DUIVEN, THE NETHERLANDS — The pace of protein research has quickened as food and beverage processors search for alternatives that may be more sustainable than animal-based proteins, according to research by the firm Innova Market Insights.

Traditional proteins like soy wheat, lupin and chickpeas are being examined as sustainable solutions. While soy continues to dominate in terms of vegetable proteins, a range of new products is starting to appear, based on other beans, as well as nuts, seeds, grains and vegetables. New techniques are also being developed to enhance the texture, juiciness and flavor of meat analogs and proteins.

Consumers are changing too, perhaps in an attempt to be part of a sustainable future, according to Innova.

“We see the emergence of a flexible vegetarian or ‘flexetarian,’” said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights. “These consumers enjoy meat, but occasionally opt out due to their concerns about health and the environmental impact of heavy meat consumption.”

New U.S. launch examples include Bolthouse Farms’ addition of a blended coffee variant to its Protein Plus range of all-natural shakes. The product contains a proprietary blend of whey and soy proteins for improved performance. Odwalla, a business unit of the Coca-Cola Co., has extended its Super Protein and Protein Monster soy and dairy protein drinks ranges with strawberry and vanilla variants in the Protein Monster series and mango and pumpkin variants in Super Protein.

Other recent U.S. activity has included an extension of the Atkins Advantage low-carbohydrate meal replacement bar range with chocolate orange and chocolate brownie varieties. Balance Bar has introduced a cookie dough variant to its original sub-range. All featured soy protein as the key protein ingredient, although the products tend to be marketed on a more general health and everyday performance positioning.