There has been little in the way of publicly-announced R&D or commercial efforts to develop the next generation of tasty and affordable plant-based turkey products. There is room for innovation toward different formats and more complex products with higher fidelity to conventional turkey.
Plant-based meat snacks could tap into underlying trends in snacks replacing meals and increased consumer interest in high-protein, low-sugar foods. Product innovation is needed to match the taste, price, and availability of animal options.
Opportunities exist to coordinate product development partnerships between ingredient suppliers, strategic partners, and product manufacturers to directly engage more holistically on product formulation.
A more comprehensive understanding of the processes, structures, and molecular constituents governing meat's organoleptic properties will inform the production of alternative proteins.
Fat and moisture retention are critical to the organoleptic properties of meat and must be perfected across all alternative protein platforms. Solutions for encapsulating fat and moisture are necessary to ensure that these components are protected from damage or loss throughout manufacturing, storage, cooking, and mastication.
A number of cellular processes occurring after slaughter are known to affect the quality and sensory properties of conventional meat. Cultivated meat will offer unprecedented control over these parameters and therefore over the quality of the final product, but it is critical to understand exactly how post-harvest processes for cultivated meat can or should differ from post-slaughter processes in conventional meat. This research can enable subsequent innovations in bioprocess design, media formulation, cell line development, or harvesting techniques to confer consistently high levels of meat quality from cultivated meat processes.
Plant-based food manufacturers often struggle with batch-to-batch ingredient inconsistency and variability between suppliers. Better analytical tools for predicting plant-based ingredient performance could improve manufacturing efficiency and create more transparent ingredient markets. Tools are needed to predict how ingredients will perform after various processing methods and in end-product applications like plant-based meat and dairy.
Processing crops into flours, isolates, and concentrates often relies on chemical and mechanical methods. Biological processing techniques may impart the desired composition and molecular structure for optimal functionality with increased precision, lower cost, and greater suitability for small-scale processing. Biological processing techniques include using enzymes to fine-tune functional properties like solubility, gelling capacity, and fat- and water-binding capacity or using microbial fermentation to convert plant protein feedstocks into more functional forms.
Techno-economic models are critical for process design and cost of goods projections. Open-access models based on generalized or exemplar processes with standardized unit operations and designs can form the foundation for individual companies’ work, reducing duplicative effort. Furthermore, techno-economic models can identify key cost drivers and opportunities for process improvements to guide future research efforts. The independent research consultancy CE Delft recently published a cultivated meat techno-economic analysis. However, similar efforts are needed for fermentation-derived and plant-based meat production.
Demand forecasts impact investments in R&D, infrastructure, personnel, and partnerships that will be necessary to participate in and accelerate the alternative protein sector.