It is hard to believe that just a few years ago plant-based alternatives were a tiny corner of the supermarket mostly reserved for vegans and vegetarians. A growing consumer demand has led to an exciting explosion in the category.
In the UK, the annual ‘Veganuary’ campaign – a move to encourage people to try veganism in January – saw a record 400,000 people to sign-up to participate in 2020. Nearly a quarter of Britons now consume plant-based milk, and in the US consumption of plant milk has increased by 61 percent.
While some consumers have made the permanent move to veganism, for many others plant-based alternatives are frequently being enjoyed as part of a flexible diet. Here is why this trend is here to stay:
Climate change is high on the global agenda, with no sign of slowing down, and consumers are concerned. Producing plant products versus animal products generally requires less land, water, and energy, resulting in fewer emissions. In the UK, 68 percent of consumers are influenced by a product claiming it has a lower carbon footprint. It is widely accepted that reduced consumption of animal products is critical in the fight against climate change. There are also concerns over welfare standards for farmed animals. These moral drivers are very powerful and one of the primary reasons for the growth of this trend.
Seeking a healthy lifestyle
Enjoying a plant-based diet can literally be lifesaving, tapping into a core consumer trend for products which improve health and wellness. According to the Journal of the American Heart Association, a plant-based diet lowers the risk of all causes of mortality by 25 percent.
Blood pressure is reduced, which in turn reduces the risk of diseases such as stroke, diabetes, and heart disease. This is in part attributed to the high levels of potassium found in fruits and vegetables which can help lower blood pressure. Plant products are also low in fat and sodium and do not contain cholesterol.
The risk of obesity is also lowered. This is because wholegrains and vegetables have a lower GI (glycaemic index) value and are known for helping to keep blood sugar levels more stable as the body digests these foods more slowly. Fruit contains antioxidants and fibre, which also prolongs the feeling of being full.
Desire for new and different
As more and more products become available on the shelf, consumers are also driven to plant-based to seek something new and exciting, particularly premium offerings. The category naturally presents an opportunity to enjoy new flavours and experiences. This is particularly apt in a Covid-19 climate where a typically time-poor population has been stuck at home and able to be more creative with what they eat and drink. This trend may be a permanent legacy of a global lockdown, bolstering the continued global trend for more experiential flavours.
Consumers are also seeking out plant-based beverages because of the natural claims this category presents. This is a wellness-driven trend, but consumer expectation remains unrelenting and functional is not enough. Beverages must deliver on flavour, and consumers will want an experience similar to that of having taken a bite of the fruit itself. The smell, ‘mouthfeel’ and taste are all critical to the success of a product boasting natural claims on the pack. Accessible products (familiar flavours) lay the foundation for an exciting category in its own right, but nonetheless natural is another important pillar in the growing success story that is plant-based. Read more about this trend in our recent blog here.
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