CHICAGO — Archer Daniels Midland Co. revealed in its OutsideVoice Protein Perception & Awareness Study that 44% of U.S. consumers now identify as flexitarian, a group that is motivated primarily by health, wellness and sustainability.

“We expect to see even more new and enhanced protein options hit the shelves in the coming months,” said Kurt Long, director of flexitarian solutions at ADM. “To get an edge in this growing space, manufacturers have to respond quickly with on-trend products.”

Consumers in 2020 will look for more than just protein, ADM said. Manufacturers can drive demand and command higher price points by expanding benefits with features like added fiber, whole grains, antioxidants or probiotics.

Nutritional benefits are key, but delivering taste and texture is critical. Expect to see more products formulated with plant-based blends, like soy or pea combined with beans or ancient grains, to deliver a craveable flavor.

While plant-based burgers led the charge in 2019, ADM predicted new alternative proteins in the form of chicken, sausage and seafood will take center stage this year.

ADM found that two-thirds of consumers seek labels with short ingredient lists. As the number continues to rise, successful plant-based formulations must have simple, familiar ingredients lists that rely on ingredients like beans, lentils, whole legumes, quinoa, amaranth and sorghum.

Expect to see continued innovation in the dairy case. While sales of plant-based cheese, ice cream and yogurt already are on the rise, opportunity remains for formulators to leverage improved flavor and texture to drive wider consumer interest.

Private label brands achieved significant growth with organic and natural products. The space is primed for plant-based products to drive even more growth.

As meat analogs become more common, there is opportunity in the plant-based space for comfort foods. Consumers increasingly will seek plant-based versions of chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, pizza and other family-friendly foods.