Packaged Foods Go Vegetarian

May 14, 2015

CHICAGO—Vegetarians used to be considered a very small percentage of the consumer market, but according to a survey by the Nutrition Business Journal as much as 26 percent of consumers now fall into the category of “flexitarians,” who prefer a more plant-based diet. In the May issue of Food Technology magazine published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), IFT member and freelance writer David Despain writes how food companies are responding to the growing demand for vegetarian food offerings.

Many consumers are making the switch due to heath, ethical, and environmental concerns. But another reason is that the food industry’s technological developments have made an impact by offering a greater variety of prepared vegetarian options in the form of shelf-stable, refrigerated, and frozen products. In the past vegetarian consumers have been limited to soy and wheat for protein in most meat-free products, but with rising allergy-free trends a greater variety of plant-based protein sources such as pulses, ancient grains, nuts, and seeds are being used in products.

Trends in vegetarian product labels are still mostly centered on “vegan” and “no animal ingredients.” In recent years though allergen positioning has gained a greater foothold, and some manufacturers are steering away the vegan label in order to appeal to a broader audience. There is also a notable rise in products with ingredients such as pea protein, rice protein, almond, coconut, and quinoa as food companies reach out to those who avoid gluten and soy or follow paleo diet regimens.

Globally inspired flavors are also becoming more of the norm as they appeal not just to vegans and vegetarians but also to flexitarians. Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean are three “hot” ethnic flavors on the rise. In addition, foods from the Philippines, Burma and other parts of Asia are also well represented.

Read the full Food Technology article here

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