If two vegetarians are arguing, is it still called a “beef”?
All jokes aside, plant-based proteins and diets are growing in popularity. As of 2018, 20% of food and beverage dollars came from products that met a plant-based diet. This is the result of a growing interest and appreciation for a healthier lifestyle and a more sustainable food source.
It may seem like another health fad or trend to you. But, the number of consumers adopting a completely vegetarian diet is not increasing, rather we’re seeing everyday consumers adding plant-based options into their diet or replacing ingredients (like creamer or food coloring) with a plant-based substitute.
Just look at how popular hummus has become! It’s a healthier choice than mayonnaise for your sandwich and it’s rich in protein. As consumers continue to lean more towards these options, more are provided for them. Kroger came out with a brand of plant-based products for their shoppers called Simple Truth which includes coconut milk and creamer, meatless patties, tofu, greens & grains risotto, kidney beans, and hummus to name a few.
In addition to an increase in products offered, social media has been a huge influence on the growth and popularity of plant-based proteins and products from #MeatlessMonday to #FlexitarianFriday. Last year, 31% of consumers participated in meat-free days once per week. Not only does social media make it more trendy to follow a plant-based diet, but it also created support communities for the people that want to make a change. In these communities, people can ask each other for recommendations, create “challenges” and express support for one another.
Today, we expect a lot from our food products. Consumers are leaning towards purchasing functional products, meaning we want our food to be a fountain of health benefits. From cognitive support to stress relief and energy, our food is being held to higher standards. The shift in consumer interest causes the food and beverage industry to be innovative and reactive to our needs. The industry has been tasked to put together nutrient-dense foods with functional benefits that are easy to prepare. In 2016, about 29% of Americans were following a specific diet. In 2017, that number increased to 35% and then it increased again in 2018 to 37%. People are taking better care of their bodies and they fully expect their food to help them.
A growing concern for animal rights and welfare as well as an awareness of our negative impact on the environment are two leading reasons people are changing to a plant-based diet. Studies have shown that both plant-based and animal-based diets use non-reusable fossil fuel for production, but meat-based diets require more land, energy and water resources.
What’s to come?
As meat and dairy alternatives continue to drive innovation, other ingredients have come into the spotlight like colors, sweeteners and flavors derived from plants. Plant-based food dyes, such as red beetroot juice concentrate, are on the rise as consumers see options as more natural than synthetic colors. We’re seeing a growth in the use of herbs and seasonings, infusions, teas and water.
Plant-based protein is currently one of the hottest topics in the food industry. As this trend continues to grow, more and more companies are producing and adopting alternative options to meat-based diets.