to launch under its subsidiaries So Delicious’ Wondermilk and Silk’s NextMilk, and under Alpro for European markets.

The American brand Silk will sit at the core of many planned changes as the almond-based milk is popular and is a good vehicle to drive interest among mainstream consumers. There’s also the acceptance of almond milk; it’s high profile and doesn’t have the perception of a bitter taste.

Danone’s work with San Francisco-based Brightseed, a startup that uses artificial intelligence to uncover molecules in plants that have direct links to human health is a very interesting development that can provide a key point of difference. It also picks up on the 1980s based food as medicine movement that includes using food to fight disease and has momentum currently.

If food as medicine gains ground, it comes at a time when consumers, bored of Covid-related news, are still health-aware and could be encouraged to enjoy plant-based foods.

Danone’s partnership with Brightseed will span three years and enable it to get to grips with plants from “crop stage to the dinner table” and reap the rewards of R&D. Brightseed’s molecular analysis of plants to understand the specific roles that nutrients play in the functioning of the human body fits into Danone wanting to deliver products that are part of high quality, nutrient-rich diets.

Brightseed is building the world’s largest plant compound library and its AI platform Forager is able to predict which compounds exist in various plants and how they impact human health.

It appears food and drink companies can benefit from providing products that help to nourish and sustain wellness.

What’s needed beneath that is a greater understanding of plants and foods that promote healthy living. By 2025, Brightseed will map all of the approximately 10 million bioactive compounds in the plant kingdom to their health impacts, unlocking unprecedented access to natural compounds.

We’re certainly on the way to extending the reach of plant-based foods. There’s a larger picture at play here too, however. Many people only know how to heat food up. So teaching people about which foods are nutritious and how to prepare them can transform diets and beyond that, it might transform the health and lives of consumers.

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