To persuade more people to switch to plant-based alternatives, manufacturers will need to address one of the top barriers to uptake: the sensory experience.​

sensory as key differentiator

Closing the sensory gap is critical to the continued growth of new protein foods. Plant-based proteins are now established in the weekly diets of many vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians but are yet to replace meat and fish in the diets of most consumers. In 2022, sales of plant-based meat in 13 European countries hit €2 billion but accounted for just 6% of the overall pre-packaged meat market.​

If manufacturers are to increase penetration and maintain double-digit growth, they will need to convert consumers who will only buy plant-based foods if they match the sensory experience of animal proteins. A poll of 7,590 people in 10 European countries found “the expectation that plant-based food products would not be tasty enough” and “the experience of not enjoying such products” were two of the top barriers to consumption of new protein foods.​

Continued concerns about the taste and texture of new protein foods explains why plant-based meat accounts for 6% of the wider market at a time when most Europeans say meat consumption needs to fall and many people want to change their diets.​

The data suggest there is pent-up demand for new protein foods. Millions of Europeans want to switch to plant-based foods but are unwilling to compromise on the sensory experience. Now, manufacturers can make products that serve the pent-up demand, as a recent, fully independent taste test shows: the sensory analysis of food by 12 trained panelists found multiple vegan products match the animal protein gold standard.

Vegan pork cold cuts

An assessment compared our NEXTERA® vegan pork cold cuts to existing plant-based options and the animal protein gold standard. Again, the vegan pork cold cuts performed better than the other plant-based products across a range of sensory measures such as “fatty” and “firm”.

As importantly, the panellists found the vegan pork cold cuts were indistinguishable from the leading animal protein product in terms of smoothness, firmness, brittleness, fattiness and stickiness. The vegan pork also matched the animal protein with regards to how sliceable the panellists found it to be. The results are testament to the effectiveness of our approach. To develop the vegan pork cold cuts, we performed a comprehensive sensory evaluation of all available products in the market, assigning scores based on their respective attributes. The scores informed the development of a solution that performed better than its competitors across key sensory attributes.

Through the process, we have delivered an allergen-free vegan cold cut with the savoury taste that consumers associate with pork products. The vegan cold cut is pre-cooked and ready for use in salads, on bread and as a snack. With a Nutri-score of B, compared to D for the gold standard, the vegan cold cut is the healthier option. Next to vegan pork cold cuts, vegan tuna and vegan salmon were subject of a wider sensory analysis.

download the full sensory analysis


The sensory panel reveals the opportunities that are now available to every plant-based food company and that NEXTERA®, our dedicated division in new protein food, has closed the gap between the taste and texture of new protein foods and the gold standard animal proteins. While vegan and vegetarian food manufacturers were previously limited to niche markets, they now have access to solutions with the desirable sensory attributes needed to persuade omnivores to switch to new protein foods. As companies bring foods to market and secure repeat sales, they will accelerate the plant-based transition.

Paired with deep savoury food knowhow, our concept-to-launch approach is enabling the creation of new protein foods that match the sensory attributes of animal proteins. This in turn helps to improve on their nutritional properties to clear the remaining barriers to the adoption of plant-based products. Learn more about our new protein food proposition:

New protein food