Plant-based consumer motivations necessitate product variety

The category is drawing almost equal attention from health champions, eco-warriors and ethical shoppers

Recent consumer research from Innova Market Insights has reportedly highlighted a need for choice and multiple product positionings, as the research firm suggests there's no single definition of a plant-based customer. The category is drawing almost equal attention from health champions, eco-warriors and ethical shoppers. Although vegetarianism and veganism continue to attract supporters, the flexitarian movement is growing faster, the company says. The company's research shows 60% of global households now eat meat-free meals at least once a week, many of whom are enticed by the variety it brings to their diet.

Product development also demonstrates the segmentation of plant-based eating. “‘Plant-based’ descriptors are now being carried by many diverse products, well beyond the core meat- and dairy-alternative categories,” said Lu Ann Williams, Global Insights Director at Innova Market Insights. “The Innova Database shows particularly good growth for ‘plant-based’ claims in categories such as sauces and dressings, prepared meals, spreads and snacks.”

The need for variety and diverse positionings is also impacting choice of ingredients, the company says. There is growing interest in sustainable protein crops, such as legumes and marine plants, while advances in fermentation technology are reportedly enabling protein production from sources including yeast, wood and even the air itself. US company Air Protein claims it has mixed CO2, oxygen and nitrogen with water and minerals to create a nutrient-rich flour with the same amino acid profile as animal protein.

Investment is also helping advance technologies for cultured meat production, believed by many to be the future of meat supply. Although cultured meat can compete with plant-based products on environmental benefits, it will still fall short with health-conscious customers, which is further indication of the need for variety in plant-based offerings, Innova suggests.

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