Increasing concerns about climate change environmentally destructive farming practices, and negative health impacts stemming from the consumption of meat and dairy have helped boost consumer perception of plant-based foods. This resulted into a plant-based food boom.
Meat alternatives, now testier
The recent proliferation of flexitarian and climatarian diets indicate that increased consumer adoption of plant-based foods into their diet is, in part, fuelled by consumers’ concerns over personal health and their carbon footprint.
Advances in food production practices have also improved the taste and texture of plant-based products, making meat alternatives easier and tastier.
In the second half of 2021, McDonalds began testing their vegan McPlant burger in the UK, with a US nationwide rollout anticipated in late spring 2022, and Jack in the Box started offering Impossible Burgers as a substitute for their beef patties in the US.
As more players enter the market, plant-based foods are increasingly available and more affordable, which points to an impending boom in plant-based food consumption.
The future of plant-based foods
We can expect to see plant-based foods continue to gain popularity via this intersection of consumer health and environmental concerns. After nearly two years of a pandemic that has tried our mental and physical health, consumers will be more motivated than ever by a desire for wellness that includes seeking out a more balanced diet that also treads lightly on the earth.
Before the pandemic, an initial barrier for consumers was uncertainty around how to prepare plant-based foods; but as more people began experimenting with meat alternatives amidst food supply issues during lockdowns, combined with greater variety in available plant-based product lines, that barrier to entry has fallen to the wayside.
Brands will continue to innovate and expand their ranges of products that mirror animal-based ones, making the transition to a more plant-based diet more palatable for consumers who struggle with the idea of relinquishing their favourite meat dishes (for example, UK-based food brand Squeaky Bean has recently created a plant-based charcuterie board). Simultaneously, consumers’ awareness of climate change implications will continue to grow, spurred by high-profile news coverage of record-breaking weather events across the world and consternating UN climate reports, creating the perfect storm for consumers to seek out more plant-based foods.
The combination of wellness and climate change motivators and increased diversity of available products will drive further demand for plant-based alternatives.
Beyond the food and beverage industry, this trend has wider implications for other sectors as consumers at large increasingly expect brands to provide options for holistic wellness and to demonstrate how they are minimizing their environmental footprint.
Tapping into diverse product lines shows how brand offerings can help consumers choose what works best for their health and wellness today, even if every day is different. Brand messaging should connect with cultures and communities that overlap with healthy, environmentally sustainable lifestyles that are attainable and flexible.
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