Pandemic significantly boosted plant-based category

Recent consumer research has revealed younger consumers are broadly happy with existing plant-based products

Global consumer demand for plant-based products has increased since the onset of COVID-19, research from Palsgaard suggests.

The emulsifier and stabiliser specialist commissioned consumer research into the plant-based market, focusing specifically on three categories: milk alternatives, dairy-free yoghurts and frozen desserts.

The research showed consumers are generally happy with existing plant-based products, but there are areas where they would like to see improvements, such as less sedimentation in plant-based milks; longer shelf-lives; and enhanced texture and creaminess.

The survey found nearly half of consumers (44%) had purchased more of such products since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Twelve percent said their purchases of plant-based products had decreased, and 44% said they had stayed the same.

The number one reason respondents chose plant-based products was that they considered them better for health, an opinion held by 75.4%. The second biggest driver, chosen by 51.3%, was taste, while 45.8% bought into the category out of concern for the environment and sustainability.

Primarily, its younger consumers who have changed their purchasing behaviour. Since the pandemic's beginning almost half (47.4%) of those aged 18-24 (and 48.4% of those aged 25-34) had increased the number of plant-based products they were buying, compared with 34.8% of those aged 55-64.

Haydee Carlos, Palsgaard’s Application Manager, said: “The onset of COVID-19 appears to have triggered more interest in the market for plant-based food and beverages. This may be because the pandemic has led to a greater focus on health generally, and on the environment. At the same time, the plant-based sector is rapidly evolving, so there are more and more new products out there for consumers to explore.”

A white paper produced by the company covers the research in more detail, and identifies several areas where consumers would like to see improvements.

Carlos said: “The good news is our survey showed us that overall, consumers are really happy with the plant-based products that are already out there. We were, however, able to identify a few key areas where consumers would like to see improvements, and our White Paper explores this in more detail.”

Palsgaard commissioned expert researchers to survey 1,307 consumers from Mexico, France, Russia, USA and Vietnam between 7-14 September, 2021.

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