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Risks and opportunities with plant-based ingredients

Reduced climate footprint, increasing demand for plant-based products or lower production costs…… There can be many reasons why food manufactures use more plant-based ingredients in their products.

Food manufactures can impact their climate footprint by adjusting the composition between animal and vegetable raw materials, as shown in the examples in the table below.

Product CO2e/kg product
Butter 3.92
Butter Spread (75% fat) 3.80
Margarine 2.93
Mozzarella 30+ 7.72
Vegan pizza topping 1.00
Semi skimmed milk 0.61
Oat drink 0.37
Almond drink 3.57


By replacing part of the animal fat with vegetable oil (eg from butter to spreadable) the climate impact is reduced by 3.3%

Another way to reduce the climate impact is to fully replace the animal raw materials with plant-based ingredients , e.g. plant-based pizza topping as an alternative to Mozzarella.

However, it is important to note that not all plant-based products are more carbon-friendly, which can be seen from the comparison between almond drink, oat drink and semi-skimmed milk.

In the world market, a yearly double-digit increase in demand for plant-based foods is expected(*). A large part of this increase is driven by consumer demand for climate-friendly food, in addition, the consumer’s focus on biodiversity and animal welfare also contributes to the increase in global demand.


When you as a food manufacture choose to use new ingredients in your production or launch new or changed foods, there are many factors that must be identified in the process.

In addition to capacity, technology, costs and sales, conditions in relation to food safety and sustainability must also be assessed prior to the change in production, such as;

  • Purchasing, quality and origin of ingredients - Food safety and sustainability for plant-based raw materials start at the primary producer, it is therefore important that social and employment conditions, biodiversity and the use of pesticides and herbicides are assessed and described as part of the supplier agreements.

  • Storage - There must be management and control for allergens and pests, and it is important to remember that organic plant-based raw materials often have a higher risk of pests and fungal toxins which can lead to product recall (and food waste) of not managed and controlled.

  • Production - If the plant-based raw materials contain allergens, this must be taken into account in the production. When handling powdered / ground products, it must be assessed whether there may be an explosion risk (ATEX). In the microbiological risk assessment, a change in microbial composition must be taken into account - how it is reduced to and controlled at an acceptable level.

  • Cleaning - Changes in the composition of fat, protein and carbohydrates, consistency and process parameters may require a change in the choice of cleaning chemicals as well as time and temperature for cleaning. There may also be a need for a separate CIP system due to the risk of allergens.

  • Wastewater - The use of plant-based oils in production can affect wastewater composition and be a challenge in complying with the requirements for oil in the discharge consent.

  • Shelf life and packaging - In order to minimize food waste for consumption, it is critical that the choice of packaging (type and unit size), storage time and temperature are taken into account. Shelf life at room temperature provides an environmental benefit as the need for cooling is eliminated, but must not be at the risk of product spoiling which will lead to increased food waste.

  • Expected usage – Plant based mince and hummus can have the same ingredients, but where the mince requires heat treatment before use, different requirements must be in place on microbiology, cleaning and hygiene of a ready to eat product such as hummus. Requirements for the consumer’s heat treatment and possibly freezing /re-reheating must be clearly stated on the label.

At FoodEfficiency, we have extensive experience in conducting and advising on risk assessments in the food supply chain, please contact us for a non-binding talk about risks and opportunities in connection with increased focus on plant-based raw materials.