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The German company, part of the Stern-Wywiol Gruppe, offers innovative plant-based product development through its unique digital tool, Plantbaser. This allows food manufacturers worldwide to efficiently customize and create plant-based products.
January 31, 2024
Have you ever dreamed of creating your own plant-based product? That includes not just developing a formulation, but actually selecting the product’s flavor profiles, textures and best-suited protein source — while also visualizing what color it would be and how it would look once finished.
Whether you’re a food manufacturer, startup or large corporation, if you want to take matters into your own hands, Planteneers aims to make the product development process less complicated. The company, headquartered in Ahrensburg, Germany, develops and produces customized plant-based products and solutions — meat, seafood, dairy, baked goods and sauces — for companies across the globe.
Part of the Stern-Wywiol Gruppe, which has more than 40 years of experience and industry knowledge under its belt, Planteneers was founded in October 2020. It’s the “little sister” of the group’s international supplier of food stabilizers, Hydrosol, which has been developing stabilizers and texturizers for animal-based meat, fish and dairy products for more than 30 years, according to Florian Bark, product manager at Planteneers.
Bark, who has been with the company for the last seven years, created a game-changing digital technology unique to Planteneers, known as the Plantbaser. The online tool offers the capability to build a customized plant-based product — within minutes — using the company’s extensive portfolio of solutions. Samples of the finished products, in powdered or ready-to-eat (RTE) formats, are then delivered within a few days.
“The customer can order a product as a ready-to-use or RTE burger patty, for example, or they can order it as our recipe with the functional blends,” Bark said. “Customers can play around on their own, and if they don’t like what they created or what they get from us, they can go into their account where all the information they created is stored (recipe, specification of the products, safety data sheets, etc.) and reorder the product.
“If they want to reconfigure it, they can start exactly at the point on the product that they have on the table,” he explained. “If they say, ‘I like the taste, but it needs to be less salty,’ then they can reduce the salt on their own. We can [also] step in and say, ‘Can we help you with that?’ or ‘Do you want to have a larger amount for a bigger production trial?’ or whatever the case may be.”
Plantbaser, which took Bark a year to develop, incorporates 1,400 recipes and more than 50 product applications. It speeds up the product development process significantly, he detailed, allowing companies to tailor their specific needs for any plant-based products, from format and temperature to color and texture.
“The whole configuration process starts with four steps,” Bark said. “The first is the product type. It’s a kind of questionnaire that brings you to what kind of protein [you’d like to use], sauce, equipment [you have available at your facility] and so on, so that the system knows how it shall create your recipe in the end. We really put all of our innovation in there.”
The step-by-step process begins by asking which type of product you’d like to create, as Bark explained. Then, it allows you to choose the specific product properties. For example, if creating an alt-meat product, it asks if you’d like it to be breaded or RTE. Depending on which selection you make, it takes you through other intricate steps to specify exactly what type of format, color and texture you’d like to achieve.
The most unconventional part? It asks you to specify the equipment available at your production facility to ensure you’re able to properly prepare the products you’re formulating — and to also ensure the appropriate plant-based protein sources are recommended to get the job done.
“You’re going step by step through the different variations so that you really know which blending or which blend is recommended to you with which protein, sauce, etc.,” Bark said.
The company can also work directly with you to fine-tune any desired recipe. “It really just depends on what the customer’s end goal is,” Gretchen Moon, VP of commercial operations at Planteeners, said. “And that’s something that they’re allowed to select on their own. But, if we’re working with them directly, that’s always one of the first questions we ask: ‘Do you have any restrictions and what’s your preference on protein?’ Because we can customize that.”
Planteneers utilizes its global sourcing program, drawing raw materials and ingredients from the 14 companies underneath the Stern-Wywiol Gruppe umbrella, to assist companies in crafting the best plant-based product. “One of the real benefits of what we then do as Planteneers is make customized blend solutions for plant-based companies that are essentially just a drop in,” Moon explained. “We can speed up the development timeline and simplify the procurement and operational process for them. They’re able to buy one blend and they have all of the regulatory quality documentation for that blend [that we provide], so all they would need is to add ice and water to have a finished product.
“That’s more appealing to some companies than others, such as startups and small- to mid-sized businesses,” she continued. “However, we also can work with larger companies to customize [solutions] based on their own flavor system. Say they only want the base texturizing system and they’re going to add in their own flavors and colors. We have a lot of flexibility in that regard.”
Moon joined the company in 2022 to help Planteneers expand its presence in the United States. One of its sister companies, SternMaid America LLC, has a blending plant in Aurora, Illinois, which is currently being expanded to allow the production of all Planteneers products. The project, slated to be completed by June, will allow the company to mirror its European capabilities in the U.S.
“Last year, we spent a lot of time building brand awareness here in the U.S.,” Moon said. “People know us in Europe, but to build the brand and establish ourselves here as experts in the marketplace is our primary area of focus.”
Planteneers is dedicated to strengthening relationships in the U.S. market and has also been working hard on new product developments specifically for Western palates. “We’ve done a lot of work to customize the flavor profiles with the same base texture systems,” Moon said. “We take the same systems that are used all over the world but are customizing the flavor profiles for North America specifically because the way we like food here is different than what [other countries] like.”
Associate editor, Food & Beverage Insider
With over a decade of diverse professional experience under her belt, Heather has journeyed from the bustling world of local news reporting to the intricate realms of trade publishing. She has covered a wide array of topics, ranging from architecture and design to the food and beverage industry.
During her illustrious career, Heather also ventured into the realm of public relations, where she gleaned invaluable insights into the art of strategic communication and brand storytelling. Yet, her heart has always been anchored in the vibrant world of F&B, a passion deeply ingrained in her roots as the daughter of a seasoned chef. She has always held a profound appreciation for the role food plays in shaping cultures and connecting people.
With each story she tells, Heather seeks to illuminate the profound impact of food and beverage on people’s lives, celebrating its ability to evoke emotions, foster connections and weave the fabric of our shared human experience.
As Food & Beverage's associate editor, she co-publishes a weekly news column, Business Bites, which showcases the latest industry news, highlighting key business updates, food and beverage innovation, industry events and more. Some of her other articles touch on important topics, such as ultra-processed foods, plant-based foods primed to change the food landscape, international flavors and ingredients, as well as better-for-you CPGs. She also frequently covers top trends at various industry events and has moderated first-of-their-kind education sessions at Informa events.
She can be reached at [email protected].
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