Taste, texture, flavor, smell, appearance – these are all elements plant-based food manufacturers have to take into account, especially when creating a meat-analogue. But it doesn’t end there, plant-based choices are also influenced by aspects of sustainability and dietary needs like allergen avoidance. Recently, FMI – The Food Industry Association released the “Power of Plant-based Alternative Foods and Beverages 2023” report exploring some of these aspects in the marketplace. The report delves into consumer viewpoints and perceptions regarding plant-based foods and beverages, their reasons for trying these products, and expectations regarding product placement within retail stores.
According to coverage of the FMI report in Dairy Processing, taste remains a significant challenge for plant-based food applications. Taste is a key factor in both repeat consumption and the willingness to try plant-based alternatives. The report also noted that texture and quality are unmet needs in plant-based meat and dairy alternatives.
Beyond taste and other sensory dimensions of plant-based, the FMI report also suggests that consumers exploring this space may want less processed and “vegetable-forward” products. While plant-based alternatives are often associated with healthier eating, they can sometimes be higher in sodium, fat and sugar, and lower in essential nutrients. But many consumers consider plant-based options for their health and nutritional benefits, so making sure that innovations in this arena include this aspect will be important.
Consumers also opt for plant-based products due to sustainability reasons. This includes concerns about the environmental impact of traditional animal agriculture and a desire to reduce their carbon footprint. This aligns with a broader global shift towards more sustainable and environmentally responsible food choices. Sustainability messaging needs to be strategic, and brands need to be careful about greenwashing when communicating these advantages. You can learn more about greenwashing in our Quirk’s article on this topic.
According to the Dairy Processing article on the FMI report, about 4 in 10 shoppers have to consider allergies, intolerances or sensitivities when shopping for food. These considerations impact trial and continued consumption of plant-based foods and beverages, especially related to dairy/lactose, seafood, and gluten.
There is a lot of innovation going on in plant-based, but despite growing consumer curiosity about this space, the article in Dairy Processing notes that repeat purchases lag behind and ingredient and technology suppliers need to offer solutions to make plant-based products more appealing to mainstream consumers—in aspects like taste, sustainability and fulfilling dietary needs. So how can products in the plant-based space meet these consumer needs? Understanding the consumer and innovating accordingly, techniques like product testing and purchaser follow-up can help.
Not only are the physical aspects of plant-based foods and beverages key, such as taste and texture, but the messaging that surrounds the product also plays an important role in consumer choice. Effective communication about the sustainability, health benefits, and ethical considerations of plant-based options can significantly influence purchasing decisions. There are variety of approaches that can get the right consumer insights to make strategic decisions in the world of plant-based.
Reach out to us to get started on exploring the world of plant-based for your brand.