Eating a plant-based diet is trendy – and more than that: Vegan nutrition supports a conscious lifestyle and, especially in times of rising prices, more and more people are switching to less meat and more plant-based food. Sales are expected to grow to $160 billion by 2030. That's where pea protein, used in food and drinks come in.
The world with its values is changing: people live more consciously and want to do something good for themselves and the planet. The fact that more and more people are consciously avoiding animal products and are switching to either vegetarian or even vegan food is one of the major trends affecting the food and beverage market - especially in the case of functional beverages based on juice or milk.
Because a meat-free or low-meat diet – especially a vegan diet that also excludes dairy products – needs one thing above all: high-quality plant-based protein sources, because protein represents a significant proportion of the vital nutrients and should be consumed in sufficient quantities every day.
According to a Mintel survey, if the vegan products industry continues to expand, the market, which was worth $29 billion in 2020, could grow to $160 billion by 2030.
Source: „The Future of Plant-Based Food and Drink”, Dasha Shore, Mintel 2022
Supplementary protein and vegetable proteins are very popular
This development started with classic milk drinks, especially coffee, in which cow's milk was replaced by plant-based alternatives, such as soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, oat- or almond milk. The trend is unbroken and the range of vegan milk drinks now goes far beyond coffee drinks. Today, extra proteins are added to drinks in order to be able to offer protein as a nutrient in this drink. Protein drinks are also very popular with athletes. Experts have identified, especially since 2021, that interest in such protein-enriched products has increased significantly in Germany and in German-speaking countries. Products are popular that contain protein as a source of nutrition and claim to be functional drinks that can contribute to maintain physical fitness.
The trend towards supplemental protein is mainly finding its way into the product range of RTD coffee or milk-based RTD drinks that already provide protein by nature. The growing trend is mainly relevant in hot drinks, although the negligible functional RTD coffee or even functional sports drinks offer further growth opportunities. We can therefore assume that vegan beverages in general will continue to increase strongly in terms of sales shares.
Source: Passport – Fortified/Functional Beverages in Germany Euromonitor International June 2022
Vegan protein drinks: drinks with specific benefits
Overall, consumers increasingly want food and beverages to offer specific benefits that support a healthy lifestyle. This is shown, among other things, by a survey by the Tastewise data platform, which draws on millions of different data sources. The study states that general benefits such as "functional" or "healthy" are no longer sufficient, but that specific advantages must be given for different target groups and needs. Protein intake as part of a vegan or partially vegan diet can be one of them.
Source: "Consumers want specific health and wellness benefits in their products in 2023, study finds," Fooddive Dec. 5 2022
Vegan drinks: Product launches are increasing
According to Mintel, from July 2022, vegan drinks in particular achieved steep growth among the new releases of drinks. The proportion of vegan functional drinks exceeded the proportion of organic drinks, which also convey a natural image. These vegan functional launches are mostly juices.
The share of launches for vegan drinks was 26 percent, while organic drinks recorded a share of 17 percent and plant-based drinks a share of six percent. Especially in the field of energy drinks, vegan and plant-based drinks are increasingly in focus - for example in connection with botanicals, matcha or ginger.
Millennials and Gen Z consumers are currently reporting the highest level of engagement with functional food beverages, but overall consumers of all ages are showing interest in such benefits.
Source: "A year of innovation in functional food & drink, 2022", Mintel, Amrin Walji, September 2022
Protein Drinks: The solution for high-protein vegan drinks
Now the question arises, what is the best way to replace animal protein in drinks? A promising answer is pea protein, which is now increasingly being used in the new product developments from AUSTRIA JUICE. Due to its properties, the vegetable protein can be used in a wide variety of beverage applications. Our experts have developed a wide variety of drinks with pea protein, such as isotonic soft drinks, protein beers, energy drinks and more. Pea protein is also a powerful source for athletes to supplement their training with nutrition – for example based on so-called pea milk. This in turn can be perfectly combined with a loto of flavours. Pea protein offers the advantage that it is also a source of iron - an additional plus that vegans especially appreciate, especially since protein must also be supplied to the body in appropriate quantities if meat and dairy products as iron suppliers are completely eliminated.
The trend towards vegetarian and vegan nutrition continues to grow. This means that the need for alternative, plant-based protein sources is increasing. Experts estimate that the market for vegan products, which was worth US$29 billion in 2020, is expected to grow to US$160 billion by 2030. Vegan protein drinks represent a future market - and no longer only in classic milk drinks. Vegan pea protein is a promising ingredient and alternative to cow's milk in protein drinks. AUSTRIA JUICE already offers various vegan drinks with pea protein, from energy drink to isotonic soft drinks as well as protein enriched alcoholic beer.