Plant-based diets are not new, but recent innovation and customer demand have taken the market by storm with a variety of new plant-based products offerings across the board. Plant-based diets focus primarily on plant-based foods - fruits and vegetables as well as seeds, nuts, whole grains and legumes - and minimize processed foods and reduce or eliminate animal products such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and honey.
3 Major Consumer Behaviors Driving This Market
The COVID-19 Pandemic Fuels the Plant-based diet
COVID-19 has given the alternative protein industry an unexpected boost. Although COVID-19 is not associated with livestock, the pandemic increased consumer awareness of zoonotic viral infections - a risk that can also be associated with livestock. In addition, the global crisis has also led to a realignment of consumer priorities, with health and well-being becoming the most important factors. Many consumers are rethinking what they eat and the impact they have on the planet. So it's no surprise that 2020 was the year everyone discovered plant-based diets and new products hit the market, from baked goods and pastries to pizza, lattes, and even dirty burgers.
Key Food Retailers Are Joining the Plant-based Craze
In recent years, innovation and customer demand have driven the category beyond long-standing staples to a variety of new plant-based offerings across multiple stores. Throughout 2022, we'll see more major players join the boom like McDonald's, which has introduced plant-based alternative meals like the McPlant menu, and famous brands with a growing list of plant-based product applications like Ben & Jerry's and Magnum.
In November 2021, global food and beverage company Unilever announced that it had set a goal to turn $1 billion into plant-based dairy and meat alternatives over the next five to seven years. Unilever has made progress in expanding its meat and dairy alternatives product portfolio: the company acquired The Vegetarian Butcher in 2018 and has expanded the brand into more than 30 countries. Last year, the brand was selected as a supplier of Burger King's plant-based Whopper and plant-based nuggets across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. This is great news for plant-based nutrition and another key factor that will continue to drive this market over the next 3 years.
Caring About Animal Welfare
Although health and well-being came to the fore during the pandemic for many consumers, a number of other influences were also at play. Animal welfare and the ethics of eating meat have always been the subject of wide debate. Today, mindful consumers are aware of the negative environmental impact of animal-based diets and the positive impact a vegan lifestyle can have. In fact, nearly half (48 percent) of consumers have reduced their meat consumption due to concerns about animal welfare. Research has shown that giving up meat can save a lot of money - more than £600 a year. 12 million people were made redundant or laid off last year, so it's easy to see why so many have switched to a plant-based diet to take better care of their health - personally and financially - as well as that of the planet.
So What’s Next for the Plant-based Diet?
As consumers become more adventurous and curious about plant-based diets, innovation will be the focus of food manufacturers this year; investing in innovation can set your brand apart from the competition. Innovation can come from a variety of sources, from new ingredients brought to market or even from the cuisines that influence consumers.
Plant-Based Convenience Meals
Many Americans will continue to work from home - at-home convenience meals are more popular than ever. Many of these are vegan, including plant-based meals like Chipotle Black Bean & Coconut Lime from Vana Life's Foods; Loma Linda’s Plant-Based Hawaiian Bowl; and Annie Chun's Korean-Style Sweet Chili Noodle Bowl with seitan.
Online grocery & gourmet departments like Amazon’s have many of these plant-based options on hand these days. You can also go beyond the freezer aisles and order chef-prepared frozen meals from Daily Harvest, Top Chef Meals and Veestro, all of which come to your door with flexible plant-based meal plans and in a variety of price ranges. (Amazon links)
New Plant-based Meats
Alternative meats have skyrocketed in popularity due to a rise in the overall awareness of meat's impact on the environment and the popularity of programs like keto, paleo, and plant-based diets. Beyond Meat recently revamped and announced a new burger that will be available in early 2021 and will contain 55 percent less saturated fat than 80/20 beef.
But consumers can now add even more plant-based proteins to their shopping list: JUST Egg-folded plant eggs (which are egg-free and made from mung bean isolate), Darings vegan chicken, and All Y'alls plant-based bacon.
Packaged Foods Sweetened With Fruit
Fruit as a natural sweetener is becoming a real trend. You'll find dates in cereal, and fruits and spices as the only sweeteners in yogurt with no added sugar. In recipes, prunes act surprisingly similar to dates and can be used in everything from smoothies and brownies to DIY snack bars.
Reducing added sugars is more important than ever, as we now know that diets high in added sugars can increase the risk of obesity and chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
More Options for Plant-Based Cheese
Cheese is one of the most popular foods for all age groups, and has become a universal staple of the modern world. Much like seafood, it is difficult to find a comparable alternative to its animal counterpart when it comes to cheese. But as consumers continue to demand healthier and more environmentally sustainable alternatives to their favorite foods, the market for vegan cheese is becoming increasingly competitive and scalable. New, innovative products are hitting shelves starting in late 2019, including some private label and conventional retailers offering shredded and sliced plant-based cheese options. If you want to innovate in your business, plant-based cheese looks to be the next booming category for plant-based nutrition.
Analysts now predict that the plant-based food market will grow by 11.9 percent by 2027, valuing it at $74.2 billion by 2027. The average consumer’s daily diet will change drastically during the next three decades, and global food and beverage manufacturers need to make sure they are ready for this plant-based revolution.
Interested to know more about the Leading Food Trends of 2021? Read: Meal Kit Services - Top Trends .