Spreading the Innovation – A Snapshot of Plant-Based Spreads

Throughout the rise of plant-based, headlines and store shelves have been dominated by direct one-to-one animal-free alternatives.

Plant-based meat, dairy, seafood, and so on.

There are many great reasons why that is, and also some challenges that it poses, a few of which I delved into in a recent article on addressing the struggles and strengths of plant-based cheeses.

A strong focus on these products will undoubtedly remain vital as the market matures. Still, creative and innovative new products will have to emerge to consistently bring in and keep more flexitarian consumers in the plant-based fold.

That’s why spreads and dips just might be the best place to start.

“According to Innova, between 2018 and 2022, NPD in spreads and dips with plant-based claims rose at a shocking and dynamic CAGR of more than 64%!” says Edlong’s Director of Marketing, Jessa Friedrich.


This growth only appears to be going up from here, with predicted segment expansion from US$ 495.46 million in 2024 to US$ 813.20 million by 2034

While dairy alternatives like plant-based butter and cream cheese continue to lead the way, offering something truly new is where this category can shine.

Friedrich agrees: “Consumers are looking for more than just an alternative to dairy in spreads. They want new and flavorful experiences for their taste buds to enjoy, leaning towards more stand-alone products.”

Spreading the Possibilities

Successful innovation comes from creating something delicious and crave-able, an area where the flexibility of spreads can open up a ton of possibilities for developers.

I want to be clear that butter and cheese-type spreads are still on the table, but not every product needs to aim for parody to get in the fridge.


In essence, instead of trying to meet a gold standard, spreads and dips allow them to set a standard of their own.

Without a direct analog to reference, consumers can avoid the comparison trap and enjoy.

A couple of years ago, at IFT First 2022 in Chicago, our R&D team developed Edna’s Reserve, a plant-based cheese-style product focused on simply tasting great rather than replicating existing real dairy cheese profiles.

It was a hit!

It created a crowd-pleasing, spreadable cheese-like experience without trying to match any one particular profile.

According to Friedrich, despite other rising trends, when it comes to this category, consumers just want something they can enjoy.

“We’ve talked a lot lately about functional foods and beverages, but plant-based spreads are one space that tends to be more about treating themselves and indulgence rather than functional, with consumers seeking convenient flavor hits as Innova puts it.”

Spreading the Fun (What’s Trending)

It’s no secret that these days, trends matter more and change faster than ever.

With trends driving development, spreads can be the perfect vehicle to encourage the adoption of plant-based products by on-the-fence consumers.

Based on data from Tastewise, the trending flavors for plant-based spreads are:

  • Chia – with a 5.3% social share and a significant 111.4% growth YoY.
  • Spinach – with a 5.56% social share and a 79.7% YoY growth.
  • Vanilla – with an 8.33% social share and a 23.2% YoY growth.

 From 2019-2023, Innova Market Insights global Top Flavors for spreads were:

  • Herbs
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Chive

Whether savory or sweet or maybe a little bit of both, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Not to mention that with spreads and dips you can open your audience to a world of flavor…literally.

In addition to classic profiles or new and exciting international and ethnic flavors, spreads and dips are perfect for capitalizing on trends with limited-time offers (LTOs).

Still, despite the fun and flexibility with flavors these products offer, it’s finding the right one and hitting it out of the park that matters most.

This makes collaboration a non-negotiable.

Spreading the Work

Innovation needs to be a team effort; this is where having the right partners from the start matters.

From leveraging our marketing and trend insights, as well as our R&D and sensory resources, Edlong is here to help you move from concept to launch as quickly and deliciously as possible.

One of the strengths of plant-based spreads is that they give you greater room to work with the inherent taste and texture characteristics of otherwise troublesome ingredients.

However, this requires a team with the experience and know-how to understand your base, the diversity of your ingredients, and how to balance them with tailored flavor solutions. Find out how Edlong can help spread joy to your consumers’ taste buds with your next plant-based spread innovation

About the Author: Lauren Hopkins, Sr. Director of Business Development – Americas

I’m a Sr. Director of Business Development – Americas at Edlong with a passion for helping product designers and executives launch the next innovative food products. I have an unwavering belief in my team, their ability, and our products that is backed by a track record of customers who have saved time and resources by working with us. Your next great product is on the horizon, and I’ll help you bring it to as many shelves, tables, and hearts as possible.

Topics: Dressings, Sauces, DipsPlant-BasedVegan
Resource Type: Article
Resource Region: US


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