Dietary preferences are rapidly changing and increasingly moving away from animal products. In the future, plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy products will become even tastier, better and cheaper. Their share of global food sales will keep growing rapidly. Symrise has established its own platform for this growth market, where experts across all divisions link up within the company and with experts and innovators from outside. 


It’s noon, Florian Herkner is enjoying a short break before his visit to Food Ingredients Europe in Frankfurt, the international trade show for food additives. The Symrise platform manager walks a few steps to stand in front of a small café. Inside, he takes a seat by the window and orders a rhubarb spritzer. Finally, he starts talking about his current main topic: alter­native proteins.

“By 2035, every tenth portion of meat, eggs and dairy will be from an alternative source.”

Florian Herkner
Head of Global Growth Platform Plant Based

The trained chef first explains their definition, because lots of different terms are often just thrown together: “There are products made from plant-based raw materials that imitate the taste and texture of meat – food that can serve as a replacement for meat products – and there are alternatives to dairy products.” A schnitzel made from soy or chickpeas is very different to falafel, which is a staple of ancient Arabic ­cuisine and has always been meatless. What all varie­ties have in common is that they are all moving “from niche products to mainstream ones,” says Herkner, who studied international business administration and initially worked in the wholesale of raw materials for the food industry. “We see this development in supermarkets and domestic kitchens, in restaurants and in fast food chains.”

The numbers confirm the Austrian’s experience. He has been working for Symrise for six years and was previously working in sales for drink solutions in Eastern Europe. “No matter what study we look at, we see extreme growth. By 2035, every tenth portion of meat, eggs and dairy will be from an alternative source.” Sales from alternative proteins will be around USD 290 billion by then. Investment is not as strong in any other segment of the food industry right now.

Consumption of alternative proteins worldwide
in millions of metric tons

The growth of alternative products worldwide
If alternative proteins match animal proteins in taste, texture and price, they will be able to
replace animal protein in ten of the world’s favorite dishes by 90 %. 

Climate protection and animal welfare as driving factors

He lets these facts sink in and orders something in the café: homemade falafel with beetroot hummus and grilled eggplant. While he enjoys this, he talks about his personal relationship with food. “I eat meat, but only good meat,” says the platform manager, whose family keeps sheep at home in a wild herb meadow and treats them as their own meat source to make homemade sausages. “I also think plant-based alternatives are super exciting if they taste good. This eggplant here, for example, will be plenty for me – no need for schnitzel.”

This thinking is common at the moment. “Worries about the climate and animal welfare are significant driving factors for the development of alternative, plant-based proteins,” says Herkner. Another driver is the technological revolution: “The technologies for the development of comparable plant-based products are visibly improving. They make meat alternatives more attractive for the broad consumer class because they can imitate the flavor, smell and consistency of meat, fish, seafood, dairy products and eggs.” In the end, costs are reduced so far that they are comparable with the price of real meat.

In 2019, the global plant-based meat market was worth around € 12 billion. The market will grow around 15 % annually by 2025, to approximately € 28 billion. In the following five years, this should increase by at least 25 % per year: By 2030, sales will be at around € 85 billion. Other studies put this figure as high as € 250 billion.

This is why Florian Herkner works on the quality of plant-based alternatives for Symrise. The goal is to create the innovative ingredients of tomorrow, from natural raw materials for a good price. For him, an important way to achieve this is through cross-­divisional exchange. After he started working as the Lead of the Business Incubation Group for the Plant-Based Solutions platform at Symrise in June 2020, he started holding regular meetings with 50 colleagues from four world regions. Once a month, these experts talk about retail, sales, technology and the individ­ual food categories. The following day, technology experts meet and keep up to date on research, new developments and the necessary application technology. “This saves time, leads to less duplication of work and prevents silo thinking.”

