The plant-based food market is booming. With one-third of consumers choosing to actively reduce their meat consumption, the demand for plant-based innovation is growing at a rapid pace.
A recent report by BIS research estimated that the plant-based market will reach $480.43 billion by 2024, with a projected CAGR of 13.82% from 2019 to 2024. Moreover, Nestlé reported that 87% of Americans are now including plant-based protein in their diets. Figures like these suggest the plant-based market is no longer niche; consumers are hungry for meat and dairy alternatives.
According to recent research by Mintel, there are multiple factors driving the growth of plant-based eating. These include concern for the environment, health and wellness, ethics, and diversity in protein sourcing.
So, FoodBev has provided a breakdown of five factors that are contributing to the surge in plant-based purchases.
Climate awareness is one factor driving consumers to switch to a more plant-based diet. Significant media coverage that demonstrates the impact of meat and dairy production on greenhouse gases and global warming is building such awareness, Deloitte reported.
Mark Hyman MD, author of Food: What the Heck Should I Eat said: “People are stepping up to the realities of climate change, and factory-farmed meat and the way we grow most of the food in this country is damaging our land, our air, our water, our communities and our bodies.”
A recent study by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology found the production of plant-based meat alternatives to contribute 10x fewer greenhouse emissions than equivalent beef-based products. Evidence such as this is causing a decline in meat and dairy consumption, but increased demand for companies that demonstrate a positive environmental impact whilst still offering the protein content that can be found in animal-based products.
Technology advances have enabled plant-based alternatives, such as soy, peas and nuts, to taste like meat or dairy-based products, whilst being far more sustainable. Some companies are even utilising the by-products of foods and beverages in a bid to reduce the use of plastics, such as Jose Cuervo’s sustainable drinking straws and eco-friendly packaging made from banana plants.
Health & Ethics
The shift towards plant-based diets has been predominantly driven by consumer concern surrounding health, wellbeing and animal welfare. According to Deloitte, this switch is being fuelled by numerous reports that describe possible links between processed or red meat and cancers.
Another key driver behind this shift is the positive health benefits that accompany plant-based diets, such as meat-alternatives that are considered high in nutrition, able to assist weight management and thus promote better overall health.
Brands can appeal to both vegans and non-vegans by placing emphasis on the ‘free-from’ attributes of vegan food and drink products in order to relay a wider health and wellness message, as highlighted by Mintel. Examples of this include Dolfin’s chocolate coated chickpea snacks, Plamil’s ‘sugar-free’ chocolate range and Englightened’s ‘better-for-you’ dairy-free ice-cream bars.
In October 2019, The Good Food Institute found taste to be the primary driver of consumer purchases of plant-based products. It is clear that taste and texture are key factors companies in this market should focus on. Although dramatic improvements have been made with regards to taste, texture and the variety of alternatives available, these factors still remain a major barrier to the consumption of plant-based products for many meat eaters. It is clear that further innovation in both meat and dairy substitutes is the key to growth in this market.
Technology advances have enabled plant-based alternatives, such as soy, peas and nuts, to actually taste somewhat like meat or dairy-based products. In particular, plant-based burgers are often considered parallel to meat-based burgers in terms of texture and flavour, whilst being more sustainable. Examples include Sweet Earth Foods’ Awesome Burger and Beyond Meat’s Beyond burger.
Kelly Landrieu, Whole Foods Market global coordinator, said: “within the plant-based landscape, plant-based proteins are still a big trend with customers as more and more innovative products come to shelves.” Major companies, such as Ingredion, Beyond Meat, Bunge Loders Croklaan and HKScan are tapping into this growing market for plant-based proteins and fats in order to improve the taste of plant-based alternatives.
According to FMI’s Power of Meat 2019 report, flexitarianism can be defined as “eating mostly a vegetarian diet, but occasionally eating meat and poultry.”
Nestlé stated that 87% of consumers in the US, including vegans and meat-eaters, are including plant-based protein into their diets, and over 50% of consumers in the UK are reportedly following a flexitarian diet. Thus, following such a diet is proving to be a major driver of the rapid growth in the plant-based market.
Consumer desire for variety, flexibility and increased ethical awareness is fuelling the need to incorporate new products – such as plant-based foods – into their diets.
Many companies in the meat industry are acknowledging the need for flexitarian blends, as Tyson Foods – usually best known for meat and poultry – predicted a huge rise in plant-based eating.
David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts, said: “A significant number of meat eaters surveyed claimed they do or would buy plant-based products, including those products that are blended with meat and plants, revealing that the meat industry faces many changes in the coming years as more consumers turn to plant-based meals and reduce their meat consumption in favour of more plants.”
Major companies jumping on the plant-based trend
According to Deloitte, existing key players in the food and beverage industry are becoming increasingly aware of small-scale disruptor brands that are developing innovation in the plant-based market. As a result, these existing companies need to consider their investment strategies for plant-based alternatives to protect their market share.
Julian Mellentin, director of food business consultancy New Nutrition Business, said: “the plant-based food trend presents companies and brands with a major growth opportunity, but they need to choose strategy carefully.”
Key examples include Danone’s £9 billion acquisition of Alpro, a major producer of plant-based alternatives, and Unilever’s acquisition of The Vegetarian Butcher for an undisclosed amount.
With growth in the market evident in major food and drink companies, supermarkets are following suit. Many are presenting own-label ranges with an array of plant-based products such as Tesco’s Wicked Kitchen range, Asda’s plant-based range and Sainsbury’s ‘free-from’ line of alternatives.
Do you want a taste of victory? Enter your delicious plant-based products into the World Plant-Based Taste Awards 2021, in association with Plant Based World Europe Conference & Expo!
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2023