Spoons filled with seeds

What's on the Horizon for Plant-Based Protein in 2021?

Plant-based proteins continue to be in high demand among consumers, with 2021 on track to be a year of ingredient and product innovation. Check out the 2021 trends in plant-based proteins—plus key takeaways for manufacturers.

Global Growth in Plant-Based Protein Market

The global plant-based protein market is forecast to grow from $5.9 billion to a whopping $8.9 billion by 2025 (a CAGR of 8.5%).1 Consumer awareness is increasing regarding how food choices can impact health, environmental sustainability, and even food security. The recent high growth in plant-based protein products has been driven not by vegan consumers but by mainstream consumers interested in making healthier, more sustainable choices. This flexitarian mindset is impacting products from plant-based meats to plant-based protein bars.

Here’s a look at the top trends in plant-based proteins for 2021:

1. New Plant-Based Proteins

From soy to pea to mung bean, plant-based protein options continue to expand, with research underway in both the private and public sectors. While legumes (such as chickpea, lentil, and lupin) and seeds (such as sunflower, chia, and flax seeds) remain top choices due to their naturally high protein content, certain grains, mushrooms, and seaweeds are also being investigated as protein sources. Cost-effectiveness, availability, and sustainability will determine the plant proteins of the future, as well as functionalities such as gelling, emulsification, and extrudability for plant-based meat applications.

2. Government Support for Plant Proteins

The buzz around plant-based proteins has surged due to their potential role in feeding the growing global population more sustainably. However, this interest has been largely in the realm of consumers, food companies, and the agricultural supply chain. Now, some governments are stepping up, providing agricultural and research funding for potential proteins of the future. Examples include Canada’s support in developing the canola protein industry and India’s interest in native millets as a protein source.

3. Extra Functionalities

In isolating plant-based proteins, the goal has traditionally been to achieve the highest protein concentration possible and minimize the presence of other components like starches, fibers, and fats. But with the rise of plant-based meats, eggs, and dairy alternative products, additional components might actually be welcome, provided they offer a needed functionality. One exciting example is protein ingredients sourced from algae or seaweed that provide not just protein but functional polysaccharides for binding, healthy DHA omega-3s, and a fishy flavor that's perfect for plant-based seafood.


4. Plant-Based Seafood

Some foodies are calling 2021 the year for plant-based seafood. While options in plant-based burgers and chicken abound, plant-based fish and other seafood products have largely been on the sidelines until recently. The recent expansion of Good Catch plant-based seafood products into the European market shows this segment is picking up speed. Plant-based seafood alternatives are a high potential and diverse segment that includes plant-based breaded fish fillets, flaked tuna, crab cakes, shrimp, scallops, and more.

5. Sustainability Metrics

As sustainability experts develop increasingly sophisticated approaches to measuring environmental impact, it will become clearer which plant-based proteins are, in fact, the most sustainable. Consumer awareness is already growing around the high water requirements of almonds, for example, while oats are beginning to receive attention for helping to keep soils healthy due to their role in crop rotation systems. For sustainability-minded consumers, expect new data in this area to influence preferences in plant-based proteins.

6. Plant-Based Sports Nutrition

Plant-based proteins continue to expand into sports nutrition products, including protein bars, powders, and ready-to-drink beverages. The protein demands of sports nutrition consumers mean a high protein level is a must, as is a balanced amino acid profile. While pea protein remains a popular choice, some brands like Vega and Orgain are using blends of plant-based proteins in their sports nutrition lines. Proteins showing up in plant-based sports nutrition products include pea, chia, brown rice, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, alfalfa, sacha inchi, and algae proteins.

protein powder

Plant-Based Proteins for a Healthy, Sustainable Future

2021 promises to be another big year for plant-based proteins. Consumers’ interests in protein, sustainability, and exciting new foods are converging to make plant-based protein products a high-growth area. For manufacturers interested in tapping into this opportunity or expanding their plant-based portfolios, Glanbia Nutritionals has the right ingredients to help you succeed in this market. 

From plant-based proteins to functional and nutritious flax, chia, quinoa and oat ingredients, our plant-based solutions portfolio provides high-quality solutions that give your products outstanding nutrition, functionality, and flavor.

We work with your team to provide safe plant-based ingredients and ingredient systems that are easier to incorporate into a range of applications so that you can give your consumers nutritionally packed plant-based products they are sure to enjoy.  All of our ingredients are non-GMO, gluten-free, and kosher.

Collaborate with us for your plant-based beverages, bars, snacks, baked goods, and more!


1. LP Information. (2020). Global Plant Protein Market Growth 2020-2025.

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