Plant-source ingredients have always been one of the biggest drivers of the healthy revolution: Most of the big successes of the past 20 years are plant-based, from blueberries to coconut water. It’s creative product development that is propelling the plant-based trend, not vegetarianism and veganism: People have always wanted to eat more plants, and now that they’re available in far more convenient forms, they can.
Millennials, in particular, are motivated by ultra-convenient vegetables. The rising interest in low-carb eating patterns (for weight loss) is also increasing consumer interest in ‘more vegetables’ – and is already more important than veganism.
- We’re all food explorers now: People are looking for more novel and exciting ingredients and tastes, and NPD makes it far easier to choose plant-based meals that tick these boxes.
- Putting aside plant-based beverages and dairy, if you are thinking about a plant-based foods strategy you basically have five options:
- Plant-based meat alternatives – extruded, processed plant proteins (normally soy, pea, wheat) that are designed to mimic meats
- Plants blended with meat – such as beef+beetroot burgers and sausages
- Plants blended with ‘good carbs’ – such as bread with some vegetable content, or chips that combine broccoli and potato
- Plants replacing refined carbs – plants on the plate in place of pasta or potato
- Plants remade as heroes – primarily about enabling people to get more vegetables, this includes snack forms such as pickles.
Of these five strategies, we believe that the first has the highest risk of failure associated with it, thanks to its disconnect from consumer preferences. For most food companies, the other four offer much better opportunities for building a profitable business – as some companies are already demonstrating (see Slides 9 and 10).
- Meat substitutes will get intense attention over the next five years. A number of high-profile and vocal businesses backed by Silicon Valley tech investors, looking for the next billion-dollar “unicorn” believe they can transform the meat substitutes sector. And it’s important to note that the meat substitutes sector is being driven by investor push rather than a consumer pull.
- Most people don’t want meat substitutes, which many will see as ‘too processed’ and failing the test of naturalness and few ingredients. They want healthy, plant-based choices and ideally vegetables. They have proved that they are open to a wide array of possibilities. The meat substitutes will be competing with all of these, not only with meat.
2. Why plants are growing
2.1 Convenience & NPD are fuelling growth
2.2 Eight consumer motivations fueling growth
3. Five plant-based strategies
3.1 Strategy 1: Plant-based meat alternatives
3.2 Strategy 2: Plants blended with meat
3.3 Strategy 3: Plants blended with “good” carbs
3.4 Strategy 4: ‘Real vegetables’ replace starchy carbs
3.5 Strategy 5: Plants as heroes
Charts and boxes
Box 1: Beyond Meat vs Caulipower
Box 2: The humble pickle vs meat substitutes
Box 3: Vegetables made easy
Box 4: Reversing Diabetes – and achieving major weight-loss – with a low-carb diet is no longer a minority position
Box 5: Food explorers embrace kimchi
Box 6: Richer & older = buys more vegetables
Box 7: The increasingly crowded world of meat alternatives, US
Box 8: The increasingly crowded world of meat alternatives, Sweden
Box 9: Meat substitutes fail the test of naturalness and “least-processed”
Box 10: Vegan “fails” show challenges of sticking with a diet
Chart 1: Meat, eggs, and dairy are American consumers’ primary sources of protein
Chart 2: Price comparison, beetroot products, US