With the new innovations in unique alternative protein sources and the rapid emergence of non-animal ingredients, success in the plant-based space increasingly depends on collaboration. From the rise of these new ingredients to the pressure on developers to innovate faster while bringing better tasting and more nutritional products to market at lower costs as competition intensifies, don’t miss these key insights from our panel of plant-based experts came together in October as part of our Plant-based Pro Series to discuss how collaboration has shifted from being a “nice to have” to “need to have” in plant-based food innovation.
Consumer Demand Demands Collaboration
In fact, with “plant-based and vegan positionings seeing double-digit growth in every corner of the world and new launches rising at CAGRs of 53% for plant-based and 23% for vegan,” innovation is on the rise and at the forefront of plant-based developers minds, according to Innova Market Research. So, while clearly the animal-free space continues to grow, it also continues to evolve; and the brands that can innovate to adapt fastest are poised to win.
During the webinar, panelist René Floris, Food Division Manager at NIZO, shared that he is seeing two key trends when it comes to plant-based: 1) Consumers want more protein and 2) due to this, the level of innovation around alternative proteins around the globe is skyrocketing post-pandemic. The race to innovate is quickly weeding out brands that can’t cut it in the marketplace, but it is also presenting massive opportunities to gain market share and consumer loyalty for ones who deliver. Deliver on what?
As our panelist Antony J I X, PhD, Vice President of Innovation, with Olam Food Ingredients (ofi), stated “consumers firstly want their products to taste good, then to be nutritional and then to be sustainable.” All of our panelists definitely agreed that Taste continues to be King while Cost and Convenience are battling it out to be Queen in today’s global climate of inflation and uncertainty.
Webinar panelist Barb Stuckey, Chief Innovation & Marketing Officer from Mattson Co. brought up that it is also important to consider both satiety and convenience when choosing where to innovate. “We’ve got to make it easy for consumers to have a plant-based diet,” she emphasized, going to explain that “at the end of the day the consumer is the one who needs to go home and make a meal or plan a quick snack for their families from the foods we develop.”
All of this means collaboration is more crucial than ever before. As panelist Dan Kennedy, Director Platform and Business Development for Plant Based Protein from Ingredion, pointed out, “each partner is an added subject matter expert bring their perspective and unique expertise to the table.” Leveraging the diversity of expertise, experience, and connections of both outside suppliers, data providers, and co-manufacturers as well as fellow developers from within your own organization will become a competitive advantage for food manufacturers of all sizes. This is exactly what our facilitator Denise Senter, Edlong’s CCO, meant when she noted the importance of finding ‘best of breed’ partners.
Bringing in Best of Breed
You can’t have the best product to meet demand and beat out competition if you don’t have the best ingredients, solutions, and expertise. Across the industry, CPGs are seeking out solution partners that have unprecedented levels of credibility and expertise, the kind needed to bring the best solution to their product development process – the best of breed. One-stop-shops aren’t usually the best answer when seeking to innovate or solve complex development challenges because the depth of expertise just isn’t there in most cases. So, when you are looking for a best of breed partner, where do you start?
How To Choose the Right Partners
During the webinar, Niall Sands, President of Plant-based Foods at AAK, pointed out that developers should “recruit partners like you recruit your people.” Finding partners who not only have the know-how but who you can trust is a vital part of choosing which supplier to work with on a project. Here are some quick tips for a successful search:
- Provide an accurate and consistent Request for Proposal (RFP) to all potential suppliers;
- communicate clearly with potential partners during the search about expectations, limitations, and timeline;
- don’t be afraid to ask questions;
- understand their company culture;
- seek to identify limitations or potential red tape;
- see if you can get references or candid feedback from past customers; and
- at the end of the day, also trust your gut.
You’ve found the right partners, now what?
Ingredients of Successful Collaboration
Our panelists agreed that when innovating it is crucial to bring in all partners from the start, assume no one is inessential to every step of the development process. By bringing all suppliers or partners in from the start, the chances of success and ability to ramp up speed to market increase significantly. It is essential to start every innovation project with a common understanding and agreement on what success looks like from all parties. That said, our panelists also agreed that it is important for all partners to understand that when innovating, minor setbacks and mistakes will happen but that through each iteration the project team will learn and be closer to success.
As Edlong President & CEO Laurette Rondenet said in her recent blog post on How the Most Innovative Plant-based Product Developers Find Success Through Collaboration: “Customers who develop products collaboratively from the start can reduce their time to market by as much as six months.”
Hungry for more? Watch the recording of our webinar on How Collaboration Will Facilitate the Future of Plant-based Food Innovation to learn more from our panel of esteemed plant-based experts on this topic.
Ready to collaborate? Our team is here to support your plant-based food innovation and product development projects. Request a consultation with one of Edlong’s global R&D experts or with any of our partners from the panel. We’ll make sure to reach out for a quick discovery call after you submit your request below to ensure we bring the right partners to the table for you innovation consultation.