LONDON — Brands offering ultra-processed foods (UPFs) should promote their legitimate health advantages, with plant-based meat alternatives being an example, according to GlobalData, a data and analytics company based in London.

“Given the pervasive nature of UPFs, the most logical approach for brands tackling the UPF issue is to prioritize certain categories,” said Hannah Cleland, a consumer analyst at GlobalData. “One of the biggest areas for reformulation and repositioning will be plant-based alternatives.”

Forty-six percent of consumers in a GlobalData survey said they were extremely concerned about the amount of processed food eaten in the plant-based meat, plant-based seafood and plant-based dairy alternatives categories. Another 45% said they were quite concerned. The survey published in February involved 6,800 consumers in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, India, Mexico, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“To overcome their tarnished ultra-processed image while still delivering sensory enjoyment and price, brands will have to invest in food technology,” Cleland said.

In one example NotCo uses artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to discover optimal ingredient combinations. Plant-based ingredients such as citrus fiber and rice are more attractive to consumers than chemical-sounding preservatives and stabilizers, according to GlobalData.

“Amidst the uncertainty around UPFs, brands should look at consumer mindsets category by category to assess what actions need to be taken,” Cleland said. “A complex understanding of category and consumer sentiment nuances will allow companies to leverage food technology in the most effective way.”

Changes at Beyond Meat Inc., El Segundo, Calif., which lost $338.1 million in fiscal 2023, show how companies are trying to improve the image of plant-based meat alternatives. New Beyond IV products should roll out into retailers this spring. The reformulated products have 60% less saturated fat content and 20% less sodium while containing nutrient-dense ingredients like red lentil and fava beans.