80 % of consumers are repeat buyers

At Symrise, we always consider four layers when working on meat and dairy substitutes: masking off notes coming from the protein, managing texture and mouthfeel, achieving a meaty or dairy note and adding a top note such as vanilla or grill flavors. There are challenges specific to every layer: For base raw materials like pea, soy or mycoprotein (derived from the fermentation of a filamentous fungus), the flavors are created in such a way that their commonly recognizable bitterness is masked. At the same time, burger patties made from these bases must also be juicy and have that grill flavor. Developers are also tasked with adhering to food safety standards and mini­mizing sugar and salt in the products. And last but not least the consumers have to like the taste: “80 % of consumers will decide to buy the product again if they like it.”

Symrise has solutions for all the requirements for plant-based replacement products and Florian Herkner is one of the interfaces. If Symrise doesn’t know something about a new topic, he looks for new partners. His lunch break is now over, so he pays and makes his way to the trade show. Once there, he will discuss protein sources like microalgae and fava beans. “I want to learn about as many developments as possible in order to evaluate them from a commercial and technical standpoint,” says Herkner, and adds, “In these dynamic times, it’s simply not enough to develop what customers wanted yesterday. We have to give them today what they will want ­tomorrow.”

“80 % of consumers will decide to buy the product again if they like it.”

Florian Herkner
Head of Global Growth Platform Plant Based

Cooperation for increased efficiency

Three questions for Catherine Trillo-Blanco, Global Growth Platform Manager for plant-based solutions at Symrise within the Taste, Nutrition & Health segment. 

Ms. Trillo-Blanco, why is cooperation in the growing area of alternative proteins so important?

The markets and developments are so dynamic that we are actively engaged and reaching out to partners to secure new strategic business relationships as well as to introduce and share new and upcoming technologies and raw materials. At Symrise, we work with startups, established companies, universities, governments, venture capitalists and other companies to identify future growth potentials long before they arrive on the market. We build ecosystems because collaboration is key in such a dynamic field.

Which partners have you worked with so far?

We have, for example, a partnership with the research accelerator New Food Innovation to help scientists, startups and established food manufactures bring their innovations to market. We also work with food technology incubator Fresh Start from Israel and Food Ventures in Singapore. In Germany, we partner with KitchenTown Berlin, an innovation platform for food startups, who help companies make their ideas and products market-ready. What’s great about this is that we are learning something new every day.

Since October 2021, you have been working with Wageningen University. What’s this current project about?

As part of this collaboration, Symrise is researching pulses and the sensory quality of meat analogues for optimal taste and functionality. We are currently working in two associations with partners along the entire value chain, from companies dedicated to breeding and processing crops all the way to manufacturers of food products. The intention is to provide tasty, sustainable and optimal sources of protein for human consumption that consumers find appealing.

Texture and mouthfeel without animal proteins

Three Questions for Pierre Osche, Head of Research for Vegetable at Symrise within the Taste, Nutrition & Health segment.

Mr. Osche, you are part of the global platform to deliver Plant-Based Solutions. What do you bring to the projects?

At Symrise, we have a large portfolio of vegetable and fruit juice concentrates, powders and flakes that complement the natural flavors. The functionalities are not the same: for instance flavors are often not meant to add texture or color or provide a certain mouthfeel. But in meat alternatives, that’s exactly what’s needed. And this is what the combination of natural ingredients and flavors can achieve.

How can you create a hearty mouthfeel, for ­example?

A hearty mouthfeel is complex and requires several layers of ingredients. As a base, our mushroom juice concentrate tastes umami, which means hearty, ­savory and meaty. We then add culinary complexity with various onion, garlic or shallot products. If we are looking for something more unique, we also offer Sofrito or Mirepoix solutions, which are made of ­different co-cooked vegetables and help a lot with juiciness. In addition, our products can balance the off-flavors of vegetable proteins.

What are the developments with vegetable ­alternatives that are already enjoyed in the kitchens of the world?

The market is huge and we have a whole range of solutions for it. I’m thinking of paneer, the Indian cream cheese prepared with spinach, cashews and spices, pumpkin waffles, quinoa bowls or even tofu dishes or falafel. For all these dishes, we can provide the natural ingredients by drawing on our wide range of more than 50 varieties of vegetables.