The irresistible rise of plant-based eating has been charted in Innova’s Top Ten Trends for several years now. In 2021, our Plant-Forward trend signaled the progressive nature of the movement as it pushes into the mainstream and expands into new categories and regions.
Innova’s comprehensive consumer research clearly highlights a need for choice and multiple product positionings as there is no single definition of a plant-based customer. Instead, the category is drawing almost equal attention from health champions, eco-warriors and ethical shoppers. Although vegetarianism and veganism continue to attract new supporters, the flexitarian movement is growing even faster. Our research shows that 60% of global households now eat meat-free meals at least once a week, many enticed by the variety it brings to their diet.
New 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,” reports 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 product variety and diverse positionings is also shaking up choice in ingredients. There is a growing interest in more sustainable protein crops, such as legumes and marine plants, while advanced fermentation technology is allowing protein production from such unlikely sources as yeast, wood and even the air itself. In the United States, Air Protein says 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 to 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. This is a further indication of the need for variety and choice to maximize the potential of the plant-based revolution.