By: Rick Stein, Vice President, Fresh, Industry Relations, FMI
plant-based proteins in grocery store

Today in the food industry, there are thousands of companies riding the wave of the plant-based protein trend. Grocery stores, restaurants and even convenience stores are on the road to wide-spread plant-based offerings. Five years ago, a plant-based eater would only have a small selection offered on grocery shelves and would never think they could walk into a fast-food restaurant to enjoy a satisfying meal.

Household Preferences Changing

FMI’s 2019 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends report finds a rising number of households (33%) have at least one member voluntarily following a vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or flexitarian diet—a trend which is higher for Gen Z and Millennial households. Plant-based proteins are foods that can fit into many of these unique diets, therefore, a growing number of shoppers are turning to them to help meet their unique household needs.

At the same time, Trends finds only 5% of households with kids describe themselves as eating a completely plant-based diet, meaning the exclusion of all animal products including meat, dairy, and eggs. So, how is it that plant-based meat alternatives, in a society where plant-based meats used to seem alien, are so popular?

Cue the Flexitarians

Flexitarian lifestyles are increasingly prevalent. FMI’s Power of Meat 2019 report defines flexitarianism as eating mostly a vegetarian diet, but occasionally eating meat and poultry. Among Gen Z, 13% eat a flexitarian diet versus just 6% of Older Boomers. Millennials and Gen X average 10% each for eating flexitarian diets. Women, at 15%, are also more likely to be flexitarians than men, at 6%. Sustainability and health concerns are helping to drive the flexitarian trend and increase plant-based protein options have more people experimenting with these new food options.

Responding to Flexitarians

Companies that push plant-based products cater their products to consumers who are mixing up their diets beyond just meat. For example, when fast-food chains release plant-based options they usually serve them with mayonnaise and cheese, showing that they are not attempting to cater specifically towards people following strict plant-based diets, but people who want to swap the meat patty for something that may make them feel better about their dietary choices.

Plant-based meat alternatives are not just booming in restaurants. They are also flying off grocery store shelves. The Power of Meat 2019 report finds that plant based-meat alternative sales increased by 19.2% last year and account for $878 million in annual sales.

It cannot be denied that the rise of flexitarianism is inspiring the abundance of meatless innovations hitting the market. The plant-based food industry has seen explosive growth in the past few years, and there is plenty more to come. With the growing acceptance of plant-based foods and product offerings cutting across grocery categories and sales growth, FMI is providing a webinar series to share marketplace innovations, expand understanding of the plant-based consumer, dive into shopping trends and understand the labeling, naming compliance and regulatory landscape.

Plant-based Foods Growing Like a Weed?

Enjoy our series recordings and upcoming complimentary webinars to learn more on the plant-based product innovations and sales trends.

Recording: The Plant-Based Tipping Point

Recording: The Surge of Plant-Based Foods

Recording: From Plant-Based to Cell-Cultured: A Regulatory Update on Alternatives for Traditional Food Items

Recording: Understanding the Plant-Based Food Consumer