“Alternatives” - from niche to mainstream

Why plant-based alternatives are trending and how your company can benefit.

What are “alternatives” and why are they trending?

So-called alternatives to certain food groups like dairy, meat or grains are booming. At AGRANA Fruit we were early adopters for dairy alternatives and have developed products for global markets ever since this trend was first noticed.

What started as a small number of product substitutes with a mostly low sensory appeal for vegans and consumers with celiac disease (or food allergies) has now become a mainstream trend that has yet to peak. Another reason for the hike in demand for plant-based substitutes is the rise of the eco-aware consumer willing to renounce animal-based foods in order to reduce their carbon footprint. Ethical and environmental credentials are viewed more favorably by consumers.

As a result of this

As a result of this the new global product launches of plant-based products has increased considerably over the past years.

Most non-vegan vegetarians also claim

Most non-vegan vegetarians also claim they would ideally like to reduce their consumption of animal-derived foods, creating an even higher demand for alternative products. 

To summarize, there are 4 main drivers for this food trend: 

  • Health awareness
  • Animal welfare concerns
  • Environmental consciousness 
  • A curiosity to explore new flavors

The market pressure to find exciting new taste combinations is a huge opportunity for the food industry. But first, let’s have a closer look at some of these food alternatives.

Dairy Alternatives

First and foremost it is important to know that the plant-based dairy movement is driven by much larger factors than just a rise in lactose intolerance. 

There has been a fundamental consumer shift in the market. Dairy- and lactose-free products are now increasing in popularity due to a wide range of reasons going far beyond allergies or medical conditions – in particular they are purchased for their taste profiles.

In addition, some people are happy to consume what in their eyes are “healthier” alternatives that also reduce massive scale animal farming and environmental damage. 

New sources of plant protein provide many opportunities for product developers. Consumers are looking for more variety and it’s evident that soy is being slowly edged out by other plant-based sources. Consumers also often view dairy alternatives as being healthier than milk and whey protein. 

The main players in dairy alternative source products are: 

  • Grains such as rice and oat
  • Nuts like almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, coconuts and tiger nuts
  • Seeds such as quinoa or hemp seeds
  • Others – for example lupins, peas, coconuts, soy and various blends

As the chart shows, in the global alternative milk product market, almonds, coconuts and rice are getting a bigger share even though soy still holds the largest portion at 54%.



Opportunities therefore exist for brands to take advantage of an increasing consumer interest in a greater variety of plant-based proteins. Brands that deliver flavorful plant-based dairy options will solidify their position in the market and will appeal to the adventurous and ethically conscious consumer. 

One of the main things

One of the main things for our R&D team to focus on, is to look ahead and identify the trends with the highest potential for mass market relevance. When it comes to dairy alternatives, one of the most significant emerging sources is going to be lupins. 

Lupins belong to the legume family. The sweet blue lupin has a protein content of up to 40%. It is gluten-free, cholesterol-free, low-fat and has a neutral taste making it the perfect partner for a wide range of flavor combinations. 

AGRANA Fruit has a successful track record when it comes to developing new creative preparations for dairy alternatives made from Lupins. Let us know how we can support you.

Meal Alternatives

Convenience stores are growing more and more powerful fast and are taking a big chunk of the famous “share of stomach” away from fast-food restaurants. This is one of the reasons healthy or perceived healthy meal alternatives such as liquid foods are becoming ever more popular.

Smoothies, purees, soups and indulgent desserts are an obvious choice for a quick snack on the go.  

Millennials in particular are more likely to drop by convenience stores to buy food than any other age group and their desire for healthier grab-and-go choices is quickly driving innovation when it comes to NPD. Because of the rise in drinkable food there is a huge opportunity rising for the plant-based protein product market. Just the enormous amount of possible varieties in taste, textures, plant milk bases and spices can open an endless array of new products waiting to be launched.

Grain Alternatives

While in the past, the debate about the healthy or unhealthy properties of carbs was ubiquitous, a growing number of consumers have now decided to eliminate grains from their diet altogether. 

For many years, pastries, breads, crackers and pasta have mainly been created with grain-based flour. Recently, alternative flour product ranges have been getting more and more attention by product developers not wanting to miss out on the ever growing consumer share. 

According to Mintel research (Source:, there has been a 134% increase in the launch of non-grain flour bakery products since 2010. 

Almond flour in particular is becoming more and more popular, as are coconut flour, banana flour and chickpea flour.

Meat Alternatives

Unsurprisingly, the rise of more health-conscious consumers has also fostered an increasing demand for plant-based meat alternatives. From soy meat alternatives to various grains, beans and jackfruit to lab-produced meat - product developers have been exploring substitutes of all kinds. 

The market for meat alternatives is driven by the same factors associated with plant-based substitutes such as meat adulteration, environmental issues and health benefits. 

The meat alternative currently trending most frequently is jackfruit. Its neutral taste and chewy texture fools the taste buds and makes us feel like we are actually eating meat. With the addition of  spices, jackfruit can even be used in curries, burgers and sandwiches with baffling results. 

The most widely used meat alternative worldwide is soy and is turned into tofu, tempeh, miso and also into so-called textured vegetable protein or TVP.

Most products aim to mimic the texture of poultry or meat, sometimes also the color and shape.

Bacon, hot dogs and burger patties made from soy are among the most popular alternative meat products. 

According to a study, the soy-based meat substitute segment is projected to be the largest until 2022 (Source:

From niche to mainstream

Another reason for the rise of “alternatives” is their continuous and frequent use by influencers such as famous chefs, cookbook authors and food bloggers. Today, you will rarely find a restaurant not offering a decent number of plant-based alternatives or a deli without drinkable food. 


The alternative and plant-based product segment represent one of the biggest opportunities today – a fact also recently validated by a large number of investments and M&As.

Opportunities for you:

  • Creating new alternative products and new taste combinations will attract not only millennial consumers.
  • Developing exciting new sensory experiences for the grab & go market.
  • Gaining new market shares by developing products for the alternative food market.
  • Developing alternative product lines for regions with fewer plant-based products.

Together with our team of global experts at AGRANA Fruit we can help identify the alternative products perfect for your markets and today’s consumers.

Feeling inspired?

We at AGRANA Fruit can help your company find its new alternative signature product designed to meet the needs of consumers today. Together we can create an innovative and broad range of solutions for plant-based drinkable and spoonable yogurts, indulgent desserts, savory spreads, ice creams and many more.

Our team has also a very successful track record in creating innovative solutions for plant-based alternative products for companies all over the world.

Let’s create one together!


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