Interview

Rene Krebs from Döhler on how functional ingredients are the key element for plant-based products

Functional ingredients are an essential part of modern food technology. They come in different forms and shapes, from vitamins and minerals to proteins, plant extracts, and stabilizers, and are especially important for the development of high-quality plant-based alternatives. It’s these ingredients that give plant-based alternatives to meat dairy, and egg the mouthfeel and processing characteristics of their animal-derived counterparts. It thus does not come as a surprise that functional-ingredient producers cannot be missed at the New Food Conference. Rene Krebs, Head of Business Unit Cereals, Nuts & Pulses at Döhler, explains why the event is so attractive for their business and what the future holds in the functional-ingredient field.

What are the most important insights you took from the New Food Conference 2019 and why did you decide to once again support the event?

We very much value the exchange with other market players. Plant-based diets are an important topic for the food industry and a growing trend that we cannot ignore. Last year’s presentations were truly inspiring. Additionally, we got in touch with startups and early movers, which is crucial for the development of our business. Fruitful conversations with young entrepreneurs, as well as constructive exchanges with investors, were the main drivers for our decision to once again support the New Food Conference in 2020.

New Food Conference 2020: re-thinking the food industry

Consumer demands for food are changing faster than ever. The New Food Conference serves as a platform for the exchange of the latest developments in the field of emerging food solutions.

Döhler is offering functional-ingredient solutions for a wide range of applications. What role do these ingredients play in the market for plant-based alternatives to meat dairy, and egg, and how has this role changed over the last couple of years?

Plant-based products have made their way into the mainstream market and grown into an increasingly important part of daily diets, especially in Europe. This is reflected in a rising demand for plant-based alternatives to animal-derived milks, drinks, desserts, meat, and cheese in product developments. Due to vertical integration and advanced technology, we are supplying the market with innovative ingredients such as nut-and-seed pastes, grain syrups, plant-based proteins, and all-in-one solutions.

What do you see as the biggest obstacle to the development of plant-based products in terms of texture and the processing qualities of raw materials?

Sensory characteristics such as flavor, texture, and mouthfeel are crucial determinants of success when developing plant-based products. There are multiple new raw materials available for the production of plant-based foods which pose new challenges to product developers.

Take milk for example: plant-based milk alternatives are more popular than ever. While the production processes are fairly similar to those of cow’s milk, the formulation is very different. Plant ingredients have a different nutrient profile and distinct processing features compared to cow’s milk. Additionally, plant proteins often come with a distinct off-taste. To create convincing products from plant ingredients, it takes advanced technology and in-depth knowledge of the characteristics of the raw material.

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The Döhler Group operates on a global basis. What differences in demand for plant-based ingredients do you see across the various regions?

Plant-based alternatives have established themselves in the markets across all product categories. Almost every European country, as well as the US and Asia, show a distinct trend towards more plant-based diets. The growing number of consumers and the increases in product launches are strong indicators that demand will continue to rise. Additionally, in recent years, substantial investments have been undertaken in this area. This can be seen in the many successful plant-based startups that have found their way onto the market. Forecasts predict that global plant-based foods and beverage revenues will increase by almost 14% by 2024. On a global scale, we observe that, especially in Europe and North America, the demand for plant-based options – particularly those based on almonds and oats – are continuously rising, while consumers in Asian markets prefer products made from soy.

What proteins are likely to form the basis of future product developments in the plant-based field?

We see a growing demand for chickpea protein as well as the combination of various plant proteins. These are especially popular for novel applications such as plant-based cheese alternatives since they do not just bring in flavor but also improve texture and nutrition profiles. Textured proteins from peas and beans are especially useful for use in plant-based meat alternatives. At Döhler, our protein solutions contain a natural starch content that allows for high natural functionality.

Thank you for the interview, Mr. Krebs.

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