Plant-based is so much more than just a trend now. It is a well-established industry and lifestyle for many, which is growing across all sectors, with numerous innovative retail products releases and vegan meals launching in big-name fast-food restaurants. I recently attended a webinar which explored the current trends in the plant-based market. Hosted by Fi Global Insights, industry experts across Europe, they shared insightful studies, discussed the current trends, and suggested ways in which we can tap into the current trends. Here are my top 10 takeaways from the webinar:

  1. Plant based really is the new normal

With one in three consumers actively reducing their meat consumption, there is a demand for plant-based products like never before. Plant-based and vegan product releases are frequently launched, with an incredible 1,200 new vegan products launched in the UK in January 2020 alone, comprising of 650 new retail products and 550 new menu items in chain restaurants.

  1. Flexitarians are the biggest consumer group for plant-based products

You may think it’s vegans and vegetarians that are driving this huge increase in new products, however, the biggest consumer group of plant-based products are flexitarians (also known as meat reducers), more so than vegans or vegetarians.

  1. The biggest driver of reducing consumption of meat or animal-derived products is health

Although animal welfare and sustainability are the drivers behind reducing meat consumption for some consumers, the most popular given reason for the majority is focused much more on concerns for the individual’s health.

  1. Plant-based 2.0

One aspect of the plant-based trend which the webinar predicted is an increasing popularity around transparency with ingredients. This includes creating natural and clean ingredient lists so consumers can recognise when a product is pure and natural. This is known as plant-based 2.0.

  1. Eating plant based is a desire, not a need

A few years ago, people would eat plant-based food not because it was a desire to be more healthy or environmentally friendly, but because they needed to for their dietary requirements. For example, consumers who were lactose intolerant would look towards plant-based milks as a substitute because it was condition driven. Now, it is the norm for people turn towards plant-based alternatives because it is a benefit-driven trend. This can affect how products are marketed, because marketing to a vegan audience can often reach larger markets as opposed to marketing to a lactose-free market.

  1. Milk is the number one plant-based product category

Plant-based milk is currently the most popular plant-based alternative, with the milk alternative market estimated to be worth $21.52 billion by 2024. 93% of European consumers have recently purchased plant-based milk, making it one of the most accessible plant-based products available to consumers.

  1. Cheese needs more development to resemble the real deal

One common frustration with new consumers turning vegan is the lack of good plant-based cheese. One speaker at the webinar explored  the difficulty in creating a plant-based cheese that mimics the taste, texture and nutrition of a cheese that consumers recognise and enjoy, explaining that there is a market opportunity for a new product which will meet all these requirements.

  1. Seafood and eggs alternatives need development

These categories of plant-based foods are rarely available. However, this is not due to consumers not wanting these products, but instead the lack of products available to consumers in supermarkets. There is an opportunity for product development in these categories in a market where there is demand but little competition.

  1. Price is important

One important aspect when marketing plant-based products is the price point. As the biggest consumer group of plant-based products are flexitarians, the products need to be marketed at an accessible price, so that consumers will be willing to try them.

  1. Market products to chefs before consumers

One interesting point that I took away from the webinar was that there is the opportunity to launch vegan cheeses to chefs and foodservice first, before launching to consumers. This is because chefs may have the expert knowledge on how to use the products correctly and effectively and thus inspire consumer usage. This could be applied not only to vegan cheese but a wide range of plant-based products.