Personal convictions, health reasons, and a desire to protect the environment while feeding the world’s growing population are leading consumers to seek alternatives to conventionally-produced animal-based ingredients.

Almost 80% of consumers say low-waste packaging, fair labor practices, animal welfare, and environmental concerns are currently impacting their food choices, and they expect those issues to affect almost all of their food choices in the next 10 years.*

A food counter with chefs in the background. Prominent sign on counter reads: VEGAN

Reasons People Choose a Plant-Based Diet

Health:

A plant-based diet isn’t necessarily healthy**, but choosing to focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes over meat, dairy, and animal-based fats can be an integral part of improving our health. Eliminating foods made from animal-based products can make room in our day for making better food choices and can make a decadent snack or treat less of a dietary transgression.

Sustainability:

Many consumers are looking beyond what’s on their plates to the means by which it got there and how it was processed or harvested. Raising and feeding animals can require a great deal of land, food, and water and can result in undesirable byproducts. Many consumers have chosen to seek out plant-based foods and ingredients in an effort to reduce some of the impact of their everyday snacks and meals. 

Customers know that producing non-animal-based products can require as much input as plant-based items, and many look for sustainably grown, sourced, or processed ingredients as well as earth-friendly packaging. 

Cookies on tabletop with oats and cacao nibs scattered around

The challenges of switching to vegan/vegetarian ingredients

Sometimes converting a recipe to a plant-based version is as easy as swapping in a vegan or vegetarian ingredient for a conventional one. But some plant-based ingredients don't fit into your recipes so seamlessly. We took a closer look at some common ingredients in conventional desserts and explored possible alternatives. 

Eggs in varying shades of brown in a cardboard flat

Eggs

Eggs are just little miracles, aren’t they? Nothing else has quite the balance of liquids, fats, proteins, and other solids, and nothing else works exactly the same way in recipes. While many vegetarians include eggs in their diets, vegans do not. There are a variety of plant-based options for replacing eggs - from flaxseed or potato protein to manufactured egg replacers. Chefs and bakers will find they need to do some research and experimentation to find just the right solution for each recipe, but incredible, plant-based results are achievable!

How now, brown cow? A beautiful brown cow in a sunny field

Milk, Cream, and Butter

Milk/Cream: Gone are the days of one, funky-tasting soy milk option! In an effort to provide delicious plant-based “dairy” that’s pleasing to the palate and an easy substitute in recipes, producers are offering an ever-growing selection of options to replace milk, cream, yogurt, butter, cheese, you name it. Nut milks, like those made from almonds and cashews, are popular  and milk made from grains such as oats and rice are widely available. Chefs can find even more interesting alternatives as the market continues to grow: coconut milk can work well for any recipe requiring a high-fat liquid, and other plants such as chufa (tiger nut) are beginning to gain in popularity as well.

Butter: We’ve always had margarine. And before you run screaming from what many consider an inferior-tasting product, know that butter alternatives have come a long way, both in terms of flavor and ingredients. Plant-based butter alternatives, like any ingredient being used to replace a conventional one, require some research and experimentation, but can produce results that will delight customers regardless of their diets.

Elegant chocolate dessert made with Callebaut NXT

Chocolate

Don’t think your customers are the only ones scouring ingredient lists these days - the companies that produce your ingredients are doing so as well. There’s no way around it: making plant-based products makes financial sense. Rather than making two versions of a top-selling product, it’s much more efficient to make one plant-based product. And this is often as simple as sourcing and switching out one ingredient, lecithin, for example. Take a tip from the “big guys” and do the same! Look for vegan/vegetarian ingredients that work in all of your recipes. Rather than make two or three versions of your top-selling products for different customers, make one version suitable for everyone.

*FoodDive 1/21/2022
** “6 Vegan Foods that Aren’t As Healthy as You Thought” The Beet 1/11/2021