The Plant Based World Expo (PBWE) is an emerging showcase for companies to demo their latest and greatest products to the industry. It is organized by the Plant Based Foods Association based in Manhattan (NYC) and was held in NYC on December 8th & 9th, 2021. With the travel limitation imposed by the pandemic, it’s essentially the first in-person expo in North America since 2019; so there was loads of pent-up demand for manufacturers to showcase their latest product development to a horde of eager, vaccinated attendees. Givaudan took full advantage and sent technical, sales and marketing representatives to scout.

There were over 200 exhibitors that ran the gamut from plant milks, bakery, meats to full culinary builds. So the four of us got together, had our water and antacids ready and slow-rolled around the expo floor evaluating just about every product at every booth one-by-one until we were exhausted. Here’s a summary of our experience.

Matt and Angelo happily attending Plant Based World Expo
Matt & Angelo can’t get enough on Day 2

Listening to Smart People Talk

In addition to the expo, there were plenty of talks, roundtables, and cooking demonstrations to hear what key thought leaders had to say. Three overarching themes that the speakers challenged audiences with were:

  • Taste: . Consumers that experiment in migrating from animal to plant proteins absolutely will not repeat-purchase products that don’t taste like the traditional food they’ve been eating their entire life.
  • Affordability & Accessibility: Plant-based products need to be as affordable and accessible as animal-based products. There was passive acceptance by the key opinion leaders that we are still a few years from being at price parity given the scale and subsidies of the animal meat industry.

Do You Really Need Meat On Pizza?

When preparing for an expo, it’s fun to guess what demos companies will be showing. I went in expecting breaded chicken and pizza and I wasn’t disappointed. Most pizzas were showcasing vegan cheese and/or pepperoni. My favorite was Greenleaf’s pepperoni pizza, which already has significant distribution through Little Caesars and Donato’s.

Plant-Based Pizza Review Time

The pepperoni was the right color, spicy with fermented pork notes and had a typical resistance to bite; the primary gap being that the oily mouthfeel lacked a bit, but it was superior to the others we evaluated. Their vegan cheese had a few more attribute gaps around stretch and cohesiveness, but it still offered a creamy, smooth counterbalance to the spice and acid delivered by the sauce and the pepperoni.

Plant-Based cheese and pepperoni pizza with some fresh basil leaves, cut into 6 slices
Not an image from the expo…but it could be

Let’s Hear From Some Others!

With that introduction, I’ve invited 3 of my colleagues that attended along side me to pick their favorite products from the show. 

You Butter Try This

Mindy Kucks, Global Account Manager
Mindy Kucks,
Global Account Manager

I can’t deny that I love a good pat of dairy butter and I hadn’t yet tasted a vegan butter that I loved until I tried Miyoko’s Cultured Vegan Butter. The melt properties, color and cultured taste are all reminiscent of the real thing and I can imagine substituting it for many of my current uses. My next test will be trying it out on my two sons at home and seeing if they notice the difference. 

Miyoko's Vegan Butter

The Irish Know their Fried Fish

This product is so new, it hasn’t even made it on their website yet. Vegan seafood products have been a focus of my team and they have worked hard to develop excellent products so Givaudan can be leaders in this nascent, but rapidly growing segment. So in attending the PBWE, I was on the look-out for any and all seafood alternatives like fish, shrimp, crab cakes etc. The product that really stood out to me was the fried fish from Plant-It Foods , which is based in Ireland. The flavor was the right balance of white fish and fatty fried and the texture was flaky like a cod filet. In the linked article, it describes how Plant-It used the PBWE to garner interest and catapult their supply chain into the USA. As with formed burgers in the animal protein segment, I predict formed and fried fish product will lead the way in gaining market share in the seafood protein segment.

Panchali Chakraborty, Savory Director
Panchali Chakraborty,
Savory Director, Flavor Creation & Applications
Chicken-free plant-based meat bites and burgers by Plant-It
Two of Plant-It’s Chicken-Free Products

I Wish I Had a Pencil Thin Meat Snack

(with apologies to Jimmy Buffet)

Angelo Archuleta, Seasoning Creator
Angelo Archuleta, Seasoning Creator

I’ve worked on both animal and plant-based meatsticks and I can tell you that it’s a challenging application. When I tried the Vege Story  product, it was a revelation. They took the clever approach of creating a pencil-thin diameter, presumably by extrusion, that creates a “skin” that performs like a casing for a characteristic snap. It has a typical color, a meaty texture and a nice succulence that doesn’t desiccate your mouth during chewdown. The taste hits the mark of fermented pork and both the Original and Piri Piri versions had well balanced seasoning blends. This is one of the European companies looking to make in-roads in the U.S. and based on this product, I think they’ll be successful. 

Piri-Piri plant-based meat stick snack by Vege Story

This Burger Has More Science

Let me bat clean-up. My favorite product was the Motif Foodsworks “Better Burger”. “Why did you pick a boring ol’ burger?”, you might ask. Well it takes a pretty remarkable burger to make an impact in today’s market and I think this has “it”. There are two technologies that Motif developed to drive authenticity: 1) “Hemami™” is heme-type ingredient that provides a red, raw color and a savory, iron flavor in the cooked product (it’s similar in some ways to the heme ingredient patented by Impossible Foods); 2) Appetex™ is a texturant technology that really sets this burger apart. It delivers a springy, juicy texture during chewdown that is reminiscent of beef gristle. These two characteristics, along with a well-rounded vegan beef flavor, will fool your brain into thinking it’s beef. Motif’s booth was always buzzing and I heard chatter around the floor that other attendees found it remarkable as well.

Matt McGuffey, Product Manager
Matt McGuffey, Product Manager, Savory and Protein Solutions

For a couple additional perspectives outside Givaudan:

Did you know plant-based meats aren’t the only options? In this wide world of innovation, meat alternatives are moving fast. Find out what else is next.

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