Chr. Hansen develops fermented cultures for plant-based dairy alternatives

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29 Sep 2017 --- Chr. Hansen is launching fermented plant-based dairy alternatives in response to the needs of today's health-conscious consumers. The new probiotic fermentation starter cultures bring the mild, fresh taste and smooth texture from yogurt into plant-based alternatives. The product range is well-suited to tap into the opportunities of this market trend and is offering two new YoFlex (yogurt) cultures and two new nu-trish (probiotic) cultures.

The market for fermented dairy alternatives has shown strong growth in recent years, albeit from a small base. For example, Innova Market Insights +35 percent rise in US food and beverages that claim to use a fermentation process (2016 vs. 2015), with fermented foods trending strongly.

Click to EnlargeAn Innova Market Insights analysis of new product launches (see chart) notes that over the past five years, the growth of spoonable dairy yogurt product launches is strong, taking a CAGR of +12%, while the growth in spoonable non-dairy yogurts is much faster, taking a CAGR of +42%. Especially for the last two years, the number of spoonable non-dairy yogurt product launches is three times higher than that of 2012, when taking 2012 as a base of 100.  

In August, Chr. Hansen commissioned a consumer survey to better understand the usage of and attitudes toward dairy alternative products. The survey uncovered that:
• Dairy alternatives are seen as a supplement to the existing dairy-based products enabling more choice and dietary options.
• The modern consumer values variation and more than half of the consumers asked have purchased a dairy alternative food or beverage.
• Among those, 77 percent want to see more options in the grocery store, indicating that dairy alternative products have a lot of room for growth.

Healthy plant-based alternatives with qualities of “real” yogurt
“As the market leader for starter cultures, we intensively study the new market needs and track up-and-coming trends that change the food and beverage industry. Now we are ready to launch a series of cultures for dairy alternatives that enable the producer to make healthy plant-based products with the qualities we traditionally ascribe to dairy yogurt,” says Lasse Vigel Joergensen, Global Marketing Manager – Fresh Dairy.

“First and foremost our cultures bring the mild and fresh taste and smooth texture we know from yogurt into plant-based alternatives. They produce safe and healthy products, and with a version of "world’s best documented probiotic" Bifidobacterium BB-12, we can bring the goodness of probiotics to consumers who do not consume dairy yogurts on a daily basis.” 

The relationship between the gut and one’s health and general well-being is increasingly being recognized. The gut, sometimes referred to as the second brain, is the single most important organ in keeping us healthy and delivers 70 percent of our immunity. BB-12 has been scientifically proven to support gastrointestinal health. 

While health is a key consumer purchase driver, the dairy alternatives products still have to taste good. Chr. Hansen is renowned for its ability to develop cultures that can bring out the best in food and ensure the taste that is required by selective consumers.

“A product can be as healthy as you could possibly imagine; but if it doesn’t taste good, it will never take off. The good taste and the opportunity to choose between appealing flavors are what will keep consumers coming back,” states Joergensen.

Two dairy alternative concepts have also been developed to present the new culture portfolio to customers: SoyFresh, which leverages on all the good qualities from yogurt, without stabilizers, and CoCoFresh, a trendy indulgence product based on coconut milk with a high-fat content. 

Another important property of the new range is the speed at which the cultures can acidify the plant-derived base. “We have used our expertise in culture design and fermentation process and applied it to non-dairy bases. Unlike in milk where we deal with dairy protein and fat, composition and choice of ingredients for plant bases are endless. The new culture range brings in a pleasant taste and flavor and in some cases, the opportunity to increase acidification speed,” says Mirjana Curic-Bawden, Principal Scientist.

A North American dairy alternative market insights report (August 2017) looked at the latest consumer research on usage and attitudes toward dairy alternative yogurt-like products. 

Key insights from the report:
• Nutrition and health are universal purchase motivators for dairy alternative products.
• Labeling preferences differ by generation, but “probiotic” ranks highest across consumer bases.
• Younger generations lead the trend toward dairy alternative products, but dairy alternative yogurt-like products have wide appeal across generations.

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