Soups Featuring Alternative Dairy and Plant-Based Meat Win with Flavor

Plant-based foods continue to be of interest to consumers as companies innovate rapidly in the segment, delivering new products that are competitive with animal-based products on taste, price and accessibility. Health and wellness remain drivers to the plant-based category as consumers look for better-for-you ingredients and less processed products.

Vegetables are already a driver of soup consumption. Mintel’s Soups, US 2021 report shows that 38% of soup consumers who are eating soup more often than last year are doing so to try and eat more vegetables. While this makes soup inherently plant-based, there is white space opportunity in the category to deliver alternative meat, seafood and dairy within soup.

Gardein and Campbell’s Well Yes! line of plant-based chick’n noodle soups are the top sellers in the segment, followed by Gardein’s plant-based chick’n & rice and be’f & vegetable soups, according to Mintel. Chicken and beef are the fastest-growing flavors in plant-based soups, but there is still room for competition on the shelves and innovation among brands. In addition to these two popular flavors, plant-based pork and seafood are also white space flavor opportunities in the soup category.

Another alternative ripe for innovation in soup is the use of plant-based milk. Mintel reports only five percent of total launches from 2020-2021 contained alternative milk. To date, Pacific Foods dominates retail sales with its oat milk-based Garden Tomato and Cumin Carrot soups.

However, neither are performing as well as products in the overall wet soup category despite 33% of consumers saying they would likely buy Pacific Foods’ oat milk soups. This is because taste perception is a key driver when it comes to plant-based products. While consumers think Pacific Foods’ oat milk soups are “significantly more healthy and natural than their wet soup benchmark group, they perceive them to be significantly less tasty,” according to Mintel.

More than half of consumers say they are interested in creamy, non-dairy soups, making it an untapped category white space. But the taste must be right.

Flavoring Plant-Based Products

Plant-based protein is defined as a meaningful food source of protein made from plants. While the definition is quite simple, the plant-based food category is rather complex. And that’s especially true when it comes to flavoring plant-based protein.

As noted above, consumers grade plant-based products on one thing, and that’s the flavor. The more plant-based proteins taste like the real thing, the more willing consumers are to continue buying it.

The biggest challenge in plant-based product development is overcoming the unwanted or off-notes that come from alternative protein sources. For example, a beany soy flavor or vegetative pea protein flavor can deter consumers from craving plant-based products. So how can you ditch those off-notes and elevate your soup to deliver a mouthwatering flavor experience? Flavor masking agents.

At Synergy Flavors, our taste modulation masking solutions are custom designed to neutralize off-notes commonly associated with alternative meat and dairy protein substrates. With more than 20 years of experience in the plant-based category, we have perfected the art and science of masking and flavoring plant-based foods.

When it comes to flavor maskers, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. A few things to note about masking agents is that the development cycle takes longer, flavor maskers can assist in more than just plant-based protein and masking agents are natural ingredients.

Most plant-based products require the use of both flavor and a masker. Working with an experienced flavor company like Synergy Flavors, you can be confident that the challenges of masking unpleasant flavors will be expertly overcome and that your final product will be balanced and flavorful.

Synergy’s Soup Expertise

 An extensive history in the soup category, Synergy Flavors leverages that experience to help its customers choose the right flavors that will perform well in their products. Understanding our customers’ processing conditions and having the ability to replicate those conditions in our labs allows us to validate the flavor performance in the format in which the soup will be delivered to the consumer.

Synergy Flavors specializes in meat and savory taste solutions for soups and offers an extensive line of custom vegetarian and vegan flavor solutions to replicate the taste of beef, pork, poultry and seafood. Our experienced technical team develops customized solutions for unique substrates and processing parameters, delivering all the meat taste with none of the animal protein.

With our taste modulation expertise, we help manufacturers deliver a more balanced flavor profile in their products. We can customize our flavors to match your unique label requirements, whether it’s sodium reduction technology, plant protein maskers, acid blockers or MSG replacers.

Schedule a call with us today to learn more about our plant-based flavoring solutions for soup and discover the latest trends in the category.

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