WEST LAFAYETTE, IN — Replacing animal products with plant-based options may be challenging, but it can be well worth it. If replacements are chosen carefully, it not only allows bakers to capitalize on a new market, but it also gives them a chance to make new health claims in other trending categories including high fiber and high protein. And there are several ingredients out there that can help bakers do just that.

Many of the best available egg and dairy substitutions come from companies that have developed novel ways to process pulses, seaweed and even mushrooms to engineer new ingredients that provide sources of functional fiber and protein.


Pulses are legumes — including peas, lentils, chickpeas and other beans — which are not primarily used for oil, and these plants conform to all the market drivers for plant-based diets including sustainability, health and wellness, and other dietary preferences. They are naturally sustainable, requiring less water than many other crops. They also fix nitrogen in the soil, reducing the need for fertilizers.

They have exploded in use in the past five years, spurring companies like Ingredion, Cargill’s PURIS and Roquette to dramatically increase their product lines of pea protein for use in meat and dairy imitation products. Today, pulses now make up one of the biggest shares of the $1.4 billion egg replacement market, quantified by Market Data Forecast. This has helped reduce the price of pea protein and spawned secondary markets for flavor maskers specific to hiding the earthy and beany flavor that pea and other pulse proteins can have.


Pea protein and other pulses including lentils have shown their potential in bakery applications. Due to their unique amino acid composition, pulses form complete proteins when partnered with wheat, which opens the door for “excellent source of protein” claims when using these functional ingredients in reformulating baked goods. Pulse proteins have also been found to help replace the emulsions and gels that eggs form in cookies and cakes, maintaining the texture that consumers are looking for.

Adding to the list of pros, pulses are also the cheapest source of protein on the planet pound for pound. And as production continues to ramp up for these products, they can reduce the final cost of baked goods in an environment where the price of animal-based products is often volatile or increasing.

Aside from their protein, pulses also have unique fibers which can be good replacers for eggs and dairy. Aquafaba, the wastewater from chickpeas, creates the best alternative currently available for the foaming seen in egg whites in applications such as vegan meringue and meringue powder. They also add fiber, capitalizing on the trending gut health market.

Companies like PeaTos are using blends of pulse flour and protein isolate to make high-protein and high-fiber chips. And since consumers are already comfortable with ingredients like pea protein, fava bean fiber and other functional ingredients on product labels, the pulse market in baked goods will surely increase. This high level of consumer acceptance and sustainability, and low cost of ingredients, makes pulses an important cornerstone in any plant-based product lineup.

There are options other than pulses for replacing eggs and dairy in the bakery aisle though, and seeds including quinoa, flax and chia can all be part of a plant-based strategy.  Ardent Mills launched its Great Plains Quinoa program in 2017 and since then has expanded its quinoa lineup to include ingredients intended for extruded products, bars, biscuits and more. Like pulses, quinoa benefits from strong consumer acceptability, and it is a complete protein, which can help achieve “excellent source of protein” claims for new product lines.

Chia and flax seeds are both growing markets in the US and globally and, due to unique carbohydrates, have shown benefits in increasing shelf life in baked goods while also giving a boost in fiber.  They can also be part of egg and dairy replacement strategies, as they have been shown to improve texture in cakes and cookies made without eggs and dairy. Flax is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, opening up the potential for market claims on what is expected to be one of the top trends in 2021 and 2022: foods that promote neurological health. Many people group them in the “superfoods” category, which includes ingredients that are particularly nutrient dense.


Some other superfoods such as seaweed have been used for years in the baking industry. They’re often applied in the form of their extracted components carrageenan and agar, but some food manufacturers are now looking at the many other benefits imparted by seaweed.

With as many as 1 million species to choose from, the applications of algae-derived ingredients include antioxidants, antibacterial ingredients, mold inhibitors and texturizers that can aid in replacing eggs and dairy or adding extra nutrition to products. Their bright green or sometimes red colors can also be used as natural sources of color. Additionally, some species contain up to 47% protein.

Seaweed is also considered even more environmentally friendly than pulses. That’s due to its incredibly fast growth, removal of carbon dioxide from ocean water and the air, and the fact that it does not require fresh water and fertilizer inputs to grow. These are factors driving the expected 9.7% CAGR for seaweed over the next six years, based on a report from Mordor Intelligence. Companies like Dupont and Cargill are the largest producers of seaweed powder and blends. And aside from carrageenan and agar, baking companies are adding seaweed to crackers and other snack goods for an extra kick of umami flavor and to provide unique colors.

The list of benefits that come with these plant-based ingredients goes on, and it’s clear that there are nearly endless innovations happening in the alternative ingredient world. Bakers have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to entering the plant-based food market.