Algae protein could make waves in product development.

Promising signs for plant protein

The United Nations already has designated 2016 as the “International Year of the Pulses.” While that statement recognizes such pulses as peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils, other forms of plant-based protein could be in for a big year, too. The soy protein market continues to grow, and an algae protein has the Food and Drug Administration’s blessing for use as an ingredient in foods and beverages.

“Consumer interest in boosting protein intake remains strong headed into 2016 with more attention being paid to the specific types of protein being consumed,” said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts, a publisher of market research based in Rockville, Md. “The desire for clean labels, ease of digestion, the need or desire to avoid allergens, compatibility with vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, and concerns about sustainability among the general population are putting the spotlight on plant proteins.

“Consumer notions of what constitutes a good protein source are expanding to include a wider variety of plant protein ingredients. Subsequently interest in plant protein ingredients among food manufacturers and food service operators is intensifying.”

Packaged Facts on Feb. 17 released a report titled “Food Formulation and Ingredients Trends: Plant Proteins.” It found 37% of U.S. consumers age 25 to 39 are likely to seek out plant proteins, the highest percentage of any age group.

The Packaged Facts report followed a report released Dec. 22, 2014, by Lux Research, Inc., Boston.

“The current dominance of meat and seafood will wane in the coming decades, and several alternative protein sources will fill the gap, potentially representing up to 33% market share within the overall protein space by 2054,” the report said.

MarketsandMarkets last year gave growth projections for both pea protein and soy protein.

MarketsandMarkets on Nov. 3, 2015, projected the pea protein market to reach $34.8 million by 2020 through a compound annual growth rate (C.A.G.R.) of 8.8% from 2015 to 2020 in terms of value.

Pea protein is used in a wide range of food and beverage applications.

“Pea protein is used in a wide range of applications such as snacks, beverages, nutritional supplements, and meat alternatives and extenders,” MarketsandMarkets said. “Pea protein products can replace a significant percentage of other proteins in many food products without impacting the color, taste or texture of the product and in many cases can offer cost savings.

“Pea proteins also offer health benefits such as weight management, maintain healthy muscle, improve blood circulation and calcium absorption, boost metabolism, and regulate blood sugar among others. Thus, pea proteins have emerged as an alternative and/or as a complement to other protein and non-protein ingredients.”

MarketsandMarkets in August 2015 estimated the market for soy protein ingredients was $7.11 billion in 2015 and projected it to reach $10.12 billion by 2020 through a C.A.G.R. of 7.3%. Soy protein isolates, soy protein concentrates and soy flour may be used in bakery items, confectionery items, meat alternatives, functional foods, soy milk and infant food products, according to MarketsandMarkets.

Algae protein could make waves in product development, too. The F.D.A. in January 2015 said it had “no questions” about the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status of AlgaVia whole algal protein from Solazyme, Inc., San Francisco, for its use as an ingredient in food and beverage products. AlgaVia is 63% protein and also contains fiber, lipids and micronutrients, said Mark Brooks, senior vice-president of Solazyme Food Ingredients.

“We have definitely seen an increase in interest in algae protein from food and beverage companies and consumers over the past year,” he said. “Algae as a food ingredient has become a trending topic as consumers have begun to realize the full potential and versatility of this nutrient-dense superfood. Food companies are responding to consumer interest in seeking out vegan protein alternatives that are free of known allergens, allowing algae to emerge as an in-demand alternative protein source.”