By: Steve Markenson, Vice President, Research & Insights, FMI
The current mantras in the food industry are all about innovation as consumers seek new and different food experiences. The food industry is striving to quench their thirst by suggesting new cooking techniques, new flavors and even new food products.
The latter was very much on display at the World Plant Based Expo in New York City earlier this month. We've all heard about plant-based burgers and chicken nuggets, but what about jackfruit dumplings, bacon made from mushrooms or vegan crab cakes? Many plant-derived cheeses, milks and creamers were also displayed. So much innovation, but how are consumers reacting?
Shoppers are exploring these new offerings. A majority (84%) have tried at least one plant-based alternative food or beverage, and two-thirds (66%) of consumers eat them at least occasionally. Curiosity is the number one reason consumers try plant-based alternative products, and they strongly associate these foods with healthy eating.
However, after the trial, repeat consumption of many of these new products is lacking. As a result, while initial sales numbers for many of the alternatives were strong, some of the recent sales numbers have been less than impressive. Many of the milks, beverages and creamers (+7.7% to +28.1%) have continued on a positive course, while the meats have seen decreases in sales (-1.7% to -16.9%).
But the question about both trends is why? The answer comes down to taste.
Motivations – What Prompts Continuing?
For those who continue to consume plant-based alternatives, taste is the biggest driver. As one shopper said, "I don't need it to bleed like meat. I don't need it to taste like meat. I just need it to taste good." Similarly, shoppers shared, "it has to have a good profile" and "if it does not taste good, I will go without." Health and nutrition are secondary drivers, as shoppers often closely read the labels of these products looking for the number and type of ingredients.
Why Don't Consumers Continue?
Taste also emerges as the number one reason for those who have not tried or continued to consume plant-based alternatives. These consumers also cite the texture and that the products do not meet their expectations. As a shopper suggested, "when they get more corrected with the taste and consistency, I could easily see us putting more of that in our diets." But at this point, the survey found few of the non-consumers are willing to try alternative plant-based products.
The Power of Plant-Based Alternative Food and Beverages 2023 dives into consumers' attitudes about these innovative new products and explores perspectives, motivations for trial and expectations of location in the store.