Why the key to our planet fails to sell on the shelves

In what’s known as the ‘second moment of truth,’ consumers rarely buy products a second time if they don’t taste good the first time: https://observer.com/2023/06/an-agri-tech-ceo-explains-the-rise-and-fall-of-plant-based-alternatives/

In recent years, the world has witnessed a remarkable shift in dietary preferences, with plant-based diets soaring in popularity like never before. Since 2014, the number of people adopting a vegan lifestyle in the U.S. has increased by an astounding 600 percent.

One of the primary reasons plant-based foods are struggling to sell is their taste. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The trend can be attributed to those seeking healthier, more sustainable and compassionate choices. From concerns about personal well-being and environmental impact to animal welfare, the rise of plant-based diets reflects a profound shift in our understanding of food and its influence on our lives and the planet. 

Despite the increasing popularity of plant-based diets, there is still a significant portion of the population that is unaware of the health and environmental benefits associated with plant-based foods. Lack of awareness can limit the demand for these products and make it difficult for them to gain traction on store shelves.

One of the primary reasons plant-based foods are struggling to sell is their taste. If you have ever tried pea protein, you know that it can be essentially non-edible. It’s what is called the “second moment of truth.” Consumers rarely buy products a second time if they don’t taste good the first time. Hence, more than 70 percent of plant-based products fail because they just don’t taste good.

As the CEO of agri-tech company PIP International, I tackled this challenge head-on, determined to create a pea protein isolate that would enhance plant-based products’ flavor instead of ruining them. It’s like the chameleon of proteins—colorless, tasteless, and odorless, making it super versatile and perfect for all plant-based products, like dairy alternatives and alternative meats. Our ingredient enhances plant-based foods’ taste, color, and functionality, ensuring a superior consumer experience. 

Established by a group of industry players with extensive experience in the agri-food processing sector, PIP chose yellow pea as our raw material due to its complete amino acid profile, availability and affordability. After extensively searching for the best pea protein extraction technology, we secured a master license agreement with a technology house in France.

Plant-based alternatives also have the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and act as an environmental asset. As the world faces pressing climate challenges, transitioning towards sustainable and low-carbon food systems is imperative. Animal agriculture significantly contributes to climate change, deforestation, and water pollution. Pea protein offers a more environmentally-friendly option compared to traditional meat production. By shifting to plant-based proteins, we can mitigate the negative environmental impact associated with conventional meat production.

Another criticism the industry faces is the idea that real meat is healthier than fake meats, catering to the paleo-like advocates who stand for a meat-centric diet. While it is true that some plant-based alternatives may not match or gain parity with the nutritional profile of meat, they still may offer numerous health benefits.

Though plant-based meats still contain saturated fat, they contain far less saturated fat and cholesterol than animal meat on average. Plant-based meats contain fiber, plenty of protein, and essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, but with the advancements in the plant-based food industry, the goal for parity is improving the nutritional composition of these products. 

Despite the criticism our industry tends to receive, I am proud to say that we have achieved remarkable growth in a short period. Our vision is global, and as we continue to make significant strides in the plant-based protein industry, we aim to inspire consumers to demand better-tasting and sustainable alternatives, ultimately reshaping the market.

As one of the rare female founders in this industry, I am proud that we’ve proven it is possible to crack the code and create plant-based alternatives that are both delicious and sustainable. 

Christine Lewington is the CEO of PIP International, an agri-tech company based in Alberta, Canada. 

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© PIP – INTERNATIONAL. All Rights Reserved.

© PIP – INTERNATIONAL. All Rights Reserved.

© PIP – INTERNATIONAL. All Rights Reserved.